It is now coming up to 5 years now since I decided to sign up for my first ever race at the London Marathon in 2013. Since then I have learnt so many things about the world of running that never even crossed my mind way back then. Things that I have noticed countless other new runners say at the finish line “I’m definitely doing this at that differently next time”. There have been many different versions of these lists scattered across the internet and each one of them brings new thoughts to the world of first time runners. So, behold, these are my additions to the list.
1.Find the right shoe for you – Probably the most important thing you should do before even starting your training is to find the right shoes for you. There are so many companies and models out there now who all promise different things and it can definitely be overwhelming trying to find the right shoes for you. Thankfully most good running shops will spend time with you before buying your shoes where they will watch you run on a treadmill before hand and work out how you feet land and what type of runner you are. This helps them to recommend the perfect shoe for you and as a new runner I almost guarantee that it won’t be the shoe you expect!
2. Training plans – There are so many training plans out there which all tell you to do different things on different days. Almost all of them are correct in what they advise you to do and will always get you prepared for race day by the time it arrives. So don’t worry over finding the “perfect one”. If your charity supplies you with one or one has been recommended for you then try it out and stick to it, don’t be jumping between multiple plans cherry picking the bits you like, as you will always leave out the exercises you hate.
3. Don’t overdo the training – If you are struggling to keep up with the intensity of your training plan then take an extra rest day. There is no point in trying to force yourself through all of your training, you will end up injuring yourself and you don’t want to waste all the time and effort you have put in up to that point. If you still want to get out to exercise then have a gentle jog instead of that hill session.
4. Pacing – One thing every runner has done in their first race is forget about pacing, it happens. You have been building up to race day for months, all the training and hard work has led up to that point, your adrenaline is pumping and the crowds are roaring, of goes the starting gun and all your pacing plans go out of the window. You spend the first two miles running faster than ever and then remember you still have another 24. miles to go. Start off slow at a speed you are comfortable with from your training, there is no shame in running slower than everyone else, this is your race and it’s a marathon not a sprint.
5. Check your course – Spend the day before looking through the race route, try and remember where the water stations and toilets will be. It is so much nicer to be able to run knowing roughly where you will next be able to hydrate. My first race I was constantly wondering if the next drinks station was around the corner or 2 miles away. Another big thing to look for is where your charity cheer points (or other major cheer points) will be on race day. Again it’s a big boost knowing that you family and friends are just around the bend.
6. Get up early! – This one is important. Make sure that you spend the days before your race getting used to your morning routine, fitting in enough sleep the night before, waking up with enough time in the morning to not have to stress about getting to the start line on time. Although the most important thing I found is making sure you have enough time to digest and “get rid of your breakfast” before the starting gun. The last thing you want is to have to run on a full stomach as you quickly ate all of you food on the bus to the start line!
7. Throw away clothes – There is nothing worse than stating in the start pens for half an hour in your shorts and running top getting cold before your run. Take an old jumper and trousers, something that can be taken off quickly when the time comes. Most race organisers will collect them all up and donate them to charity so don’t feel like they are going to waste. If you don’t have any old clothes then black bin liners work just as well.
8. Relax and enjoy the atmosphere – Another point that I wish I had taken heed of in my first few races. Forget about the time you want to finish in and enjoy the race. Find your comfortable pace and soak up all of the race day energy along the way. If you are happy and relaxed you will probably get a quicker time than if you are stressing about hitting your targets for 26 miles. That and you will have much happier memories to look back on.
9. Stick to the foods you know – Don’t be trying new foods, drinks and gels on race day just because they are there. If you haven’t trained with them then you don’t know how your stomach will handle them whilst running. Just consume what you are used to in your training sessions as you don’t want any nasty little accidents in your first race.
10. Walking – There is nothing wrong with it, listen to your body, if you need to walk for a mile then do it. There is no need to injure yourself just to save a few minutes on your finish time.
11. You’ll be addicted – Chances are you will not think this before you race, or even the days following it. But once the pain of race day has subsided you will have such a sense of accomplishment from your months of training and from race day. I guarantee that most runners will be taking part in another race within 6 months!
12. You’ll be part of a whole new family – I have made so many friends over the years because of running, people who I would have never met otherwise. Whether I met them through races, the charity, or just on website forums about running, there are so many people who will be there to encourage you when you need it and celebrate with you when you have done it, Anywhere in the world. For me this is the most rewarding part of running.
Hopefully if there are any first time runners out there, my thoughts looking back might help you with your preparations towards that first stepping stone in you running life. Remember the most important thing is to enjoy yourself, have fun and smile 🙂
If you enjoyed this post then please could you spare a minute! Most of you know I have been nominated for a running award in the Online Publications category for next year. I would love it if you could click on the image below and go to vote for this blog, “Corner To Corner USA”. The voting for this round closes at the end of November, so there is still time for you to help me get shortlisted 🙂