It’s funny, I’ve run two marathons but I still don’t really feel part of the elusive marathon club. I know that sounds silly, but it’s true.
I just don’t feel like I went through the same process that other marathoners went through. The long training runs, the high mileage, the aching legs, the insatiable runger…I didn’t really have that. With both marathons I’d been hit with injuries and my mileage had to drop consequently. I did lots of cross-training for Paris with intermittent running (and failed runs plagued with niggles), and for Berlin I did lots of cycling and some pool running but it wasn’t the same.
Now obviously I’m over the moon that both marathons went well (beyond my expectation and I’m in no way unhappy with my times). But it meant lining up at the start I felt a little but like a fraud compared to the runners around me and I had huge doubts that I’d survive the whole 26.2 miles. In fact I seriously doubted I’d get past 10 miles for Paris.
Oddly it does mean that this time around I’m feeling a little bit more pressure because my training is actually going well (*TOUCH WOOD*) so surely that means I’ll do better? Well, I don’t know about that! There’s a huge danger of self-sabotage here: “Oh I’m far better trained this time so I’ll just take off like a rocket at the start and be fine”.
I think what really helped me in my previous marathons was the fact that I had so much uncertainty and fear. It kept me cautious all the way to 20 miles, and even then when I got past the “half way” point I still kept reminding myself I wasn’t out of the woods yet and still thought I could fail. I literally monitored my watch and pace the entire time, never letting myself go too much faster than I had planned.
If anything this fear is the most important thing I learnt and as good as my training seems to be going (*touch wood again*) I mustn’t forget that. Start slow, keep slow, and constantly reassess how I feel. The only difference is that “slow” has a different meaning this time around as I’m better trained.
For Liverpool I’ll do exactly as I did for my previous marathons. I’ll have a pacing band that will have my paces dictated for each mile. I’ll make sure I keep close to those times as much as possible (meaning no “oh mile one feels great, I’ll just run 30 seconds faster”), but let myself go a bit if I feel confident at the end. I’m a control freak perfectionist so find this strategy works perfectly. I just need to work out the correct pacing beforehand and I can’t really do that until closer to the time (hey, I’ve also got enough time to get injured and go back to square one!)
For anyone training for a marathon or about to do their first marathon, my biggest piece of advice is keep the fear. Don’t let it consume you or hinder you obviously, but let it hold you back a bit and keep you squarely on the path you’ve been training for. You cannot bank time but you can bank energy. Start slow and you’ll be surprised at how much oomph you have in the end. There’s nothing better than finishing a marathon strong.
What would be your most important marathon advice?
How do you conquer your nerves before a big event?
Do you depend a lot upon your watch/running app when racing? One day I want to run a marathon WITHOUT my Garmin (or at least keep it hidden from me). That would be a true test of pacing.