Tops Tips For Running Your First Marathon
This is the second of a series of three blogs with practical tips about how achieve your marathon goal. As your weekly mileage starts to increase we take a look at how having the right gear can aid performance and recovery.
Compression clothing. The best tip I ever received for recovering from a long run was to put a pair of compression socks on afterward. Compression clothing is very tight and therefore aids blood flow, ensuring that lactic acid flushes away from tired leg muscles. I was amazed to find that my legs hardly ached the next day after a long run when I’d worn compression clothing. Of course many people wear compression trousers, calf sleeves or socks during the long run too and this too will aid blood flow and recovery too.
The watch. There are a myriad of sports watches on the market and, no doubt many of you will already have one. The main reason you will want a sports watch is to
assess how fast you want to run each mile and keep to a steady, manageable pace throughout your race. From the simple, but reliable, Timex Ironman watch to the top of the range GPS Garmin and Polar watches, the most important thing you’ll need to monitor on race day is how fast you are running each mile. If your watch doesn’t feature GPS you can use a pacing band with your sports watch to ensure you are running to your target pace. Spend the next few weeks gauging the right marathon pace for you and learn how it feels to run at that pace. Knowing how it feels as well as having a watch will help you stick to the race day plan.
Throw-away jumper. If you have been doing any tune-up races you’ll have realised it’s not much fun standing around in shorts and a vest at the start of a race waiting for the gun to go off.
Similarly, if you start a race in full balaclava, mittens and leg-warmers you’ll be melting by the time you reach mile 3. Wearing layers is always a smart move, but having a cheap top you’re happy to throw off when the race starts can also keep you warm. In fact, you’ll see piles of unwanted jumpers and fleeces at the start of most major marathons! So if you have a warm top lurking in the back of your wardrobe that you haven’t worn for a while, this may be the time to give it its final outing. Alternatively, some people make a couple of arm holes and in a bin bag and stick their head through the top. This is will keep you warm and is particularly helpful if it’s going to be a damp start to the race.
Nutrition. This is the best time to test your nutrition for the race. What will your pre-race breakfast be and how does the body respond to it after a long run?
What post-race snack works best? Will you take nutrition products with you during the race? If so, which one works best for you? How will you carry them? Now is the time to discover which products work well for you - remember everyone is different. Don’t leave it until race day to find that they cause digestive problems! The BBC Good Food have a great little infographic to help you plan the best nutrition for you
Hydration. Similarly, now is the time to ensure that you are getting optimal hydration
on your run. Is water enough or do you need to add some electrolytes to ensure your body is absorbing the water properly? How will you carry your fluids? Water bottle? Camel pack? Or a bottle belt? If you are still undecided, Runners World have reviewed various methods
Foam roller. Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) stretching technique
which can act as a form of self-massage. It’s great for working through any knots or tight spots you might feel in the muscles and ensuring muscles are moving in the optimal way. If you suffer from a tight iliotibial band (ITB – often associated with knee pain) the foam roller can help relieve tension and tightness around the muscles. There are a variety of makes on the market, including the Trigger Point (pictured). It can be done as part of your warm-up and/or cool-down.
Chaffing. Ouch! Ever seen the guys who finish a marathon with bleeding nipples? That is chaffing at its worst. Wherever there is going to be friction between your
clothing and your body you are at risk of chaffing and developing sores, blisters or even bleeding. The best way to avoid this is to use a barrier balm like Vaseline or BodyGlide or plaster to cover those potentially painful areas. Personally I cover my toes and heels in BodyGlide before a race and also coat under any straps which also cause friction. Practice using it on your long runs and not only will you save yourself from any potential rubs and blisters, it will also give you chance to see which product works best for you.
You might want to add sunglasses, a hat and a carry pouch to your list too.
Thank you for reading my blog! I am lucky enough to have completed 12 marathon with a best time being 3:38:52 at London in 2015. These tips were originally written for all the London Marathon Runners supporting United Response.