(My Mar 3, 2014 ToledoTalk.com comment to someone who is running his first marathon at the Glass City Marathon in Toledo in April.)
Best of luck. That's quite a leap from a 5K to a marathon. I completed five marathons long ago. I ran the Glass City Marathon when it was the old course where we started downtown and ran across the High Level Bridge and along the Maumee River from Rossford to Perrysburg, then over the bridge to Maumee and around Side Cut Metropark, and finally back along the river on the Toledo side to finish downtown. It was a fine course.
My favorite distances, however, were the 15K to 25K races, which were long enough to make them worth the travel, but short enough not to wreck my body like a marathon did. My all-time favorite race that I ran multiple times was the 20K in Wheeling, WV.
You definitely want to get the body used to the pounding of asphalt as soon as you can find something free of snow and ice.
You may be aware of this, but do not wear anything new on the day of your marathon. Ensure that ALL your gear is well-broken in. 26 miles is not the time to discover that something pinches or scrapes the body.
During the late miles of the marathon, you may feel the need to walk. That's okay, especially for your first marathon. But limit your walking time to the length of the water stations. Start running again when you reach the end of the water station, otherwise, you may walk the rest of the way.
The worst part of the marathon, mentally, is when you reach the 13.1 mile marker sign.
I assume that you have a goal time. Stick with that, regardless of how good you feel early in the race. Do NOT increase your pace, thinking that you will run a faster time because you feel good at the 7-mile mark.
Blowing up early in a 20K or a half marathon is not that big of a deal. You can tough out the last few miles in those "short" races. But if you foul up early in a marathon, well, it's a lesson you won't forget.
I learned what hitting the 'wall' was like at the Charlotte Observer marathon because I ran faster than I had planned in the middle miles because I felt great, and I latched onto a small group of runners. Around 17 miles, I lost contact with the group no matter how hard I tried to keep up. It was a horrible experience over the last 10K of that race. I got the chills. I was lightheaded, and a few times, I thought I was going to faint. And I was starving for food.
Run your own race at your own planned pace and the hell with everyone else.
If possible, start the race slower than planned, and if you feel better late, then you can pick up the pace. You'll be inspired if you pass people over the last few miles of the race.
You'll be keyed up early. Anxious. Nervous. People start out too fast. Resist. Hold back and save yourself, especially for a marathon.
My best marathon time was 3:00:15 at Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN. My goal at that race was to break three hours. I watched the clock turn over 2:59:59 ... 3:00:00 as I approached the finish. I drove to that race. It was a long drive to finish 16 seconds short of goal. And I blew that race in the first mile. My plan was to start slow, so I lined up further back than I should have at the narrow starting line. My goal was 7:30 for the first mile. I knew that I would run sub-6:51 miles later to make up for the time. But I stumbled through the first crowded mile in 8:30.
For my so-called training, I ran a basic schedule pretty much year-round where I did not track mileage. I ran for time.
- One day a week: two-hour run
- One day a week: 75-minute run
- Three days a week: 45-minute run
That was it. If I got in another 45-minute run, fine, but I had other things that I wanted to do besides go running. Plus, I ran races about every other weekend. I used some races as hard training runs.
By running for time, my mileage would vary. For whatever reason, some days, I felt like running slow, and other days, I felt like running fast. But I would not know which it would be until I was out running for a while. And as I got stronger, my mileage would increase, but I ran the same amount of time.
A 45-minute run at 6:30 per mile or 8:30 per mile was still 45 minutes.
The only thing I wish that I would have done differently was increase the two-hour run to 2.5 hours as I approached the marathon date. Based upon my running times at the 15K to 25K distances, I should have been running marathons between 2:50 and 2:55. I don't think that I ran enough really long runs as I approached the marathon date. Or five days a week was not enough running, but I knew that I would never run every day.
When I first started running, I read too many magazine articles, and so I did interval training on the track. I ran at night. The little Rossford school along 795 had a track. I climbed the fence and ran intervals. Eventually, I snapped out of that phase. If running was suppose to be mildly fun, then I simply wanted to go running at whatever pace I felt like around home in the evenings after work. And then go to Moe's for beers, burger, and fries.
To keep your running fun and in perspective, try hashing once in a while with the Mud Hen Hash House Harriers or MH4. It's a "drinking group with a running problem." Spilling beer is considered alcohol abuse. And rehab is for quitters. It was those bastards that got me interested in running races longer than 5K.
You'll probably feel like hell after you finish the marathon. After my first marathon, which was in Columbus, I could barely lift my legs to get up over the curbs. After Grandma's and the Detroit Free Press marathons, I went back to my car and passed out. I had to eat bland food for a couple days after a marathon because apparently, my insides got rocked.
Great fun. Enjoy.
I hope the wind is somehow always at your back. I predict that it will not be your last marathon. But check out those middle distances too.