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10 Things You Need To Know Before Running Your First Marathon

January 26, 2024

You've started your Training Plan, and maybe you’ve even had a moment to consider your why when it comes to taking on the 2024 Brighton Marathon. If you haven't considered your why, Pete Cooper - founder of London Marathon Events’ Official Training App, Coopah - talks about how to find yours.

To help with your preparation, members of the London Marathon Events team have shared the advice they wished someone had given them before running 26.2 miles for the first time. Here are the top 10 tips.

1. Train for the course you’re running (or at least be aware of the elevation)

You might have looked at the course map and taken in all the sites you will pass, but have you clocked the elevation? You don’t want a nasty surprise on Event Day so if you’ve been training on flat roads, but the course doesn’t resemble that, you still have time to include some hill running in your workouts.

2. Basic strength training and stretching will do wonders 

Strength training can help strengthen tendons and ligaments to enable your body to cope with the repetitive impact of running. There are many types of strength training, from weightlifting to HITT and TRX. Find something you enjoy that is easy to include in your Training Plan. 

If you need to incorporate more stretching, yin yoga is for you. You hold poses for three to five minutes, which releases fascia and improves joint mobility. You can even try a YouTube tutorial. To complement yoga you could also try breathing exercises to build your stamina.

A sports massage isn't cheap, but it can help sort out a niggle before it becomes an issue. Or if something doesn’t feel right in your body, it’s better to get it checked out.

3. Don’t forget to taper

In the final weeks before Event Day, you should reduce your mileage. A proper taper is vital to give your body the rest and recovery it needs to be in the best shape. It might seem counterintuitive but, realistically, you won’t change your fitness levels at this stage. But you can build up carbohydrate stores in your muscles, which will have depleted over your long runs. Tapering will also give your muscles time to repair any wear and tear from training. You will arrive at Event Day feeling fresh, which will help bolster your mental motivation to get you across the Finish Line.

4. Overtraining can do far more damage than undertraining

This is particularly true when you are close to Event Day. As the saying goes - this is a marathon, not a sprint - and so is your training. By now, you should be gently increasing your mileage in accordance with your Training Plan. Progress steadily. Take rest days. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep. Fuel properly. You want to protect both your physical and mental health during training. It's not going to be easy, but don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be. Your body is pretty good at signalling when something isn’t quite right, whether that’s fatigue or an injury due to training too hard.

5. Bring an old jumper to the Start Line

Just because you’ve dropped off your kit bag doesn’t mean you have to freeze. Many participants wear old clothes to keep warm before their wave heads to the Start Line. On Event Day, you’ll see clearly marked drop points at the Start Line. All discarded clothing is collected and sent for reuse and recycling.

6. Talk to someone you don't know on Event Day 

The atmosphere on Event Day is second to none. Everyone comes together to cheer people on to do something extraordinary. Everyone has their why for completing a marathon. Take a moment on Event Day to be proud of everything you have achieved.

And let’s be honest, unless you are running with someone, there are moments between spotting people you know when it can get a little lonely. So, speaking to someone on the route might give you the energy boost you need to take on the final few miles.

7. If you’re going to use energy gels - test them out first 

Energy gels replenish your depleted carbohydrate stores. Your body relies on carbohydrates to fuel your muscles. The body only stores a limited amount of carbohydrates in your muscles. This type is glycogen, and these stores start to deplete around the 13-mile mark. All gels vary but, on average, one sachet will provide a 25g hit of carbohydrates. The blood absorbs the sugars from the gel and you get a short-lived spike in energy. Each runner absorbs and processes carbohydrates at different rates but you shouldn’t overload. As a rough guide, aim to consume one sachet every 45 to 60 minutes, or six to seven miles. You shouldn’t try anything new on Event Day so if you decide to use energy gels, you need to test them out during training and take on only a little bit at a time to begin with, as they can give you an upset stomach. Always follow the guidance provided on the packaging of the energy gel you are using.

8. Don't get obsessed with all the add-ons you see on TikTok…

World Athletics recorded a boom in running during the pandemic and a new generation of runners was born. If #RunTok is anything to go by, it’s not slowing down. Ultra running is also booming.

Along with the fascination to push yourself comes all the advice and add-ons shouted at you through your phone screen. ‘You must have these shoes to complete a sub four-hour marathon.’ Or, ‘this muscle roll-on is game changing for rest day’. If you aren’t careful your new hobby can become expensive. How much is actually necessary, you might wonder? Products are down to personal preference and goals, so don’t feel that you need everything. Approach kit testing the same way you do training - build it slowly and intentionally.

There are also plenty of freebies along the way, which can help you if you are starting out. You can get your gait analysed for free in most running shops, if you need a pair of shoes. New Balance has an online guide with a pronation test and gait analysis you can do at home.

You can join a free 5K every Saturday in your local area, through parkrun. Find your closest.

9. Don’t underestimate the power of Vaseline

Two things you want to avoid are blisters and chafing. Although you might be wearing a top you’ve trained in for a while now, running 26.2 miles means it can start to chafe. Before you head to the Start Line, some areas to apply Vaseline are your armpits, nipples, between your thighs and your ankles. If you notice your skin starting to smart or sting, you can get help at the  medical points on the route.

10. You might get a little blue after Event Day

This is totally normal. You might have heard of gold medal syndrome, which is that post-event feeling of emptiness that athletes can experience. And even though you might not consider yourself an athlete, the same can happen to you.

Event Day is emotional. You’ve been training for months and perhaps even fundraising for a similar amount of time. It’s fair to say, the Brighton Marathon has been a major part of your daily life and now that is over. Or it might be any other factor. You might not have made the time you wanted, you might have suffered an injury along the route or, maybe, the weather just wasn’t on your side. Whatever it is, just remember you’ve achieved something extraordinary - so go easy on yourself!

Celebrate your achievement and give yourself a break (maybe even a sports massage) before booking your next challenge. 

Do you want a personalised plan?

Check out London Marathon Events’ Official Training App, Coopah. LME has teamed up with the experts at Coopah to create training plans to help you reach your PB goals. Offering over 500 different workouts, Coopah keeps you motivated and makes running fun for everyone. If you're ready to get started, download the Coopah App now.

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