Running as a form of exercise has become increasingly popular in recent years, and the marathon has become the challenge that more and more people are aiming to complete as a final goal of longer intervals of training. Completing a marathon requires a lot of preparation, especially when it comes to training. What many first-time marathon runners often forget, however, are the many practical preparations that are needed in addition to the actual running training and which, in the worst case, can jeopardise the entire running experience. In this guide, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about how to prepare for a marathon.
There is a lot to keep in mind when running a marathon. Even for experienced runners, it is a real challenge to remember all the details that should be in order to be able to perform at their best without a lot of unnecessary distractions that take away attention from the run.
How difficult is it for the first-time runner to remember or even know what is important when preparing for a marathon?
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In this post, I will give some tips on the things that I have learnt, partly through my own mistakes, about the practical preparations for a marathon. There are a lot of guides and schedules on how to train for a certain time at a marathon. However, it is rare to find much information about what is important to take into account besides how to prepare through proper training.
Many beginners underestimate the marathon distance, and the many things that can actually go wrong during such a challenging distance as a marathon actually is!
My opinion is that many beginners underestimate the marathon distance and the many things that can actually go wrong during such a challenging distance as a marathon. Many go into the race with the attitude that it will probably work out as long as the condition is right. After all, you have trained well and run almost as long distances in training.
What people don’t realise is that training and racing are two different things, although it is, of course, helpful to have tested longer distances even under training conditions. But after all, there are not very many people who have the mental strength to be able to perform a long run close to their maximum capacity and therefore training on longer distances does not have the same effects on the body as a marathon competition.
Tips on How to Prepare for a Marathon
I have completed many marathons in my life so far. Based on these experiences, I have collected a few points that I think are worth paying special attention to, apart from the training itself. In a separate guide, I have also collected the necessary running equipment for a marathon.
1. Invest in new shoes
Most people will finish their first marathon in over 4 hours. This leads to an imminent risk of overuse injuries if your shoes have even a slight chance of being worn out.
Nowadays, shoes are so good and comfortable that a few runs can be enough to break them in – especially the new running shoes with good cushion. I used to recommend a one-month break-in period for new running shoes. Nowadays, I find that a few runs are enough to break into new running shoes.
2. Invest in the right type of shoes
So what are the best running shoes for a marathon? If you only have the budget for it, I recommend that you invest in running shoes with a carbon fibre plate. These are both well cushioned and also have excellent energy return. This provides an excellent running experience even for longer distances.
3. Invest in good running socks
When it comes to running, a top-quality pair of socks is almost as important as your shoes. If you run with poor-quality socks, there is an imminent risk of chafing in places you didn’t know existed on your foot. The best running socks keep moisture away from your feet and are reinforced in key areas of the foot, such as the forefoot.
Anyone who has run a marathon knows that there is a tendency to start “burning” under the foot pad in the last 10 kilometres of a marathon – especially in hot weather. With good running socks, you can avoid these problems.
The Nike Racing running socks were originally developed for the Breaking2 project and have now been further refined. The tight fit and no-slip feature means they stay in place throughout the marathon.
4. Use Vaseline
Use Vaseline or other ointment on all body surfaces that are exposed to friction. I myself have been surprised at how many areas of the body are actually affected during a marathon.
I won’t list all the places where I’ve had chafing during my long runs and marathons, but a stall tip for men is to remember the most precious parts 🙂.
5. Invest in new race clothes
For me personally, having new race clothes gives an extra push for the mental aspect. However, we are all different in this area, but for me, it works. Go for lightweight running clothes that have good moisture transport and don’t stick to your body.
During a marathon, you’ll be pouring water on yourself and getting really sweaty, so you need running clothes that don’t cling to your body. Nike’s lightweight Dri-FIT ADV AeroSwift is one of my absolute favourites on the market right now.
6. Make sure you practise drinking and eating during your long runs
Next to training, this is one of the single most important factors in how you will manage to run a full marathon at a good pace. To be able to run the full 42.2 km at a near-maximum pace, your body simply has to be receptive to the extra energy offered in the form of energy drinks, water and energy bars.
Ideally, you should know what drinks are available during the race and be able to top up with the same drinks during your long runs. I can recommend GU energy drinks and energy gels to avoid stomach problems during a marathon.
7. Don’t drink too much within an hour of the race
Hydration should be taken care of in the days preceding the actual race. Excessive fluid consumption close to the race will instead have the effect that you will probably have to seek out the best “poo-poo” when the race has begun.
Instead, I focus on drinking sports drinks the day before the race and then only take small sips in the hours before the race.
8. Don’t forget the magnesium boost
Most people are familiar with carbohydrate loading, but another important detail to avoid cramps is magnesium. I usually start taking extra magnesium supplements about a week before the marathon.
Go for a magnesium preparation with good absorption for optimal effect. This is also one of the supplements for runners that I recommend you use regularly, even if you’re not racing, as it helps your body relax and sleep better.
9. Don’t overdo the carbohydrate loading the day before!
Pasta parties are great, but carbohydrate loading should be taken care of several days before the race. The day before, the body feels best with a normal amount of food.
10. Be there in time for the race
There’s nothing more destructive to concentration and focus than stress before a race. Make sure you’re in place well before a marathon – especially if it’s a big event like the Stockholm Marathon with lots of people. You’ll probably have to visit the toilet once or twice before the start, and that takes a lot of time.
11. Don’t stress about sleep the day before
Most people sleep poorly at night before a race. It is the sleep the week before that is much more crucial to performance. Never plan a lot of activities in the week before a marathon because your body needs a lot of rest to prepare for the effort of a marathon.
12. Don’t forget sunscreen if the sun is out
My first marathon reminded me of the importance of wearing sunscreen. The sun is pretty much on your shoulders during a marathon, and if you want to avoid getting burnt, it’s a good idea to wear sunscreen.
There are good sports sunscreens on the market nowadays, so they don’t get in your eyes or feel sticky on your skin.
13. Invest in good sunglasses for running and a running cap
Sun protection in the form of a cap is perhaps even more important when it comes to performance. An imbalance of fluids combined with a blazing sun on your head tends to affect your balance.
Good sunglasses for running are also something you should consider getting, whether it’s sunny or not. I personally purchased the Oakley Encoder with a gold-coloured lens for my last half marathon, but there are much better options on the market.
That’s what came to my mind regarding some of the more practical details to remember about a marathon. If you have any other good tips, feel free to share them in the comments section.