Neon Rush: A Beginner’s Guide To Marathoning
Neon Rush is back!
The annual charity night run is returning to shower the streets of Miri with its signature fluorescent colours this coming October. So lace up your running shoes and put on your neon, glow-in-the-dark accessories. It’s going to be a spectacle to behold!
“But wait, I’m a clueless first-time runner, what do I do?” you may ask yourself.
A marathon may seem like an intimidating and exhausting endeavour (which it is). But fret not, with the proper planning and preparation you can definitely make it through without breaking a sweat (obvious lie).
Anything from pre-marathon prep to pre-pre-marathon research will give you the edge to complete this gruelling task. For instance, excess food intake and overly intense training will make your run a torturous affair. But optimal training, coupled with sufficient rest will make your endorphin-filled journey a pleasant one.
That said, there are a lot of beginners that know nothing about the sport of running. Therefore, they are likely to make mistakes when it comes to joining their first marathon. Furthermore, even seasoned veterans may make the same mistakes from time to time.
In this article, we will outline the common mistakes that runners may make. This article will cover anything from the registration process to running the marathon itself.
Registering For Your Marathon
This is a common one. As the marathon trend is becoming ever popular, more and more organizers are jumping on the bandwagon. You’ll find a lot more marathons organized today than in the past few years.
Some of these marathons may be hit-or-miss, while others may be widely popular. But one thing is for certain, you should always do your research before you register for a marathon!
We’re not saying all organizers are unscrupulous, but there are those that seek to take advantage of your naiveté. Their goal? To relieve you of your hard-earned cash while doing the bare minimum in order to avoid being labelled scams.
Didn’t bother to do your research? What entails could be a poorly planned event masquerading as a “marathon”. From poorly thought out routes to subpar “goodies”, you will face this unfortunate circumstance if you do not do your due diligence. And worst still, the event could even get cancelled at the last minute!
If history has shown thus far, people will do whatever it takes to get ahead, so don’t fall into this pit trap. And always, always do background checks on the organizers, venue, potential weather conditions, etc.
Pre-Marathon Prep: The Training Plan
Before you even begin imagining yourself crossing the finish line, you need to take a step back and evaluate your fitness level.
Are you a potato? Or perhaps you have some semblance of stamina in that body of yours? Coming up with an appropriate training plan is the key to finishing your very first marathon without “dying” in the process.
As any seasoned expert would tell you: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Cliché, we know, but it does make sense. You can’t start running the whole distance right out of the gate. Thus, it’s important to find a plan that helps you gradually build up your mileage and endurance. Furthermore, a good training plan will also take into account sufficient rest to prevent overuse injuries.
We’d suggest looking for a plan that coincides with your current running level. An ideal training plan builds a runner up slowly and carefully to meet the demands he or she will face on race day. The ideal scenario here is to both physically and mentally prepare yourself on what to expect during the marathon.
Your last long run should take place approximately three weeks prior to the marathon. This is so that your muscles can recover on time before you start running. Also, remember to reduce your running mileage two weeks before the race in order to be at 100% on race day.
Lastly, remember to catch those ZZZs! There’s nothing worse than running in a marathon while sleep deprived.
Pre-Marathon Prep: Fueling And Recovery
A vehicle needs fuel to operate and so does your body.
You’ll undoubtedly be hungry after all that running, but overeating can be detrimental to your overall progress. Carb-loading is of particular importance here.
In the days leading up to your race, make sure that your caloric intake from carbohydrates should be no less than 70% to 80% of your daily calories. Similarly, professional runners adopt a carb-heavy diet a few days before each race. In this case, some runners may restrict their diets to rice for all three daily meals. Our advice? you don’t have to be THAT dedicated.
Oatmeal, bread, tortillas, pancakes, waffles, bagels, and yoghurt are all easy-to-digest options. Just be sure not to overstuff yourself during dinner the night before a race. Carb-loading doesn’t mean overloading. Instead, focus on consuming only the essentials.
Avoid heavy sauces, high-fat food, and food rich in protein. The aim is to load your body with plenty of carbs which your body will convert into glycogen for fuel. Be sure to also avoid caffeine and alcohol, both of which can cause dehydration and interfere with your sleep.
P.S. Make sure to do some post-run stretching. An ice or cold bath can alleviate inflammation, ease soreness, and recover damaged muscles. Also, using heat and/or foam rollers is a good way to soothe your sore muscles.
P.P.S. Remember to drink plenty of water a day before the race. As an athlete, you should hydrate yourself more but only to the extent of about 13 glasses for men and 9 glasses for women. Going over this limit would overhydrate your body which is just as detrimental as dehydration.
Pre-Marathon Prep: Make Sure Everything Else Is In Order
What we mean by this is to organize every detail pertaining to your marathon to ensure that your head is in the right place come race day. Of course, there are a number of things that could go wrong if you are not well-prepared. After all, Murphy’s Law is a thing.
Here is a checklist of essential items you should have prepared before race day:
- Race bibs and safety pins
- Race timing chip (if any)
- Running outfit (dry shirts, socks, extra socks, hats, shoelaces, and shoes)
- Wristwatch/GPS watch/fitness watch
- Anti-chafing products like Vaseline
- Blister care products
- Race fuel such as energy gels
Also, try to make sure that you are as comfortable and in form as possible before you head out. For instance, don’t make the mistake of trying a new race fuel instead of your regular product. You won’t know how this product is going to affect you, so it’d be better to save it for a later race.
The same applies to your pre-marathon meal. Plan in advance what you are going to consume before the race. And always keep your appetite in check. Don’t make the rookie mistake of having whatever you feel like having on the day. Stick to the plan, and eat what you know works.
Last but not least, keep your toenails short and tidy. This will prevent potential foot pain from striking the front of your shoe while running. Or worse, having your toenails fall off!
Marathon Prep: D-Day Is Here!
On the day of the race, get up earlier and make sure to arrive at the starting point early. At this point, you should already have memorized or know the route you are going to take. If not, spend some time doing just that. Find a comfortable place to sit and rest as you inspect the lay of the land.
Don’t worry about a warm-up run. Just doing some light stretches should loosen you up a little, and if not, the walk from your car should be sufficient. Just before you head to the starting line, double-check your gear. Make sure you have secured whatever food and/or drink that you are bringing with you and attach it to your person.
Once you are at the starting point, go ahead and position yourself in an appropriate spot in the pack. The start of races is crowded so we don’t recommend adding to the crowd up in front. And don’t worry about starting too slowly. The pack will thin out quickly, and a slow start should give you the chance to warm up and avoid being burnt out too quickly.
Finally, as you are running, there’s one last important thing to take note of. Have fun! You’ve worked hard to get to this point so go ahead and enjoy the marathon to your heart’s content.
After The Race
Completed your race in record time? Managed to secure a top spot in the leaderboards? Or maybe you just couldn’t complete the run this time around?
Keep your chin up! It’s not the end of the world.
Now that you’ve finished (or not finished) your race, it’s time to wind down and relax. After-run care is indeed vital as it helps to keep your body in proper shape, as well as to keep the inevitable soreness at bay.
First things first, drink, a lot. Even if you’ve been downing bottles and bottles of water during the race, you will still be a little dehydrated. Immediately replenish yourself with some good ‘ol H2O.
Otherwise, the next thing to do is to eat! Try and replenish your carbohydrate storage with food high in the nutrient. A little protein mixed in will also go a long way in helping your body to recover. Do not choose anything extremely high in sugar or fat as it will potentially upset your stomach.
Moreover, if you’re feeling tense and lethargic, then your best bet is to keep moving. Do lower intensity cardiovascular movements, such as walking after the race. And you could even do some gentle stretching to reduce the stiffness.
Finally, take a break! Postponing your next training sesh is not going to make your muscles atrophy. Don’t do any intense running until you’ve actually recovered. And when you do resume running, always start easy to regain your legs.
Joining a marathon, especially one that is being held at night, can be an arduous affair. It is stressful and taxing on your body, as well as on your mind. But the rewards or “runner’s high” you get at the end of the finish line shouldn’t be diminished.
So what are you waiting for? Start planning for your next marathon. Review your training and determine what works well. Then, adjust your training schedule accordingly. Experience is the best teacher after all!