Monday, May 23, 2011

24 hours to running your first marathon

I jotted down these pointers for a friend running the Adidas Sundown Marathon this Sat, 28 May 2011, and thought I'll just open this and share it with anyone preparing to run your first or subsequent marathons. Of course, do take note of the difference in the race starting time - Sundown starts its race at 12 midnight; other races typically start at 5am; so adjust your sleep timings accordingly. Otherwise, all other pointers remain the same.

Basic principle
Our bodies are like cars. In order for a car to travel fast and far, especially to last the distance, it has to be fueled up. Likewise, our bodies need to be fueled up to keep running for a long time. Knowledge of sufficient nutrition and hydration is critical. If we prepare our bodies with this in mind, we'll have no problem completing a seemingly daunting 42km marathon (of course, training is the even more critical component here, but that will be covered separately). So here goes...

The Adidas Sundown Marathon begins at Sat midnight/Sun dawn. You need to rest the whole of Sat, enjoy the day, do things that you like, eat well, eat happy, and get sufficient sleep. I know it’s hard, especially when we’re not used to napping, but try to sleep a couple of hours on Sat evening leading up to your race at midnight.

What I did was to sleep from 5-9pm on Sat and get up to make it to the race site by 11pm.

Carbo load on Friday. Eat a little more than you usually do, loading in more carbs – rice, pasta, bread, potato, etc.

Happy breakfast on Sat. Indulge in pancakes, waffles, wholegrain bread, peanut butter toast, etc. Refrain from milk or dairy products as they are likely to make you wanna go to the loo.

Have a hearty lunch – pasta is always a good and a preferred choice by most athletes prior to their race. Pasta is good carbs for a long race.

Have a peanut butter sandwich 2 hours before the race. Or any sandwich you like. Peanut butter is also good carbs.

Take a power gel an hour or half an hour before the race, i.e. 11pm or 11.30pm. Gels usually kick in 15-30mins, depending on individuals. Take the gel to give you that boost to start your first few kilometers of run.

Take a gel every hour. Be religious about this, even if you don't like it. A lot of people dislike taking gel after a few, coz it’s not exactly the tastiest thing in the world, but it is essential to fuel you through the distance and hours.

Make sure you drink sufficient water to wash down each gel you take. Otherwise you might have stomach bloatedness from indigestion of gels.

Water and 100Plus are provided at hydration stations (100Plus at every alternate hydration station). My general advice is to hydrate yourself at every station. Take whatever is offered. If it’s water, drink it. If it’s 100Plus, drink it. If it’s 100Plus plus water, drink both. It’s extremely important to keep your body hydrated during the race – your body is going through a lot of stress and needs to be frequently hydrated. Remember that 100Plus is also extremely important to provide sodium to avoid your muscles from cramping. So if you can only down so much water and have to choose one, between choosing 100Plus and water, always choose 100Plus. You need sodium, otherwise cramps are inevitable. Why? Because your muscles are working extra hard during a long race.

Attire, socks & shoes – do not try anything new on race day. Stick to the attire, socks and shoes that you have been wearing while training, or risk abrasion or discomfort which can be magnified manifold on a long run on race day.

Run light – avoid carrying items with you, except your gels. Wear a fuel belt if possible, to carry your gels with you on the run.

Keep a consistent pace - don't go too fast nor too slowly. The key is a sustainable pace to get you to the finish line.

Set mini goals along the way, for example, “I’m going to run to the next street lamp”. Or “I’m gonna overtake this guy in front of me”. Or I’m gonna make it to the turn around point at 21km and increase my pace a little.”

Enjoy every step, even the painful ones. It's a great privilege to run a marathon. You are blessed with a healthy & strong body to undertake this challenge, so enjoy the process.

And finally, come what may, please, please, please do enjoy the run. Run strong, run well, and beat the sunrise! ;)

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