Running Full Marathon For First Timers, It’s More Mental Than Physical.

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When you begin a new exercise routine, you are eager to reap the health benefits. The time it takes for your body to adapt to the exercise depends on a few factors. How you manipulate the variables of intensity, duration and frequency along with your present levels of fitness.  Right now you may be looking around at your friends who are running the marathon or perhaps at the start line where everyone just looks in a state of bliss, no nerves or anxiety amongest any of them. Let me tell you something I have learned from speaking to a number of marathon runners over the years, everyone is chewing up on the inside, everyone is a little bit scared and worried that they have not quite done enough to get to the finish line. 

So, if you are a bit scared? Good. You should be and so is everyone else. You are about to do something that is pretty amazing, probably harder than anything you have done before and these feelings of worry and fear will translate later into feelings of euphoria and achievement at the end of the 42.195 kilometers. That will be the climax of your public performance with the feeling that you are genuinely a star of some show and you will be. Thousands of people will be lining the streets cheering you on with a genuine respect and bewilderment for what you are doing. Some of them may have run marathons before but most wont because it does not even occur to them to push themselves in this way.

Preparing for a marathon race whether you are a regular runner or just a first timer should be taken seriously cautiously, you must understand that you are pushing your body to extremes with unknown conditions. So be ready for anything, could be a chilled morning or and rainy one and worst still unusual sun rise raising the temperatures fast within the short period. The days before the race is not is not exceptional and still not the time to discover new foods. In fact it is not the time to deviate from what you normally eat. If you normally eat lots of bread and pasta then eat that the night before, if your diet is more fruit based or rice based then that is fine too. A mistake many people make is to deviate from their usual diet to one that contains lots of wheat and then struggle with stomach problems during the marathon.

The race day: Get there about 45 minutes early, but never leave the warm and cozy car until about 15 minutes before the race mind you standing up in +5degrees Celsius will take up all your energy that you’re will need much later, so standing there in your shorts and T-shirt need to be well calculated before time. Once you mingle through the crowd to find our preferred pacemaker, you will notice how wonderfully warm it is around all these people! Thousands of human bodies produce an amazing amount of heat.

You don’t even hear the starter go off, but suddenly the crowd is moving forwards and after a couple of hundred of meters the walk turns into a slow jog. When crossing the start line the big timer is showing 1 minute 30 seconds already. At this point you turn on your personal timer. The race starts for real. We run one leg heading to Jumeirah beach road north. Not that i have much time to enjoy, the race is still packed and no space to stretch a bit you still working up gradually to get to you comfortable heart rate.

On the 5 km mark I checked my timer 25:10 The slow pace doesn’t bother me but I have to keep on the pace if I want to hit the finish line before the 4 hrs mark. The aim is much further and the goal is to get there, I’m reassuring myself. At 5 km there is also the first water station in case somebody forgot their breakfast. It’s much crowded and messy so I have trained myself to be getting water after the 10 km mark just before hitting 13 km. I don’t need either, but decide to take a sip at the next pit stop. Me and my running mate, we are chatting checking the time and speed not to go too hard on it and not to slow down too much, the training has helped us learn how to synchronize during the race till one drops off later, until then we will have a long stretch together…

A 10 km pulls up from the horizon but we won’t check the time till we are there 48:54. It feels like a perfect Friday morning. Watching fellow runners and as spectators hailing encouraging words and phrases others reading the funny slogans on others backs. One can read a bunch of funny one’s while on the race.  After a bit we turn to a slight slope that takes less energy from our stomach and it’s time to refill. The gu-gel comes in handy for me but must be taken with caution; if anything goes wrong it would instead kick you out of the race rather than propel you to the finish line. Excited funs cheers the marathoners up. The police are everywhere looking very impressed by the marathon and a sense of security if anything would go wrong is deeply reassured to the runner. Once turn around to north direction the crowd of supporters seems to thicken. They have drums and whistles and other noisy stuff. Good job, Well done, Need water, You can make it, Almost there! You make my day.

Its 1 hour and 55 minutes on my timer and as I passed the 21st km mark. At 1:55:48 Half way through. I notice a little bit of a pain in my left leg small toe, but try not to think about it. Overall, I feel much better than in my last half-marathon. I replenish myself with water and energy gel and leave 2 for later. Meanwhile the toes gets worse with every step, starts to hurt more and more and suddenly all I can think of is the toe. I’m trying to focus on something else, like talking, so I bore my mate to death with some trivial stories.

Just before the 30km mark a get to a station with pain spray, they spayed my leg numbing all the nerves and the toe pain mysteriously goes away, but this time my feet remind me of their existence. I can’t feel on my toes anymore but that’s what I need for now. I’m also trying not to think of all these people who have already crossed the finish line and are happily getting their free massages and enjoying their meals.

At 35k it’s getting pretty rough. My mate tells me to keep up but we are now out of conversations. There is not much you can do to improve yourself physically now but a hell lot you can do mentally. I’m trying to cheer him up, but I doubt if it sounds very reassuring. I cheer myself up by eating another power bar.

The mental preparedness is what keeps you stepping on, you have to learn to do it just like the olympic cyclists do it, war generals do it and you have probably done it in a presentation at work. You rehearse in your mind the perfect race, the perfect battle, the perfect pitch. You imagine the roar of approval from your colleagues or fans as you execute the perfect manouvers to achieve your goals. Even just thinking about it gives you great confidence, it excites you, it motivates you. These are all great things and you should spend the few weeks before the marathon thinking in this way. It will get you buzzing on the start line. 

You are now counting the kilometer one by one you will notice the 37, 38, 39 and 40 all miles away from each other but this thinking does something even more profound. Without wanting to scare you this kind of thinking increase your tolerance for suffering. I don’t want to over state it but running a marathon for the first time you are going to suffer. However the more you have visualized success the more you are willing to suffer to achieve this goal.

After 40 Km the energy kicks in again your brain has just sent a message to all organs that you are about to celebrate, a little adrenaline rush is pushes through your veins at only 1.5 km to go. I really want to catch up with the guy holding in front. I can see the balloons well ahead. I feel hyper.  It’s amazing, I start to overtake people one after another. When pass the big sign with 41k on it, the green balloons are just meters away. I switch my brain off running mode and it just does automatically. 500m before the finish line I notice many people trying to make it on time. And here I am, arriving a few minutes after my planned 4 hours. Little sad but draw on their support and feel inspired by my own efforts just for being there. Look forward to the bragging rights afterwards, in the pub, at home, at work. It was a dream come true when that lady hanged my medal on my neck after the finish line.

Every moment of the day will be a significant part of the rest of your life, whether you get your dream time or get carted off in an ambulance you’ll have stories to tell people after this race. Make them good and Enjoy Every Moment.

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