Running your first big run at the Melbourne Marathon Festival? Whether it’s 10km, half or the full marathon, make sure you check out our blog for 7 exclusive marathon tips you won’t find anywhere else!
I would like to formally welcome you to your first major fun run… You’re standing at the start line. You’re surrounded by thousands of people who are checking their watches, repeatedly tying their shoelaces, doing that nervous jiggle – as are you, because the Melbourne weather forecast predicted a sunny, 24 degrees yet your phone just told you it’s 6!
As you stand there, you start to question every moment of your training: ‘Have I done enough?’, ‘Did I taper correctly?’, ‘When did they say to have those gels?’, ‘Do I need to pee again!?’ This is exactly what will be going through your head – I can absolutely confirm that now. How do I know? I’ve been there more times than most…
I grew up running, competing and racing; doing ‘fun’ runs and participating in some of the most renowned races all over the globe. I’m here to pass on my first-hand experience and share with you the dos and don’ts of how to get through your first Melbourne Marathon Festival. Whatever your goal, these tips apply to you all. So, listen up!
How to run your best race (And what they don’t tell you about running your first major event!)
Tip 1: Don’t give in to pre-race nerves!
As you stand there, freezing (it’s Melbourne, of course you’re freezing) listening to some guy with a microphone ramble on about the run, they will start a group warm-up. You join in the warm-up, start jumping on the spot and waving your arms in the air. Pre-race nerves will kick in. Despite your preparation of going to the bathroom when you woke up, before leaving home, on the way from the car to the start line and again at the start line, your body will trick you into thinking you need to go again. NO, NO YOU DON’T. I can tell you right now, 10 minutes into the run the need to pee miraculously disappears.
Tip 2: Run your race, at your pace
In every marathon I have ever run, from the Gold Coast to Comrades, I have witnessed the same phenomenon all across the world – guaranteed every time! For the first 2 km, this amazing overwhelming sense comes over about 80% of the runners. It is called the ‘I think I’m Usain Bolt’ sensation. This is where everyone decides to gas it and run as if they are doing a time trial. News flash! You’re not. Don’t get caught up in this. As exciting as it is to be sardined into a big group, dodging through the flocks of people and thinking ‘oh boy, I am on fire!’; it will come to 2.5 km point and you will suddenly realise that you are now cooked and don’t know if you can keep going. Run your race, at your pace. You know exactly the times you need to get through the run – don’t let a whole bunch of strangers trying to sprint next to the elite runners tell you any different.
Tip 3: Cruise on past
Then we come to the first drink station. DON’T DO IT! You’re not thirsty (unless of course you were overcome with the Bolt sensation and sprinted the first 2 km, which I said not to: re-read tip 2). When you go for a run at home do you stop for water 2km in? If the answer is ‘probably not’, don’t start now. By stopping, you will slow down and get caught up in the thousands of people stopping for a drink. Trust me there is more just down the road. Settle in, find your pace and just cruise on past.
Tip 4: Take any distraction
Melbourne is an incredible city, amazing heritage buildings, beautiful sandy beaches, picturesque gardens and WIND. Unfortunately, as much as the organisers of the event asked the weather gods for a good day, you have been dished sunny with a side of gale-force winds. I don’t know if the Melbourne Marathon Festival has ever been held without wind. Don’t fear, you got this. Look down at the ground so you can’t feel the wind in your face. I like to play a little game ‘how many times can I count to 100 before I get to turn and face the other direction?’ Sounds boring I know, but with the wind in your face you will take any distraction
Tip 5: Slow down (really!)
Marathon runners, let me tell you about a little thing they call ‘hitting the wall’. ‘But how will I know if I hit this wall?’ you ask – trust me, you’ll know. It’s called this because you literally feel like you have hit a double brick wall; your breathing gets harder, your legs turn to jelly and you start to feel dizzy and nauseous. Hitting the wall is usually experienced around the 30+ km mark. Don’t panic though, you can reverse right out of that wall – if you’re sensible!
If you begin to experience these symptoms, slow down. I mean seriously slow down. Forget the time you’re aiming for (you’re unlikely to cross the finish line if you don’t.) Bringing your heart rate down is key: half your pace, take deep long breathes, even walk for a few minutes and reassure your legs that it’s going to be O.K. Once you can walk without feeling like you’re going to puke/fall over, start back on a slower jog. This is your new pace. This is the pace that’s going to allow you to cross that finish line!
Tip 6: It’s not over yet
So you’ve made it. You can see the G. There are people everywhere! Congratulations! Your legs start picking up the pace, you have made it and you’re a bloody athlete. Well.. not yet. This feeling is the absolute best, but it’s not over yet. What they don’t tell you is when you enter the G, is you then have to run a whole lap of it! The G isn’t small. So yes, pick up your pace as you approach the G – chase that time on your watch (that you have now officially looked at 84 times throughout the run!) But just make sure you leave a little in the tank to make it around that last lap, this is where many fail.
Tip 7: Recovery is key
Running a marathon is truly an accomplishment like no other. You set your goal, put in hours of preparation and pushed yourself mentally and physically to cross that finish line. Congratulations! You’re a machine! Now let’s talk about recovery…
Whilst recovery is different for each individual, there are a few key things you can do to ensure your body returns to its pre-run self and avoid injury. Upon finally finishing, there are a couple of things you are going to want to do; smile (cry), receive your medal, take photos and collapse! But remember I said it’s not over yet? Your post-run mantra is: ‘just keep (swimming) walking, just keep walking’. Continuing to walk after your run (about 10-15 minutes) will allow your body to transition from marathon-mode back to reality.
Now to the best part of the recovery: the feast. Whilst it’s important to eat a well-balanced, protein-rich meal when your appetite comes back; we won’t tell anyone if you indulge a little too. Go on, you deserve it! Go get that burger and beer with a side of extra-large fries. Finally, if not most importantly, take care of your body (and mind) over the next few days. Stretching, increasing your electrolytes & fluids, Epsom salt baths and massage are all great ways to loosen and relax your body after your big run.
You may even like to book in a treatment at Back it Up Osteopathy, where we can cater to your individual post-run needs! After you have relished in your accomplishments, remember to have a good night’s sleep and jump right back into some light exercise, may even a jog if you’re not too sore, the next day.
Make sure to share all your photos with us!
Good luck to you all. Happy running!