Five things for first time marathoners to think about
Updated: Jul 23
Your first marathon can be overwhelming, it’s a big distance to conquer and there are lots of things to think about – how far to run in training, how long your program needs to be, if you are ready to step up to the distance.
Once you have answered all those questions and are almost ready to go, there are a few things to think about for race day that you need to consider. Here are my top things for first time marathoners to think about.
What to bring with you on the run: Gels, water, phone, money, ID, credit cards, opal card, keys, headphones. There are a lot of things you might think about bringing with you during the race. Some of these will depend on where you are and how you will get home afterwards, if you have someone waiting for you at the end, or how comfortable you feel putting everything into bag drop. Either way, it’s important to work out what you will need to have with you during the race, and then onto the next point of how you will carry it.
What to carry your things in: At the very least, you usually need to bring gels or some kind of nutrition with you during the marathon. Depending on the race, they could have these things at aid stations, but they might not be the brand of type of product that works for you. So it’s likely you will end up carrying it with you. Some runners also like to carry water with them. There are so many products available, SPI belts, flip belts, my first marathon I ran with a hydration pack (on my back). There are also belts that fit small bottles in them, and hand held bottles are an option too. With so many possibilities to choose from, it’s important to test out what works for you before the race. If all else fails, pockets are also an option!
Whether to listen to music: This might depend on race rules, as some events don’t allow headphones for safety reasons. A lot of runners train with music, especially over long distances and when running further for the first time, and then have to decide whether to use it on race day. Everyone is different, I don’t use it at all, some people train with it but are fine not racing it, others prefer to use it all the time. If you are going to bring it, have a plan of where you will hold your phone/iPod and try to make sure it doesn’t impact how you will access your nutrition. When things are getting tough at the end of the race and you are tired, you want to make it easy for yourself, and probably don’t want to be fiddling around with your phone or headphones when they are in the way of your gels. Whatever you have done in training is usually the best approach.
When to take your nutrition: This is definitely something that should be practised in training, as everyone is different and responds differently to gels. You might prefer to take them with water and wait for the drink stops, or sip on them as you go. Whatever your preference is, it’s definitely something to work out in advance so you know what you will do on race day. Similar to the point above about music, you want to make things as easy as possible for yourself in the race so you aren’t giving yourself extra decisions to make when your mind is getting tired. Having a plan going in will help with this.
What pace to run: Whether you have a goal time or are aiming to finish, you need to have an idea of how you will pace the run so you don’t go out too fast. Marathons can be hard to predict, especially your first one, but a recent half marathon and your training paces over the long run can usually give you a good indication of the rough pace to aim for.
A few of these things could also be relevant for other distances, and go hand in hand with general race day questions. Here are some of those key ones.
What to have for breakfast: the same as you have trained with, nothing new on race day!
What time to arrive: enough time to do bag drop if you need to, have a last bathroom stop and find your start zone.