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  • Writer's picturethe_uphill_runner

26.2 Tips For First Time Marathoners

I asked 26 marathon runners what advice they would give to their former selves at the start line of their very first attempt at 26.2 miles. Some of them (like me) have just claimed their first marathon medal, and some have conquered the distance dozens of times. So, if you are considering entering or are in training for your first marathon, this variety of tips will help you to reduce race day nerves, boost your confidence, and enjoy your experience!

1. "Nothing can prepare you for your first marathon. No matter how much training you've done, it's going to be an experience like no other. I've also learnt to have a mental game plan and that you will need time to recover not just physically but mentally. This took me by surprise as I thought I'd feel instantly elated at my achievement but I didn't. It took at least 5 days for it to all sink in and for me to be proud that I can call myself a marathoner." @running_ruth_

2. "I would advise somebody running their first marathon to wear EXACTLY what they will be wearing on race day on one of their longest training runs - otherwise you risk chafing and/or blisters on race day from something that is perfectly comfortable and trouble free on a shorter run." @theas_miles_and_smiles

3. "Study the course enough that you don't get any surprises on the day but not enough to make you worry! I didn't look too much at the course beforehand and then found out it was hillier than I'd trained for. You can get away with a few surprises in shorter distances but you need to be prepared for whatever your chosen 26.2 course is going to bring!" @clairesmarathonmusings

4. "Going back to the starting line of my first marathon, I'd 100% tell myself not to worry about any other goal that crossing that finish line. The marathon is a different game when it comes to running, and you never know what might happen out there - especially your first time. Take the pressure off, lap up the enjoyment of the crowds, and most importantly HAVE FUN!" @lilliesfitness

5. "For my first marathon I'd missed a lot of long runs but like a lot of people, my first was for charity (London) so I still went with it. I started off too fast, trying to stick to an unachievable pace and unsurprisingly, the wheels fell off around mile 16. If I could go back (first, I would defer my entry!) but either way, I would tell myself to take it super slow and soak up the atmosphere. You're going to become a marathoner at one of the greatest events, which you'll probably never get the opportunity to do again. Make it an experience to remember for all the right reasons. Once you've done one, you know you can conquer the distance and a time can come next!" @leah_runner_girl

6. "If you are thinking of running a marathon for the first time you will likely be nervous of the enormity of the challenge. There are many tips that will help like not going off too fast, staying hydrated, keeping your pace and getting the miles in during training. But my biggest bit of advice is to have fun. If you enjoy running it is something that you will keep coming back to, the training runs will become more manageable and race day will feel easier." @pauladdicott

7. "Follow a plan that suits you. Include strength training. Recovery is important too. Don't be hard on yourself when runs don't go to plan. Days when you don't feel like going but its on the plan, no matter how long it takes you to get out just GO - that will make you mentally stronger. Training mentally is as important as physical strength. Share your journey and experience along the way right up to the finish line on the big day." @prabinatalary

8. "Let people go. If you stick to your pace and run your own race, you will probably be the one who is doing the overtaking as the finish line draws close." @runningwithjake

9. "I would tell myself to practise the nutritional pre-race set up. It wasn't until the week before the marathon that I realised that I had eaten out with friends most Saturday nights before my long runs so I hadn't practised any type of carb loading or pre-race dinner. If I had practised I know I wouldn't have felt so anxious about it on the start line!" @runandfuelwithmel

10. "I DNF'd my first marathon at 16 miles in the St. John's Ambulance so I would have a lot to say to that version of me back in 2011. Respect the distance, its a very long way to race. Pace it correctly. I thought I could run a marathon no problem because I felt great after a half. I thought I could go out at half marathon pace on that first attempt - how naive I was! Reign it in during the first few miles, even if your feeling great. Since actually finishing my first marathon in 2016 I'm definitely still learning."

11. "You have no reason to doubt yourself any more, the fact that you've decided to try is enough. You've not told anyone you even signed up for a marathon because you're scared you'll fail - never hide your ambition again. If you keep putting one foot in front of the other, however long it takes you WILL get there. This is going to be the start of a great adventure where you'll realise your limits are way beyond 26.2 miles!" @kennyyyy_

12. "Break the entire run down, if you have a running watch set it up and just focus on each segment at a time. It doesn't matter what happened in the one before or what will happen in the one after. One step at a time. An example is 3x 10k, 2x 5k and then a final push to the finish line!" @chasingele

13. "At the start line remember to take a deep breath. Your blood will be pumping and adrenaline will be flowing - you've been waiting for this. You've done the hard work, the miles are in your legs and this is your victory lap. Believe in yourself and you'll be surprised by what you can achieve." @chlorunsalot

14. "Don't do anything silly on race week. Eat the same breakfast you did for long runs, don't wear new kit and don't try a different brand of gels on the day. Plan your route to the start - for city marathons there will be extensive road closures and car parks will be full. If you can, walk down." @the_running_dan

15. "The advice I'd give myself at the start of my first marathon is to really truly believe in myself, to know that this run is only the beginning, that one day I'll achieve things that right now don't seem possible. Although this run will be extremely difficult, it will be the start of something that will turn out to be one of the biggest passions of my life and an important part of who I am." @runfastdrinktea

16. "Run the mile you are in. It's easy to race ahead in your mind and panic about what lies ahead. But if you break it down into miles and focus on getting through one after the other, you can commit to achieving the best you can in that mile. Accept that you will have dips over the race, but these don't last. Celebrate when one passes and get back into the next mile strong." @ruth_runs

17. "Pre-race, get your logistics in check - especially if you've travelled and are staying in a hotel. The day before, walk to the start to make sure you know where you are going. You want as little stress before you run as possible." @marcodelwattsio

18. "Don't think about your finish time! Completing a marathon is about so much more than times, and for your first one, trust me when I say you want to enjoy as much as possible. Yes it'll be hard, but that's all part of what makes the distance so special." @party_runs

19. "Start slower than you think. Don't get caught up in the excitement at the start - adrenaline and crowds will make you feel invincible. But let everyone sail past you. The likelihood is if you stay consistent you will catch those people later. Trust your training." @annatheappleblog

20. " Schedule de-load weeks into your training every three weeks or so. You can add them into already structured plans, or ask your coach to include them. This gives you the ability to shuffle training a little for the inevitable cold or bug, allowing you to adequately rest and recover without stressing about being behind on your training." @martha_personaltrainer

21. "Don't worry about that missed week of training due to injury or the few too many cakes you ate one week, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter! What is going to get you to the finish line is sheer grit and determination because you never know how you are going to be feeling at that given point in time running the marathon. You could do all the training in the world but if the weather isn't good, you come on your period early or you have a dodgy belly, nothing can prepare you for that. Just go with the flow." @ria_runner_beal

22. "When you reach the halfway point - reset. Clear your mind of any struggles you've already felt, every step is now on your way to the finish line. The last 10km will hurt so visualise a favourite or beautiful run - no pressure, just my legs carrying you through. And remember the last 5k is only a parkrun - a long warm up to a 200m sprint to the finish line. Whether you finish in 3, 4, 5 or 6 hours it's still a marathon, with the same medal and the same amount of effort and achievement." @mum_on_the_buggy_run

23. "Focus on what you can control. Is the weather going to be hot? Make sure you hydrate well in the run up and on the day, and don't forget sunscreen! Will it be raining? Think about layers for the day but don't forget that skin is waterproof! Most of all, enjoy it - the big day is a celebration of your training!" @mrs_led_runs

24. "Respect the distance. Before my first marathon I'd only trained up to 16 miles, and I naively thought another 10 wouldn't be too hard. It was, especially when running the hottest London marathon on record! I ended up walking far more than I would have liked and was disappointed with my finish time. Had I fully appreciated the marathon distance I'd have been happy just to finish." @mels_running_adventures

25. "Give it a go and see what happens! To get to that starting line you've already put in hours and hours of hard work. Every run that didn't go to plan, and those that did, have got you here and each one will have taught you something. Know that you can, tell yourself that repeatedly and go out and enjoy that victory lap. Be proud of yourself and soak up every second, even the bit where you start to regret signing up! Now go and get that medal!" @emmarathonrunner

26. "It's going to be tough. Tougher than you can even imagine. Your legs might be ready but your mind might not be. There is no shame in having to walk some of it. You are still a marathon runner no matter how long it takes you to cross that finish line. Believe in yourself - you will reach the finish." @the_uphill_runner

...and it wouldn't be a marathon without the final 0.2 miles so...

26.2 Smile! It's an occasion you'll want to look back on and those race photos will be worth it!

What advice would you give yourself at the start line of your first marathon?

To read my full Brighton Marathon race recap, click here. Don’t forget to subscribe to be the first to know about any news and updates, just enter your email address at the bottom of the page. Thanks!

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