In case you missed out on the 6 part series of the Breaking Down 26.2, I decided to compile all six parts into on post. So here you go …
So you’ve signed up for your first 26.2, which is scheduled for this fall. You are over one month in your training, now let’s start to breakdown what you can expect come race day. Over the next few weeks, I will be breaking down the 26.2-mile experience you just got yourself into. The one single run that will have your friends thinking “I cannot believe you did that”, the run that will change your life FOREVER!
Nine years ago, I was in the same boat, registered for my first marathon, thinking this was going to be the only one I ever did. Well, 15 marathons later I am still running them and hoping to run 50 marathons before I turn 40. When I took on my first marathon, I didn’t know what to expect. I was under trained, under educated, in fact I didn’t have a training plan that I followed, I just ran. The race itself was a blur, I remember it hurt, I ran, I walked, I didn’t know what to do at times during the marathon. Even crossing the line wasn’t something I could draw in and recap for you. The only thing I could remember from my first marathon is waking up the following morning and hurting.
So let’s start to breakdown race day ….
You will probably feel like you didn’t get enough sleep with your 4:00AM alarm call. The anxiety of your first marathon has kicked in, but you know getting up and getting your breakfast is important. You will probably Instgram your breakfast, take a bathroom selfie of you in your running gear, and update your Facebook status or shoot out a Tweet with “I can’t believe I am doing this. Wish me luck.”
Getting to the start area, you will probably start to take more photos, meet up with friends and start chatting with others around you. You will get overwhelmed with all of the pre-marathon events. Hitting the port-a-potty, getting your gear checked in, and taking down your final gel and water. As you head to the starting line you are going to doubt yourself, thinking …. “Oh man I hope I finish this thing”. Let’s be honest, with all those Facebook post, Tweets, and photos on Instagram over the last 5 months, it would be a bit awkward not to finish the race.
You finally get into your corral or approximate pace group, which is probably about 30 minutes faster than you really should be placing yourself since you have been training to run a 5 hour marathon, but you think, “I am a bad-ass so I am lining up with the 4:30 group”.
The final count down to start goes, and the elites are on their way. DO NOT start your watch when they go, wait until you actually cross the timing mat.
You will be doing a lot of dodging and moving in the first mile, in fact you will probably have to walk some of it depending on where you are in the start. During this first mile, you will start to feel that you are actually making your way in the marathon. The craziest fans will be cheering you on and you will feel a sense of achievement just making it to the start.
As the groups start to thin out you will start to find a sense of rhythm during the second mile. You will probably start to think, “I can go faster, this seems slow”. Hold your horses this is mile 2! You have 24.2 miles to work beyond this.
Somewhere around mile 3 you will probably hit your first water station, make sure to keep yourself hydrated. Remember there is a reason they give Dixie sized cups at water stations, you aren’t throwing back a Big Gulp, so there is no need to grab 5 or 6 cups of water. You won’t dehydrate before the next water station a few miles away. Just take in enough to keep your mouth wet and keep the water down. The water will probably taste like crap because with your luck the one cup you grab is from the dirty kid volunteering that has his finger in the water as he is holding the cup.
You passed the first 5k of the marathon and are making your way to the mile 4 marker. Hopefully by now you are able to focus in on the running and the first marathon nerves have left you. My recommendation is find someone in your pace group that you can talk too. Dump the headphones and interact with the runners around you. Around this time, you can start to enjoy conversation as well as share the work load with other runners. Chances are you are running with a pace group, if this is the case, talk to the pacer as they can make your 26.2 miles easier just by talking. Take in the recommendations on how to tackle the course.
Here is your pre-race and first 4 miles of the 26.2. Look for miles 5 through 8 in next week’s Part 2.
By now you have found someone to run along side with and chat a bit with. Someone you find out who is also running their first marathon. You get so excited about this moment that you finally found a newbie, because in the crowd of 10,000 other runners you are the only rookie marathoner, I think not.
You start to chatter and realize damn that mile flew by.
As you approach the mile 6.2 (10k) timing map, you start to think …. “DAMN IT, they really put these things out here, I guess there goes my hopes of cheating and having someone give me a ride to somewhere along the course”.
You also start to realize that you are 10k into your first marathon, how awesome is that right?!?! Shortly after you will realize … “Oh S#!7, I still have 20 miles to go”.
At this point in the race you look down at your watch and notice it is time to start to throw down one of your Gels or Sports Beans or other source of calories you opted to go with for your run. Remember this is important to keep eating and have fuel to burn through the marathon. Whatever your training plan had you doing with nutrition along the course make sure you stick with it. I personally go with a fruit bar that I keep on me, rather than relying on what is out on the course.
Deciding to just go with what the race offers along the course could be a disaster if your tummy doesn’t like the certain gel that is on the course so be cautious and read up on what is actually going to be handed out. If you are uncertain or have not used it in training, race day is not the day to figure out if it will sit well for you.
Once you sort out your fueling in the last mile, you start to get a little more pep in your step as you continue your journey thinking once again how awesome this is. Around this mile you have some of your peeps cheering for you with some signs and cow bells hoping to motivate you to the finish. They have a sign that reads “Looking Good” and “Almost there”. While you appreciate the signage and support you think, looking good? I woke up at 4:30AM, that isn’t possible. Almost there?!?! I still have 18 miles to go, do the math!
Along this mile you realize that the official race photographer will be taking photos …. Whatever you do DO NOT walk when they are pointing the camera at you. 🙂
Here you go with your first 8 miles in the marathon. Next week I will cover you all the way through to the half way point of the marathon. The 13.1 mile mark where the party really starts!
This is where you are starting to get excited that once you get through this mile you will be hitting the double digits in miles completed in the marathon. This excitement only last for a few seconds when you realize, hitting double digits still means you have 16.2 miles left in the run.
Here you are 10 miles into the marathon, your mind starts to wonder a bit. You begin to do a systems check, legs feeling good, breathing is doing fine, tummy is good to go, but then your mind is where you have to focus on the most and real it back in and stay focused. Take a few deep breathes and remind yourself why you are doing this. You can start to really take advantage of the mileage markers at this point and start looking at them in four parts, each four miles is one part, which is good enough to get you to 26. The final point two is a special portion of the race.
Don’t forget to take in fluids and even some calories around this point, depending on what your nutrition plan is. My suggestion is that you try to time consuming your calories right before a water station so you can wash it down without taking too much time to eat and drink at the water station.
This one tends to go by pretty quickly because you are getting close to where I think the party really starts. The half marathon point. That big ass sign that reads 13.1. You check in with your system again make sure everything is going well. You will begin to consider what your half marathon split is going to be and start calculating what you need for the second half to meet your goal.
Here you are you finally get to the half way point and look down you, start to think pace, splits, and everything else. While you are doing this don’t forget how far you have already come to get to this point. Keep in mind breaking it up into pieces or parts rather than thinking 13.1 miles left in the race.
Now you are half way through your marathon this is where things start to change and become interesting. You are 13.1 miles away from being a marathoner!
In this week’s Part 4, I will get you through to mile 18.6. For those wondering why 18.6, this is also known as the 30k mark. Yes 30 kilometers in a 42 kilometer distance. Doesn’t 30k sound much more impressive and further than 18.6 miles? In a country where we love high scoring numbers, I don’t know why we don’t refer to the marathon as 42 kilometers. I mean let’s be honest even 5k sounds better than 3.1.
You have sorted yourself out getting through the half way point, at this moment in the race is where you want to start to dig deep, but not too deep inside. You want to leave stuff in the tank for the final part of the race. Make sure you continue to do your systems check at this point, figure out how your legs are, how your body is doing overall, do you need calories, have you been hydrating. It is important to keep in mind that you need calories to get you to the finish so, start looking for moments to get some extra energy to help your body finish this thing you started.
Just when you finished going through your systems check you start to realize your phone is about to run out of battery and you need another selfie otherwise the marathon didn’t happen. If you opt to go with this method please DO NOT stop in the middle of a group to do so. This would be very dangerous for others due to you STOPPING! If you didn’t get a chance to get your selfie, do not worry you can purchase a crappy photo online after the race for only $70. Yup, what a deal right? If you don’t believe me, just wait.
Now you have had a chance to get your selfie start to approach another aid station and realize that you have 10 miles left in the marathon. No need to stock up just because you might need some. There will be plenty more aid stations to get water, gels and anything you might need to get your @$$ across the finish line.
Here you go, you begin to celebrate because you have just moved into single digits in miles remaining to the finish. Your celebration will last no more than a few seconds before you see other runners pulling off to the side to stretch out. Do not focus on these things around you, look for the positives. If you are running without headphones, which I recommend, use the music that is on the course to pull you in and out of segments during the run. Let the music pull you in while letting it fade away as you leave that area.
At this point in the race is where I like to calculate my current pace and start thinking finishing time. Like I mentioned previously, I like breaking the run into segments as not to get overloaded with data. This also allows me to enjoy the marathon. I mean let’s be honest you trained all this time and committed yourself to one event. If you worried about each and every mile when would you have time to enjoy the marathon?
Here you are, you are 30k into the marathon.
This week I take you through the portion of the course which I like to call the grind it out miles. Miles 19, 20, 21 and 22. I like to think of these miles much like turning 19 and 20 years of age. When you turn 18 it is kind of cool, you have made it to “adult age”, chances are you are a senior in high school or freshman in college. Then nothing really cool happens until you turn 21, where you get to adventure the nightlife social world. However, before getting there you gotta just grind out the ages of 19 and 20 :), just like those miles in the marathon.
Around mile 19 you will probably start to feel tired, this is normal. However, this is also what you have trained for. Before hitting the final 10k of the race, I like to take some deep cleansing breathes and remind myself the support I have had through the last months during training and relax to continue to enjoy the race. This would be a good time to do a systems check to find out if you can kick the legs for the final 10k.
You are now in the final 10k of the race. Make sure you grab some water at this point, rarely can anyone start skipping hydration or calories at this point. My recommendation is to not overload on the gels otherwise your stomach could really set you back during this part of the race.
You may also start to realize, wow what is that weird but a bit painful feeling. You are chaffing! Haha, yes chances are in your mind you are also thinking, “Wow, I didn’t realize I could chaff there”. Live and learn and apply more Body Glide in the future.
As the course starts to wrap up you begin to see more people on the sides cheering you on. Enjoy this moment because you are a few more miles away from being a marathoner. No matter how fast or how slow you go in this final portion of the race, one thing no one can take away from you is the fact that the moment you cross the finish line you become a marathoner. Keep in mind during these final miles that your legs will want to quit, but your mind needs to be stronger. Just continue to take deep cleansing breathes when needed and keep on moving.
4.2 miles to go, it is time to gather all of your thoughts and start to remind yourself why you do this. I like to start dedicating miles at this point in the race. Keep motivated and moving by thinking of someone who has supported you through your entire journey to running your marathon.
Another 4 miles in the books. In the final part of the Breaking Down 26.2, I will get you all the way through the finish.
IT IS GOING TO START HURTING! At this point you are starting to think, what your longest training run was prior to race day and you are about to run further than you have ever ran at this point. Most training plans have you running a 20-22 mile prior to your marathon. This is where everything has to come together to get you to the finish. At mile 22, I mentioned dedicate that mile to someone who has supported you through the journey. Mile 23 start to think of someone that ever doubted your ability to make this happen and actually finish… run angry 🙂 … But not too angry because you still have a couple more miles to finish.
You can start to taste the finish, those pancakes and cold beer sound delicious. With 2.2 miles left don’t forget to throw down a little water and stay hydrated. This mile start to dedicate to someone that you wish could see you at the finish but is no longer with you. Someone that helped make you the strong individual you are today.
As you start to wrap up the race you will begin to see more and more people cheering. From cowbells to signs, people on the sides of the course will help bring you home into the final stretch, use this energy to stay strong and motivated. Like the previous miles start to think of someone you are looking forward to seeing at the finish, is it your family? friends? dedicate this mile to a familiar face that you will see at the finish.
THIS IS ALL ABOUT YOU! This is your mile. Dedicate this final mile to yourself. You put the work into the workouts, you got up early, you turned down a night out for a good nights rest to be ready for the long run on the following day. Mile 26 and the finish are all about you! GET AFTER IT!
I like to separate the final .2 of the race because THIS WILL BE THE LONGEST .2 OF YOUR LIFE! It will seem like this part of the race is longer than the first 13.1 miles of the race. Keep smiling no matter how painful it might feel. You are only yards away from becoming an entirely new person. You are going from a runner to a marathoner the moment you cross that finish line. Don’t forget to smile no matter how much it hurts to get across.
You cross that finish, you have now officially become a marathoner. Congrats! Collect your bling, enjoy the moments with your friends and family. Be cautious because you thought this was a one time thing … It won’t be! You will recover and then start to think … hmmm I wonder which one I should sign up for next … hide your credit cards because you will start to go race registration crazy!
I hope you enjoyed the Breaking Down 26.2 series.