Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

Fundamentals For First Marathon Success

Tips For First Marathon

You have to seek tips for first marathon success if you are a beginner runner.

Find out what has worked for other runners and mimic what they do.

Will I be able to finish the 26.2 mile distance?

Have I run enough to complete the distance? Will I be able to negative split?

I remember my first marathon and I certainly was having the same questions.

My debut marathon was the 2002 New York City Marathon which I ran as a part of an Armed Forces team that was running for a lung cancer charity.

My first mile was 16 minutes due to the fact that I spent the entire first 15 miles of the race saying ‘excuse me' and bobbing and weaving through the ocean of people who were in front of me doing my best not to be intrusive or disrespectful in passing.

I finished as the team's top runner going from 32,189th to 257th and finishing with a net time of 2.43.36 with an official finish time of 2.51.24 when the time it took every runner in the race to cross the start line is included.

There are many things you can do in your first marathon to help yourself make it a success.

1. Calm Your Mind

Easier said than done but the truth is our worries, concerns and fears seek to self-sabotage us from racing at our best.

Seth Godin, in his book The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? talks about the ‘lizard brain'.

It was an interesting concept I never thought about before.

Lizard brain?

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.

It is a part of the brain beneath the brain stem called the amygdala where fear resonates.

Have you ever got a call and realized it was your boss calling or been pulled over by the police for speeding and get that sick feeling in your gut?

It is the part of the brain which tells you to stop, be realistic, don't push, where fear reasonates.

The problem is sometimes is is hard to control this part of the brain because it is hard wired into us.

Society teaches us to think, act and say things we don't necessarily believe and over time, it become ingrained in us.

We believe we don't have the physical capacity to achieve our dreams, weren't born with special gifts, just not good enough.

We say we want one thing, then we do another. We say we want to be successful but we sabotage the job interview. We say we want a product to come to market, but we sandbag the shipping schedule. We say we want to be thin but we eat too much. We say we want to be smart but we skip class or don't read that book the boss lent us. – Seth Godin

Sometimes you have to go against the grain and learn to be calm when everyone around you is tense, worried and overly concerned about things that really don't matter in the first place.

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Staying calm in a sea of people in a marathon who are most certainly nervous and worried is an art.

It is art and unique because in an ocean of people who are doing something completely differently simply by choosing to think differently.

2. Set Out Your Gear The Night Before

One of the easiest ways to ease the stress of race morning is not having to look for the items you will need prior to and during the race itself.

There is no need to add any additional stress you may be experiencing leading into your first marathon than you need to.

The hardest part about the days leading into the big race is doing what is mentioned in tip one, staying calm.

The night before the marathon place your shoes, race singlet, timing chip, race number and whatever else you may need, into your back pack or bag so that you have easy access to it in the morning.

No worries, no stress which is the name of the game when it comes down to it all in the first place.

You can get up with a clear head, grab a shower, read a book and just grab your things and go.

No looking around for things you need because you took action the night before.

3. Let Go Of The Things You Can't Control And Hold On To The Things You Can

You have no power over what mother nature are has planned to do the morning of the race.

Is it windy? Is the temperature right? Is it raining?

Guess what.

Every other runner in the race will have to experience the same circumstances whether good or bad.

You can distance yourself from the others by staying calm, relaxed and worry free.

Watch the difference in the way you race and how it affects your confidence.

See if you are not astonished by the way you feel and race

4. You May Not Be A Veteran, Doesn't Mean You Can't Be Confident Like One

The best way to run your first marathon is going into it with the knowledge and confidence of a seasoned veteran.

Have you ever watched a professional?

They are astonishingly good at what they do because they have rehearsed over and over to the point that it makes an untrained observer question if they are human.

You have the power to have the same mindset by reminding yourself that you have done the physical work to run your best.

An artist is someone who does something for the first time, something human, something that touches another.” – Seth Godin

We self sabotage ourselves when we start to question, worry and fret over things that will never occur, yet how often do we give these things power over us?

Focus your attention on powerful, positive energy that is going to breed new life into your training and racing.

Your first marathon will be outstanding because you have learned to refuse to give power to anything that is trying to get in the way of your success

5. Buy A Pair Of Racing Flats

I am in the military where we have army physical fitness tests.

The problem I continually see with Soldiers is that they don't realize the difference between racing flats and training shoes.

A racing flat is simply a lighter shoe with less cushioning than most training shoes.

Less weight is key.

Less weight on your feet means less physical exertion and fatigue you will have to deal for the long haul.

Can they help you as a beginner marathoner run a faster time?


Think of it this way.

How many steps are taken during a 26.2 mile race?

Thousands. What type of a shoe would you want on your feet when having to pick one foot up and bring one foot thousands of times while tired?

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The heavier or lighter selection?

It is a no-brainer, yet so many people miss this.

It certainly isn't that they aren't bright but that they have never been told or have considered it.

People would do better, if they knew better – Jim Rohn

6. Go Light On The Pre-Race Dinner

What you have eaten the week before the race is what counts.

That being said, this doesn't mean eating a 200 calorie dinner, just don't overeat so the next morning you are feeling heavy.

I would advise eating a bigger lunch and skipping a large dinner. Have a small bowl of pasta and try to not eat salad (harder to digest).

This is a tip I received from the 1988 Boston Marathon Champion, Lisa Rainsberger and one I have followed ever since.

Eat plenty of carbohydrates the week before the race as you want to stock up on much needed glycogen (muscle sugar) that you will need.

Don't wait until the last minute. You can't cram for an exam and expect to get an A.

7. Rest

The day before the big race is not the time to go traveling all across town, shopping and overexerting yourself.

Relax in your hotel room, watch a movie or read a good book to take your restless mind off of what you are about to do.

The greatest advice I can possibly give to you is stay calm.

You have done all the necessary hard work. The race is the reward for that hard work.

8. Be Different

You may be running your first marathon but why be like everyone else.

You are special and the quickest way to realizing your potential sooner than later is not following what everyone else is doing.

Race morning is full of stress for most runners but the longer you compete in this sport the more you realize the importance of following the path that no one else seems to be following.

Everyone has their own pre-race routine.

You may like to be by yourself, go for a walk the morning of the race with music in your ears, just ensure it all involves a zen like confidence unlike your competitors.

The morning of the race should consist of you being totally calm, focused and confident.

You will see a sea of people all around you tight, concerned, tense.

Be the opposite and see what magic you create by the difference.

Watch what you thought was possible for you diminish simply because you chose to make the decision so may fail at.

Running success is just as much about attitude and inner confidence as it is about training hard and running tons of useless miles.

Hack away at the unessentials.

9. Take Some Chances

If you get to mile 22 in the marathon and you are feeling great don't follow what your lizard brain is telling you do, hold back, be cautious, don't do anything out of the ordinary.

Part of being a runner is taking chances at things you don't think you are capable of.

I was a 2.40.02 marathoner prior to the start of the 2007 California International Marathon.

I chose to do the work in training to handle anything I was going to experience in the race.

This is why I continually say in my posts that what you experience in training should always be far harder then anything you are going to have to deal with in the race itself.

I was in unchartered territory running with 2.08 marathoners in Sacramento that day.

I took the chance and left the race a 2.19.35 marathoner.

It changed my life and continues to inspire me to one day know I can go from a 2.19.35 marathoner to a 2.15.00 athlete in one race provided the work has been done to accomplish the goal.

What is your goal in your first marathon?

Are you doing the things outside of training to make it a reality?

You will never know what you can do unless you break up the inner conflict within yourself.

I am too fat, too slow, don't have enough talent.

You can overcome the talent myth by your work ethic, focus and confidence

You were not born with talent, that's fine, you were born with commitment – Seth Godin

10. Bring Your Tribe With You And Have A Plan

Who are your biggest supporters?

Friends, co-workers, family, all can be at the start line. Have an action plan to make your race morning go even smoother.

Having your support team at the start and finish line with your belongings will take any additional mental stress off of you.

You know where your clothing is and where to go when you have completed your race in record time.

11. Let Times And Places Go

This is your first marathon.

Enjoy it.

The problem runners face is we cloud our minds with so much useless information that it makes our focus and brain capacity foggy.

It is cluttered with the ‘what if's', those minor inner thoughts that can have a dramatic impact on overall race experience.

Don't think, Feel, it is like a finger pointing out to the moon, don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.-Bruce Lee

Let go of times you want to run and places you want to finish in.

Give it your best shot in your debut but don't be overly concerned with hitting specific times.

The times are going to come the more you race.

A debut marathon should be a celebration.

You are seeking to do something that some people will never be able (by choice) to say they ever did in life.

12. Hydrate Well

One of the biggest hindrances in my own racing is not drinking the proper amount of fluids in the marathon.

The problem is we think we are drinking enough but we get to mile 18 and realize we made a crucial mistake.

Why is this vital to remember?

You never want to get to any point in a marathon when you realize you have not adhered to the golden rule.

The golden rule should be to always drink before it is too late.

Too late is when you realize you are severely dehydrated and your body starts to shut down.

Too late is when you are walking when you know every second doing so is costing you an Olympic Trials standard.

Too late is not for you, not for me.

Follow the golden rule my friend.

A very easy thing to keep mind early in the race but a vital mistake when you get to the later stages of the race and realize you didn't listen to the very thing your body was telling you it needed 15 miles earlier.

You can succeed, rather then fail in your first marathon by this very important tip.

Don't sip a few cups the entire marathon and expect to be enough.

The marathon is not a mile race on the track or your local 5K.

It isn't sufficient and you will catch yourself walking the last 10 miles of the race and take you further away from your physical capability and potential.

13. Find A Flat, Fast Marathon

Races like the Chicago, Berlin, Amsterdam, Eindhoven to name a few are known for their lighting fast courses.

I don't know what your particular preference is for the type of course you want to run but running a flatter course sometimes can take the stress or worry off of being concerned you can finish.

The truth is you can regardless what course you run but a flatter course is an easier way to getting to the end goal successfully.

14. Have Fun

The name of the game when it comes to marathon racing and one of the biggest reasons runners fail and meeting their goals.

Once you cloud the mind with worry and doubts, when you over think, you take yourself away from what you are truly capable.

You have to enjoy yourself in this sport or you will lose the joy of what you are doing.

Train hard but don't lose sight of having fun with the sport too.

Hang out with friends, teammates and family during your build up and the night before the race.

Laugh a little.

The best runners, especially the Kenyan athletes I have trained with, have a unique ability to be utterly relaxed and calm on race morning.

You'll see them laughing and very relaxed in most cases because they know that being the opposite will stop them from succeeding.

You don't have to be a Kenyan to master this crucial fundamental.

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