Sunday 29th October 2023 marks the day I ran my first ever marathon. 42.2km around the streets of Dublin with thousands of runners doing their thing – what an experience! It’s safe to say that this day will be one of those memories etched in my mind forever. You know those significant memories of joy you have? Well crossing that finish line at Merrion Square is definitely one of mine.
In this blog post, we’ll delve into the experience of running my first marathon and explore five essential tips to guide you, including deciding to run, hiring a coach, enjoying the process, not worrying too much about time, and staying patient.
1. Setting the Stage: The Decision to Run a Marathon
My journey to running the Dublin marathon started with a pivotal decision this time last year – the commitment to the training and mental preparation required. This is where the excitement begins, as you embark on an incredible journey that will push your physical and mental limits. A marathon is no joke but you will be surprised at how quickly you progress as a runner once sleep, nutrition and training are on point. I have always said it would be nice to say I’ve ran at least one marathon in my life so I asked myself, why not Dublin 2023?
2. Hire a Coach: A Game-Changer in Marathon Training
One of the most valuable decisions that I made before beginning training back at the end of July was to hire a coach. A qualified coach can provide you with a structured training plan, tailored to your fitness level and goals. I had the pleasure of working with an incredible coach and old team mate, Conor Wynne-Walsh (@crua_conditioning) during my marathon journey.
Here’s why a coach is a game-changer:
- Expert Guidance: As an experienced marathon runner, Conor brought knowledge, experience, and expertise to my training. As a first timer, he helped me navigate the complexities of marathon training, ensuring you’re working on the right areas of your fitness ranging from easy runs, tempo’s and finding a marathon pace.
- Accountability: Knowing that someone is monitoring your progress and offering guidance can help you stay on track. Coaches hold you accountable for your training, reducing the likelihood of slacking off which can happen over the course of a few months.
- Injury Prevention: Coaches can help you avoid common training mistakes that may lead to injuries. One mistake that I made at the beginning was running at a faster pace than my ‘Easy’ pace, which could definitely have led to an injury as the volume would have been too much. They’ll also guide you through proper warm-ups, stretching, and recovery strategies.
- Mental Support: Running a marathon is as much about mental strength as physical fitness. Coaches provide the motivation and psychological support needed to stay focused and determined during your training.
3. Embrace the Journey, Not Just the Finish Line
While crossing the marathon finish line is the ultimate goal, it’s essential to remember that the entire marathon training journey is an experience in itself. Every long run, every early morning, every moment you push yourself – they all contribute to your growth as a runner and as an individual. Don’t just focus on the destination; cherish each step of the journey.
One way I found helped me to embrace the journey was firstly to find a purpose and secondly to find someone to train with. Having done some long runs on my own, it can be lonely out there at times running up to three hours at a time but luckily I was part of a group of incredible people running to raise funds for Debra Ireland, a charity who raises awareness for EB, a rare skin condition. This created another goal for the six of us already running for an individual reason and also helped with the consistency!
4. Don’t Obsess Over Time: Enjoy the Process
It’s easy to get caught up in setting a time goal for your first marathon and it was usually the first question I was asked when telling somebody I was running. While having a target time is motivating, it’s crucial not to let it overshadow the joy of running. Understand that your first marathon is an achievement in its own right, regardless of the time it takes you to finish. Remember, less that 1% of the world’s population will ever complete a marathon! Don’t let time-related pressure steal the joy from the experience.
5. Consistency and Patience: Keys to Success
Consistency is the key to a successful marathon as well as patience, patience and more patience! Ever hear the quote “It’s a marathon, not a sprint!”? Stick to your training plan and make running a part of your routine. However, be patient with yourself. Progress in marathon training can be gradual, and there will be ups and downs. 80% of the work is aerobic, longer and lower intensity work with just 20% high speed anaerobic work. Understand that improvement takes time, and setbacks are part of the journey. The key is to keep moving forward. Having a 3 week trip in the middle of my training as well as balancing another sport simultaneously while still trying to have a social life was a difficult balance, but remember your purpose, and keep showing up!
In Conclusion: The Marathon is Just the Beginning
Running your first marathon is an incredible achievement that will leave you with a profound sense of accomplishment. The lessons you learn along the way – perseverance, resilience, and the ability to push your limits – will extend far beyond the finish line. Hire a coach, enjoy the journey, let go of time-related worries, and maintain consistency and patience. During the process, I was extremely grateful to be reminded that I had the ability to move my body as well as I can and not everybody is in that position, which is something to reflect on. Remember, the marathon is just the beginning of your running adventure, and there are many more milestones to conquer in the future.
Keep running, keep growing, and keep living your passion for the sport.
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you!”
– Anthony McDonnell,
POWER Gym Trainer.