THINGS I LEARNED RUNNING MY FIRST MARATHON

About 3 months ago, I was not a runner and could not even run a kilometer without panting. From that to successfully completing my first half marathon and writing about it has been a journey. I was an occasional crossfitter, though. But it also stopped because the gym where I worked out, closed down. But I played soccer regularly, which kept me fit to a certain extent. But running  a marathon was still just a distant dream.

In February, my colleague at Helsinki encouraged me to register for the Helsinki City Run (Half Marathon). After a lot of thinking & weighing my pros and cons, I decided to register for the run. I needed an incentive to start running. And I believed that  preparing for a marathon would give me that needed push.

Come May 13, 2017, I had successfully completed my first Half Marathon. Interestingly, I did better than I expected and finished about 10 mins earlier than the timing I had given myself. In this post, I will highlight a few things which helped me a lot in preparing for the Run.

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Me-after successfully completing the run

Train and Prepare well

You need to train well. If possible, make a plan. I followed a plan of running on every alternate days. Each week, I made sure to run about a minimum 25kms. My plan looked like this

  • Monday-7/8kms
  • Tuesday-Rest Day/
  • Wednesday-7/8kms
  • Thursday-Rest
  • Friday-7/8kms
  • Saturday-Rest
  • Sunday-7/8 kms.

However it is advised to do some muscle exercises during the rest days. Ideally, we should focus on squats, burpees with some push ups and Pull ups. I personally could not do much of the muscle exercises but on the days I did it, I could feel the difference. I compensated it by playing soccer on some of the rest days. Apparently cycling also helps, but I never got to try it.

Eat Well

Watch your diet.  I did not follow a definite diet regime, but ate healthy. I stopped having beer, about a month before the marathon. Also rather than having big meals, I preferred smaller meals, which did not make me feel bloated. It is difficult to go out for a run with a bloated stomach. About an hour before going out for a run, have a banana or so. Bananas are great food for running.

Also watch what and where you are eating. As my job involves constant traveling, its only natural that I eat out a lot. Just two weeks before my run, I visited Kathmandu for work and ordered room service from the hotel I stayed in. I got food poisoning and had an upset tummy for almost 10 days. Those days I had to just sit and wait to get better. I was feeling bad about losing out on training but I needed the rest to get better. I had no other choice.

Don’t push yourself too hard

It’s natural to get excited and push ourselves too hard. Sometimes, we might even be tempted to run everyday and continue to practice even when we are not at the top of our health. But it is not advised to do so. Rest is very important. Our muscles need time to recover from the pressure we give them while running. I had times, when I pushed myself too hard only to be out of training for longer than I anticipated. Taking it slow but steady is more important than pushing ourselves too hard.

In the initial days, you will do a lot of walking along with running. And that’s okay. During the first few days I was walking after every 800 meters almost. But over the course of time, my running stretches increased, and the walking time kept decreasing. I could feel my stamina increase. So, there is no need to rush and take it easy and slow

Warm up-Very Important

Warm ups are very important as they prepare your muscles for what lies ahead. It becomes very tempting for us to immediately start running, in an attempt to put all our energy into it. However, that sudden push often hurt our muscles and may cause us injury. Warms up take some energy out of us, but the effects of it are very encouraging. It enables us to run better and for a longer time. Also it keeps us away from injury.

Adjusting our posture and running comfortably also helps a lot in avoiding injury. A wrong posture can be hard on our joints, knees and our ligaments.

Drink enough

There is no substitute to fueling yourself up. Drink enough of water….!!! There is no substitute of water. But fruit shakes and Nimbu Paani (Fresh lime water) are also great to have. I don’t think it is necessary but I had cut down my coffee intake before the run.

Give yourself a target

Congrats, you have already given yourself a target by choosing to run. And complete it. But the next target that you need to give yourself is of a time, in which you will complete the run. The target has to be a realistic and based on your strengths and weaknesses. I gave myself a target to completing the run in 2.5 hours. This enabled me to pace my run and always keep track of my progress. After every run, I used to evaluate how I did and highlight the areas I needed to do better.

Get some help from technology

Gadgets like fitbit or may be even your phone helps in keeping track of the run. I personally have Fitbit and use it optimally. Fitbit also helps me track my heartbeat, step count and the kms. I used the stopwatch feature to track my run, as it helped me differentiate my workout from the total number of steps taken during the day. Also my heartbeat check feature enabled me to see how hard I was breathing during the run. Ideally, we should not breathe harder than 60% of our total capacity during a run. So, I always tried to keep my heart beat to around 140 per minute as the maximum limit. Sometimes, science helps us a lot in preparing 🙂

Pay attention to your gear

What we wear during the run is very important. Particularly the shoes. Pick a nice pair of shoes, that is light and comfortable but also provides just about enough cushioning. Too much cushioning also is not great. I used Ultra boost Adidas and am satisfied with it. I would definitely love to have a better pair though. Your socks are very important too. During long runs, they can become a hassle too. The socks should allow your feet to have enough movement and breathing.

Another key important gear is your underwear. The underwear should be breathable and most definitely should keep your stuff in place so that you can have a comfortable run (especially for men)

Pay attention to the weather where you are going to run

I was training at +40 degrees and above in Delhi, in sweaty environments. While my race actually was at Helsinki where the current temperature varied from +5 to +13 degrees. It is not advised to try out new attire during the race day, but i had to wear a full running tights as the weather in Helsinki is very cold. It did provide me some discomfort as I had suddenly shifted from comfortable shorts to full tights, but it was important for me to wear those, as otherwise I would have gotten sick after the run, due to less protection. Thus, it is ideal to pay attention to where and when you will run. If you are running in a hotter climate then prepare accordingly.

Do a shake out run

Shake out runs are very important. As I was running in a completely different environment and weather, I reached Helsinki a day earlier and participated in the shake out run organized by the Helsinki city run. The shake out run gave me time to evaluate myself on how to do the actual run. Of course I sucked at it, as it was my first run after a two week long hiatus due to upset tummy and food poisoning. But it was also my first time, when I wore the changed gear that I would wear during the actual run. As Helsinki is in a lower altitude then Delhi and much less polluted, running there was a bit easier. However, the wind speed was much higher than Delhi and it constantly pushed me back, making my speed much lesser. The shake out run enabled me to acclimatize myself to Helsinki which I think was very important and played a big role in me completing the run, the next day

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Runners lining up and doing some warm up exercises

THINGS TO DO AT THE DAY OF THE RUN

What you do on the run day impacts your overall run performance to a great extent. My run was at 4.35 pm in the evening so I decided to prepare myself accordingly. I woke up early and packed all my necessary stuff and kept it aside. I did a double check of whatever things, I would need and packed them neat and clean. I evaluated the time that would be needed to reach the marathon start line and prepared my timeline accordingly.

  1. Have a healthy breakfast- As my run was in the evening, I decided to have healthy and full breakfast. A full breakfast because nutrition is necessary and also there was enough time for the food to get digested.
  2. Light lunch-My lunch was very light as my run would be in about 3 hours. A full lunch would have made me feel bloated.
  3. Drink lots of water- I drank lots of water even it meant me going to the toilet often.
  4. Reach the place half an hour earlier- I reach the marathon startline half an hour earlier. I soaked in the environment, took the positive vibe from fellow runners and did some warm up.
  5. Warm ups are very important, as it gives the muscles the energy to start and give you that push to start the race.
  6. I cleared my bowel by visiting the loo. Before the run, I went to the loo two times to clear out my stomach, so that I can have a comfortable run.
  7. I adjusted my gear, checked my music about 5 mins before the run and then started on a positive vibe.

During the run

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The start line

  • There were energy stops at each 5 kms. At every 5 kms, I checked my pace and adjusted myself.
  • I drank water at each stop, which gave me the necessary fuel to continue.
  • I found a good runner ahead of me and chose to stay with him the entire way. More like the guy was my inspiration.
  • At about 13 kms, tiredness began to kick in. I took it a bit slower, gathered energy back and then continued at the pace again.

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Me almost at the finish line-after having endured the run

  • After the 17kms, I felt like giving up. But my brain took over and I decided that no matter what, I am going to complete and kept running. I did feel tired but I decided to pay less attention to it and continued running anyways. There were about 2 or 3 occasions, I walked a bit too.
  • As I reached close to the finish line, I started getting the energy. The crowd cheering added on to it. And I increased the speed in my final kms and completed the run. The finish line was encouraging.
  • A bit after completing my run, I began to feel cold due to the weather. I immediately changed into my warm clothes.
  • That night, I had a good dinner and slept for a very long time.

That was content sleep 🙂

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