Are you lining up at the starting line of your first 26.2 this fall? If so, we want to first say congratulations for taking this big step in your running career. It’s an exhilarating and rewarding experience fraught with a host of accompanying feelings ranging from nerves and doubt to the sheer physical pain of sustaining an increased training load over several months. Given the many miles you have put in up until this point, you should be enjoying the upper limits of physical endurance, which is more than half the battle. Once you’ve completed your 18-20 mile long run as part of your training program, it’s about time to start shifting gears away from training and prep to taper and race. You may be weeks or even days away from race day, but it’s not too late to think about your race strategy.
Our coaches have a few tips to help you through those rough patches along the course, and it all starts with running form. As you may be aware, good running form starts to deteriorate when fatigue sets in. This is more apparent in long distance races as our glycogen stores are depleted sometime around mile 20. Seasoned marathon runners are better prepared for any potential breakdowns that occur as the finish line comes into focus, however you may be asking what a new runner should do to avoid disaster on the race course.
At TRUEFORM, everything we do begins and ends with FORM, and it applies as much to 26.2 as it does to a 100m sprint. Here are 7 tips we suggest for our first time marathoners out there:
- Don’t panic - stay calm and breathe if fatigue and or pain start to kick in. Focus on your rhythm and your breath.
- Reset your posture. Roll your shoulders back, stick your chest out, and make sure oxygen is being delivered to your lungs.
- Keep your chin up and eyes forward. Don’t look at the ground or drop your head in shame if you feel like you’re about to give up.
- When the going gets tough, pick a runner near you who matches your pace and focus on staying by his/her side.
- Count your stride rate. Has it slowed down? If you don’t have a default mantra for motivation, you can simply count the number of steps per minute to avoid focusing on the pain. Optimal stride rate is approximately 180 steps per minute (90 per foot), so consciously increase your turnover if you’ve fallen behind.
- Relax your shoulders down. Upper body tension or slumping tend to replace a relaxed and confident posture.
- Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Take it one step or one mile at a time. Focus on finishing the leg (or mile) of the race you’re running, then reset.
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