p pol The Adventures of Carboman: For Marathon Debutants

Monday, February 06, 2006

For Marathon Debutants

The KL Marathon is just 4 (including this week and tapering period) short weeks away. The weekly mileage should be in the peaking stage and experienced marathoners may also be putting in some form of speedwork in the shape of long intervals or tempos. The things that are certain to be running through debutants' heads include self-doubts and race strategy (often the most beguiling, I kid you not). Let's tackle each one.

For those trying to string together a week's worth of good training would either have made good of the lax traffic or left cursing for the missed days as a result of the merry-making. If you find yourself in the latter group, there's no reason to fret. You've put down your commitment by registering (I'm assuming that you know what you got yourself into!) and started your training. But despite logging the miles, you still have doubts. This is perfectly normal. It's probably not helped by the many advice you've received from numerous runners. Just know that you've trained the best you can. No point worrying. Run smart, have a realistic goal and you'll pull through. The marathon is such that you'll get the hang of it once you've run a few. No single advice is correct or wrong. You need to find out what works for you and this only comes through experience. What's important is for you to focus on these remaining weeks of training and not risk undoing all your hardwork by unnecessary worrying. Enjoy your debut experience and come back for more (yes there's joy at the end of all that pain!).
Race Strategy
Some have decided to run negative spilts, some even splits and some are even considering positive splits. All are not easy to execute and in terms of feeling good at the end of the race, the last option of running positive splits will give you none of it. Let me rephrase that: Running positive splits WILL NOT give you an euphoric feeling at the end of the race. You will curse and swear with 10K to go. It'll be the longest and hottest 10K you'll ever run and when you finally get across the finish line, chances are you won't be attempting another marathon anytime soon. There! I didn't mince my words.
Any which way you look at it, unless you're Steve Jones (Welsh one-time world record holder), there's no sense for such a bravura. From all angles you lose.
As I've said you're already going to be hurting up there in your head and all over other parts of your body. By running faster outside your comfort zone so early, you're going to be pounding harder. The extra pounding will get to your lower legs and back and you'll know the pain when it hurts in the final quarter. From the pain, you're going to be discovering parts of your body you've never known existed. Compounded by the race day adrenalin rush, you're setting yourself up for disappointment more so if you've set yourself a time goal (another no-no for first timers).
Not only that, you'll lose any psychological edge you have when others overtake you while you trudge along (also known as the Death March). Now think about the confidence you're going to reap when at this late stage you're passing strugglers instead - provided you've paced well earlier on.
It's Proven 95% Of The Time
For your first marathon, it's wiser to err on the side of caution. The concept of banking in time to cover as much ground before crashing and resorting to a walk-run routine have too little benefits to be adopted as a viable tactic. Instead of a possible 30-minute PR (for example), you only managed a 5-minute improvement. Think about how many times you've heard runners lamenting "If only I've started out slower".  Simply put, the risks outweigh the returns.
What To Do Then?
Be confident that you've trained well (even if you've not) and be confident of your own pace. Don't be sucked in at the start. Go easy at the 1st 10K, stay relaxed and enjoy the atmosphere (you're running your first of many marathons! While others are dreaming about it, you're actually doing it. Isn't that awesome?). Continuing to stay relaxed, up your pace by 5 secs per K and hold it for the next 20K. If you've done this well, you would've passed a considerable number of runners who went out too fast. Yup, you don't have to wait till 30K to begin passing people!
After 30K, it's down to mental strength and guts. Think positive thoughts, reaffirm your beliefs. Just holding the pace will get you past so many more runners. As your confidence grows, you level of fatigue will seemingly drop and even when you think you're going slower, you may not be. The right pacing strategy won't safeguard you from hitting the wall but at least you won't struggle so early and you won't crash that badly. You'll be able to finish strongly and come back for more.


  • Great advice Jamie! I shall keep repeating these things to myself over the next few weeks

    By Blogger Dinesh, at 1:46 PM  

  • Mr carboman! I completed my 1st ever marathon. Your advice has been a great help! keep up the fantastic postings: *smiles*

    By Blogger LiempehH, at 5:36 AM  

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