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8 September 2021   |   Blog   |   

Top Tips For Taking on your First Marathon

A marathon is a long way. A really long way. 26.2 miles, or 42.2 km to be exact. And running that far? All in one go is a challenge not to be sniffed at. The average marathon runner takes 50,000 steps, burns 2600 calories, and produces up to 6 litres of sweat in the process of their run. That said, approximately 11,000,000 people complete a marathon each year, and with an estimated 52% of those being first timers, it is safe to say there is an undeniable allure of 26.2.

Now, as marathons make their cautious, but long-awaited return, it might be time for you to find your perfect next challenge. Ireland has the highest proportion of marathon runners in the world after all. Maybe you took up running during lock-down and want a way to challenge yourself with you new hobby. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try an active holiday, and now want to combine your perfect marathon with your perfect post COVID getaway.

Whatever your reasons for running, here’s our top tips of things to think about before taking on their first marathon.

1. Find your Perfect Race

Everyone picks their perfect marathon based on different reasons. Most people want their first (and potentially only) marathon experience to be special.So there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for picking YOUR perfect course. There are, however things worth considering.

For some people marathon running is all about the big races in the landmark locations. This might be the Abbott Marathon Majors (a selection of the biggest and most popular marathons in the world), adventure marathons, combining marathon running with once in a lifetime adventure such as the Great Wall Marathon, the Big 5, or the Polar Circle Marathon, or other iconic races, such as the Athens Authentic Marathon, held in the home of marathon running.

Some courses are known for being flat and fast (Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris), while others are known for being particularly challenging (Marathon du Mont Blanc). Other races are famous for simply being totally unique. The famous Marathon du Medoc, held in the vineyards of France is known for its compulsory fancy dress and wine and fine food aid stations. It’s not a marathon you’re ever likely to forget!


Here at Sports Travel International, we offer an extensive range of the world’s most sought after and unique marathons. Whatever challenge you fancy, we’re sure we have something for everyone. See our full range of marathon products HERE.

2. Don’t Overdo It

A lot of first-time marathoners have a tendency to over train in the last days and weeks leading up to race day. This can hugely increase the risk of injury and burnout ahead of the big day. In the last few weeks before your marathon, it is important to taper your runs. This could be as simple as doing 75% of your normal mileage with 3 weeks to go, then 50% and then 25% the week before you race. This will ensure that your body is well rested and ready to go.

3. Avoiding the Dreaded Wall 

We’ve all heard of hitting the wall. It’s that moment (usually between mile 18 and 20) that marathon runners dread, when your legs start feeling like lead and it feels impossible to push yourself through those last few miles of the race.

What’s good to know is the wall isn’t as much of a dark and dreaded fear as you may have thought. There may be a really logical reason why some runners hit the wall.

The human body can store between 1,800 to 2,000 calories of glycogen. If we assume then that the average person burns 100 cals per mile while running, after 18 – 20 miles you will have burned through your glycogen stores and will therefore become much more susceptible to ‘hitting the wall’.

However never fear! The body can also utilize the energy from stored fat to fuel your runs. While this is a more complicated and less efficient process than burning carbohydrates, the long slow runs you will do in training will help train your body to utilize the fat metabolic pathway more efficiently. Also, practicing with energy products n your long runs can help you work out when you need to take on a little carbohydrate boost on race day, to help you dodge the dreaded wall.

4. Race Day Planning

Race day morning can be stressful. You will have a lot on your mind, especially if this is your first marathon. So it’s best not to leave anything to chance.

One idea is to make a race day check list. Lay all your kit out the night before and make sure it’s all accounted for, and in fully working order. This avoids any nasty surprises come race day morning.

The golden rule of race planning is…. Don’t try anything new on the day.

  • No brand-new trainers (always make sure they’ve been ‘worn in’ first).
  • No unfamiliar nutrition (you can usually find out what nutrition will be provided by the race organisers online and practice using it ahead of the race. Some brands of nutrition can be hard on the stomach, so be familiar with whatever you plan to use ahead of the race.)
  • No massive breakfast. Some runners make the mistake of having an especially large breakfast on race day. Although you will need a lot of energy for race day big breakfasts are ill advised. If you eat more, or richer, food than usually, this can leave you feeling sluggish and lacking energy. Your stomach and digestive system will also demand more blood meaning there is less available for your legs.

Racing overseas can be stressful, especially if it’s your first marathon. But it is also a hugely rewarding and unforgettable experience. When you book a trip with Sports Travel International, we look after as much of the planning and logistics as possible, so all you have to plan for is the race!

5. Be Kind to Yourself

When you are training, you have a bad run, you have a bad run. Don’t beat yourself up, trust the process and move on. If your body is telling you that your long run is too much on a particular day, listen to it, there is always another day. Staying injury free is vital if you are going to have a successful and enjoyable first marathon experience, so listening to your body is really important.

On race day, it is also important not to be too hard on yourself. Take the first mile or so to settle into a rhythm, check in with yourself, and decide how you’re feeling that day. Yes, you’ll have a target pace, but it’s still important to be aware of how you’re feeling. It’s better to finish slower than planned than not to finish at all, so if it starts feeling too much, slow down. Less than 1% of the world’s population has finished a marathon, so you’re already joining a pretty exclusive club. This is your first marathon, so whatever happens you’re going to get a PB!

That finish line feeling at the TCS New York City Marathon

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