With the Houston Marathon, Half Marathon, 5K and Olympic trials 7 days away, I thought I'd post some tips for first timers. I'm going on 7 years running and ran distance when I was in high school. By no means am I elite or even close to "good" at this, I just like to run smart and have relied a lot on others experiences and my own to put this list together.
1. Quit waiting for everything to be perfect. You have everything you need right now. No matter what the distance, a race is all mental. Every starts line and finish line is a win. Physical training is important but the rest is what your head tells you.
2. Your first is an automatic PR - (personal record) so don't be too focused on your time. Enjoy the beat and the scenery.
3. Sleep well several days leading up to your race. Your mind and body will thank you for it.
4. Lay out everything the night before. It will be hard to sleep so have yourself prepared to get up and do your routine and walk out. Looking at my race numbers the night before reminds me of the courage, acocuntability and the commmittment I made to training.
5. No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch. Negative split. That means start slow, pace and finish strong. If you give all your energy up front, you will lose the mental battle.
6. It's OK to walk. Nuff said.
7. Listen to your body. She/he knows you best and pain happens. If you pain factor is high, stop! Only you will know how to regulate your body so don't risk an injury. Injuries plain and simple, suck -- they keep you out longer from the next finish line.
8. Stay consistent. Race days are not ones to decide to implement major changes within your control. Don't eat anything unusual or do anything you haven't done on usual runs. This includes food, supplements, and clothing.
9. For changes outside of your control, like weather, be flexible. You may have trained for a certain time, however, you will need to adjust your plan depending on your training regime. Humidity and heat cause more deaths on the course than anything else. It's never worth risking it, so take it as a sign there will be other days to run for time.
10. Go through "The Wall". At some point you may think you are approaching or have hit the wall. I was fortunate to have not experienced it until NYC Marathon in 2011. Aside from doing all of the above, the other way to avoid a wall is to dedicate each mile, half mile or whatever the distance to someone special. Think of that person and it will carry you through. My friend, Janet gave me this advice before I ran London Marathon in 2009 and I've carried that with me ever since.
Most important, have fun! To your success... See you at the finish line!