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Top 10 Tips for Running Your First Marathon
Jonathan Roche

1. Taper for three weeks before the marathon. Most first timers do not let their body recover before the marathon. You need to gradually pull back on your training in order for your body to fully recover and be 100% ready to go on the marathon day. You should maintain your normal training intensity throughout the final three weeks, but you should gradually decrease your workout time. So three weeks out you should do 75% of your normal workload, two weeks out you should do 50% and the last week you should do 25%. This will leave you well-rested, but still sharp, when you toe the line.

2. Start slowly! Do not let the fact that you are well-rested fool you into running too fast out of the gate. Most runners think they are having an amazing day when they are cruising through the first 12 to 15 miles. But if you start too fast this false sense of being "on" is soon replaced with the scary realization that those last few miles are going to feel like a hundred. Pace yourself so that you have gas left in the tank for the final miles.

3. Speed walk through the water stops. Dehydration is a major problem for many marathon runners so it is essential to take in two full cups of liquid at each aid station. But, if you are running through the stations half of each cup ends up on your shirt! There is no recovery if you get dehydrated on race day, which means you'll be forced to merely survive and finish. And that is not the way to experience your first marathon.

4. Be sure to take in nutrients. Many marathon runners make a big mistake in thinking that water or Gatorade alone will maintain their energy and fuel levels. Even taking in energy gels with your fluids is probably not enough. Depending upon the weather and your pace you could be burning between 500 and 1,000 calories per hour, more than these can provide. Even if you had a big breakfast, eat some type of bar during the race. I personally love Balance Bars because they are easy to digest and taste great. Find your favorite bar and use it to fuel you on marathon day.

5. Bring warm cloths and a throw-away blanket to the start. Sitting on the ground in the cold for two to five hours is not a pleasant way to prepare to run a marathon. If you are cold or stiff before the race you are probably going to be in trouble. Although most marathons have race staff that will bring your clothes to the finish line, the bag provided usually isn't big enough for the blanket, so bring something you don't mind leaving behind.

6. Stay Positive! No matter what happens, always stay positive. For every runner, there are points in the marathon where your body is saying no and the self-doubt starts creeping in. This is when you need to think positive thoughts and keep putting one foot in front of the other. If you stay positive and make sure to be taking in your food and fluids, you will come out of it and start feeling good again. The key is not to give in and to always stay positive.

7. 'High-five" at least one kid every mile. This will help keep things in perspective whether you are having the race of your life or you are crawling to the finish.

8. Don't let people who look like serious runners intimidate you. Many people look like they are about to race for a gold medal at the Olympics. But don't get caught in that place of thinking that everyone looks so strong and fit. Looks mean nothing. Only your own inner determination to do your best gets you to the finish line. This is your race.

9. Write your name on your shirt or wear something unique. When I ran my first Boston Marathon in 1996, I wore a plain white running shirt and one fan actually yelled right to me, "Go white T-shirt guy!" In 1997, when I had my name plastered across my chest for the first time, the personalized "Go Jonathan!" cheers made a huge difference.

10. Run from your heart! Do not get so caught up in trying to beat a certain time that you lose out on the truly amazing experience of running a marathon. It is a gift to run a marathon so drink it in and enjoy every minute of it. Also, consider running for your favorite charity! It will make you stronger. No matter what your time, this will surely be one of the best days of your life. Have an amazing run!

Jonathan Roche is one of the nation's foremost authorities on heart rate-based interval training. Through his company, Breakthrough Health & Fitness, and its Momentum Fitness & Weight Loss System, Jonathan promotes the use of heart-rate based interval workouts to achieve maximum fitness and weight loss results in the shortest period of time. Says Jonathan, 'It's not how hard you train. It's how smart you train." Jonathan has run the last nine Boston Marathons as a member of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute team. His company donates five percent of its profits to this cancer research organization. For more information on Jonathan Roche's interval training systems and weight loss programs, please visit www.BreakthroughHF.com. © Jonathan Roche Fitness Ventures 2005

Thanks Jonathan for sharing your article.

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