Comrades 2006 was my only Comrades because we came to live in India the next year. I still feel that it was one of the best races I ever ran, completing the 89 kilometers in 8 hours and 54 minutes with a steady pace of 6 minutes per kilometer.
Here are some of the things that went right
- My exercise program peaked with 80k+ weeks at just the right time. About 4 weeks before the event. (But to be truthful, I cannot remember that part so well)
- My long runs were long enough. I’d say 30 to 35 k is probably the longest long run a marathon aspirant needs to run.
- Tapering left me full of energy and rearing to go at the starting line.
- My running buddy of the time ran with me for almost the entire race. Keeping your head in the right place is as important as keeping your body in good running order. Having a friend to distract you from the pain and the distance is a great idea. Even getting to know someone who is running approximately the same pace as you will have that same effect.
- I kept properly hydrated and fed throughout the race.
- I made a plan for how fast I want to run and kept to it from the beginning. (Not going out too fast!) A little faster on the downhills and slower on the uphills. (Constant effort) It turned out to be perfect timing as I was just about spent at the finish line.
- We ran with the sub-9-hour bus for some time, but I left them when their pace and walking breaks became uncomfortable for me.
With a marathon or ultra-marathon there are many things that could go wrong and a small mistake could have a big impact. Something like eating too late or too much before the race could make you lose your breakfast and a lot of energy. Pushing too hard or too fast or not stretching sufficiently during the build-up could leave you injured or sick. Then there is starting too fast or too slow or wearing clothes that chafe or shoes that don’t fit right. Even tying your shoes too tightly or not standing in the loo queue early enough could cause damage to your time or your chances of completing.
I have been asked to be a pacer or the 4:15 bus at the Patiala marathon on 9 October. It makes it all the more important for me to get it right this time. A few things that will make it easier: the route is absolutely flat. We start at 5 in the morning so that we will be done before it gets too hot. I initially planned to go for 3:35 so 4:15 should feel comfortably slow. BUT… one never knows what will happen.
It feels like I may have a cold coming in, but I asked my Friend to protect me against getting sick at this crucial stage of preparations. I also have a minor pain in one of my toes. I am hitting 70k this week for the first time since I have been preparing mostly for half marathons for the last 4 months. Will it be enough?
For first-time marathoners a few tips: (not comprehensive, there are many other lists for that available online)
- Get to bed early the previous two nights.
- Eat light and not spicy the evening before the race. Hydrate! Proper hydration could take more than a day.
- Don’t drink coffee on race day. You will regret it when you have to go multiple times before and during the race. Be early enough at the venue to fall into the queue for the loo.
- Don’t forget your bib. Remember that you have to pick it up the day before the race!
- Don’t try anything new on race day. No new clothes, unusual food or drink.
- Tape your nipples. Seriously.
- Start drinking early enough at the water points. Not too much. Drink sports drink later in the race. But also drink water.
- Eat something later in the race. Banana is good, so is boiled potato. Find out what will be available on race day and make sure it is something you can stomach while running.
- Walk for a few seconds while you drink water. Choking is no fun.
- Enjoy the scenery, your fellow runners, the slower pace.
- Aim for a steady pace. Your natural instinct will be to start faster than you will be able to keep up. Do the math.
- There will most probably be pain… Do NOT drink any medicine for it. Endure it. Understand when it is an injury and stop. There is no shame in D.N.F. And you will run another day.
- Halfway in a marathon is not at 21.1. For me it is usually around 30. And sometimes the last 4 seems very very far. This is where distractions may come in handy.
- Do not give up! Marathons are not for sissies.