When Singapore’s Sundown Marathon flagged off last weekend, many runners had no idea if they would place dramatically at the finish line.
Given the spirit of friendly competition that always pervades the popular annual Sundown Marathon, there were plenty of congratulations to go around for the top runners, for those equally proud to have run a new personal best and particularly, for runners who were elated just to have finished, since this was their very first marathon!
What lessons were learned? Here are 10 that you may wish to take to heart.
Lesson #1: Always Check Things Out for Yourself, No Matter What Others say
Jon didn’t bother to check out the race terrain for himself at his first marathon after being told that there was “some mud” on the track. He wound up wading through muck that was so heavy, he could barely keep his pants and underwear up!
Now, Jon does his own pre-marathon terrain scouting, just to be sure.
Lesson #2: Timing is Everything
Lauren arrived extra-early for her first marathon on a hot day and wound up standing around for hours. By the time she reached the start line, she is already soaked in sweat.
When a veteran runner arrived fresh at the start line, Lauren learned that arriving for that race too early makes no sense!
Lesson #3: Don’t Prejudge Your Competitors
Things went well for Lee at the start of his race. He did everything by the book: Hydrate, pace himself and stay focused. But when cramps hit, Lee worried that his first marathon would end in disappointment, until another runner stopped to comfort him, encourage him and motivate him to run through the pain.
Lee will always remember this year’s Sundown for teaching him that even competitive runners are empathetic and caring.
Lesson #4: There’s a Reason Pre-Marathon Dietary Advice is Dispensed
Mitch followed all of the pre-race rules governing conditioning and race prep, but because he had never had GI tract issues in the past, he didn’t follow the cardinal rule of eliminating or reducing fat, dairy and fiber 36 hours before he ran that Sundown.
There’s always a first time for everything, so we will spare you the details of Mitch’s odyssey. Suffice to say, that Mitch plans to adjust his pre-marathon diet accordingly next year.
Lesson #5: Keep Your Expectations in Check
Savannah wasn’t prepared for the long queue she encountered at the portable toilets set up by race organisers. But the queue wasn’t the only shock she experienced: It had taken no time for these loos to become scary places thanks to so many runners dashing in and out without cleaning up properly.
Realizing that this lesson was one runners rarely talk about, she made a promise to herself that down the road, when she gave advice to new marathon runners, she would share this lesson with them all!
Lesson #6: Prepare Early, Not at the Last Minute
Steve’s friends advised him that early preparation is the secret to successful marathons, but he dismissed them. He didn’t set two alarm clocks, failed to pack his race bag in advance and didn’t bother laying out his race wardrobe and gear.
After napping through his alarm, Steve opened his eyes, spotted the time, flew out of bed, couldn’t find his bag and had to search through his drawers like a thief looking for hidden treasures as a result of being so disoriented. Reduced to tears out of sheer frustration, Steve vowed never to repeat this behaviour.
Lesson #6: Become Your Own Weather Forecaster
Jasmine didn’t bother to check the weather reports while preparing for her first marathon overseas. She figured Singapore temperatures would be “as usual,” like any tropical country, so she failed to take into account fluctuations that can easily take place.
As a result, she wasn’t prepared and adapted for all extremes, Jasmine was miserable running her first marathon, but that discomfort taught her to respect unpredictable weather and prepare much more thoughtfully for her next overseas race.
Lesson #7: The Ultimate Wardrobe Malfunction
Jessica assumed that by wearing her new running shoes a couple of times before her first marathon that she would adequately break them in. It never dawned on her that the convergence of fairly new kicks and an extended running distance would clash, leaving her hobbling to an aid station.
As her feet were bandaged, Jessica thought about how hard she had prepared only to fail and having nothing to show for her effort but shoes stained with blood. Fortunately, the aid worker reminded her that giving up is an option – not something to feel shame about. She remembers feeling relieved after learning this valuable lesson.
Lesson #8: Anyone Can Suffer From Pre-Race Jitters
A first marathon is a milestone, but since Li is a relaxed fellow, he didn’t anticipate a horrific attack of nerves on the big day. Li was responsible for his state: he flew to Singapore the day before the race, grew increasingly impatient due to airport snafus and didn’t bring along “distractions” or “comforts” that might have relaxed him, so he was truly rattled at the start line.
On that day, Li learned that running forms vary and it’s critical to be kind to oneself during the 24-hour period before a marathon — especially if it’s your first.
Lesson #9: Water, Water, Everywhere, But He Didn’t Stop to Drink!
Jerry got pretty cocky early into his first marathon run. He felt so terrific, he blew off a few water stations promising he’d “hit the next one.” He’s not a total idiot: He stopped at a few, but failed to compensate for the extra distance by hydrating more frequently than usual.
To this day, he has no recollection of being walked to an aid tent by the medical worker who found him hallucinating because he had become so dehydrated. “I’m guilty,” he told his girlfriend. She felt so much pity for him, she hadn’t the heart to make him feel worse.
Lesson #10: The Marathon Doesn’t End When it’s Over!
Derek is somewhat shy, so when he finished his first marathon, he packed up his gear and went home, feeling satisfied with his performance but not terribly happy. What was missing? The fun, friendship, spirited celebration and post-race festivities that bring all participants together.
At his second marathon, Derek overcame his reticence and went to the party, realizing that it wasn’t finishing the race that matters as much as being part of a running community that comes together to celebrate shared success!
We’ve sleuthed out some interesting first marathon lessons, but we know that there are more, so we’re turning to you for feedback: What’s the biggest lesson you learned as a result of running your first marathon?