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I have started training for my first full marathon at the end of September and wonder what I should expect during and after the race. I have done a few 1/2's, 10 and 5k's with no issues, but everything I see tells me 26.2 is a whole new world. My usual run is early morning, before breakfast with nothing to eat/drink along the way. I have just started taking 12 oz of Gatorade with me on my long runs and drink at 6, 10, 12 mile intervals. I need to start experimenting with nutrition on these runs and will. Yesterday for example I ran about 11 miles before meeting up with my TNT team and that was about an 8:30 pace. Stopped for about 15 minutes doing some stretching with the team and then did another 6.5 miles. Slowed the pace a little with the team and then picked it up around halfway and finished with an 8:45 pace overall. Had some water and another 8 oz of Gatorade on the last 6.5 and felt great after. A little knee pain, but that is arthritis and will subside today, but other than that I was able to go about everything, mowing the lawn, cleaning the pool, etc. without any problem. So my question– what should I expect when I get up to the 26 mile realm since I will never get there in training, before, during and after the race? By the way – my training plan says my racetime will be 3:35, an 8:12 pace we’ll see, I just want to finish. Since I am running to honor a leukemia survivor who I hope will be there when I finish, I want to go celebrate with her and her mom, will I be able to?
You asked a lot of questions which really have answers that are individual to you. That sounds wishy-washy but it's true. There are some generalizations but rather than go through those, scroll down some in General Running Discussion and read the threads started by VeggieChick81 about training for and running her first marathon - they're all fairly recent. I think you'll find a lot of information there. Then come back here and ask your questions again.
Start here and check out her posts. http://community.active.com/people/VeggieChick81?view=yourstuff
There's also a spectrum of first-marathon stories at http://www.marathonguide.com/features/firstmarathons.cfm under "Your First Marathons". I checked them out when I was training for my first, and more have been posted since then.
"...I've learned that you shouldn't compare yourself to the best others can do, but to the best you can do....I've learned that you can keep going long after you think you can't..." --- author unknown
@ 5K: Ontario Mills 5K, Ontario, CA, 24:42
Heart of the City Run, Los Angeles, CA, 24:13
Bruin 5K Run at UCLA, Westwood, CA, 24:54
@ 10K: LA Chinatown Firecracker 10K, Los Angeles, CA, 51:42
The Great Race - Old Agoura 10K, Agoura Hills, CA, 51:12
I agree with the wonderful advice from the others and also encourage you to look at the various different plans and stories that will assist with your training. I was a little confused by your post regarding the LR routine, but if you have completed 17 to 18 miles, then it sounds like your are on target. When I was preparing for my first marathon, I split some the longer miles into separate sessions (same day). This does not work for everyone, but can be of benefit depending on how you are trying to build endurance for your individual circumstances and schedule.
It is difficult to predict what to expect because everyone is different, but I would say put in the maximum mileage that you feel most comfortable with to know that you are as prepared as possible for the event. It is not unusal to hit a wall at a certain point during the race because it is a tremendous hardship on the body, so this happens to nearly every participant at some point (mile 20, for example). Plenty of us have to walk/jog/stop/rest/get sick and otherwise face difficulties.
The key is to look at your overall weekly mileage, incorporate intervals, hill work, cross training and so on. Basically, if you feel more at ease with a long run of 21-22 miles, then schedule that out now, so that you can also have an appropriate taper period. The LR route is critical, but consistency is the most important element to structure yourself.
Also, just remember that you are running for a special cause to celebrate wonderful people and you will be able to do more than you think. Physcial strength is very relevant, but mental focus will carry you through to the finish line. Try not to worry about the particular event and concentrate on your abilities. As you continue to build your endurance, the confidence will be there when you need it most...race day.
Congratulations and wishing you all the best.
What to expect during and after the race has a lot to do with pre race training and conditioning. It sounds like you are doing ok in your training but you dont mention your weekly mileage. From experience I would say one needs 45 to 65 miles per week to run a decent marathon at 7 to 8 minute per mile pace. Much depends on the speed of some of your training runs. Its always good to do at least one all out 8-10 mile timetrial per week. This will be at above marathon pace and from this you will get a better idea of what pace you should be running in the marathon.
Also what is your fastest mile time ? Add two minutes to this and that should be your marathon pace. I used to run 5 minute miles and my marathon times centered around 7 minute/ mile pace and that was with about 40 to 50 miles per week of training. But do get in at least one 20+ mile run several weeks before the marathon.
When starting the marathon I suggest that your pace for the first 5k or 3 miles should be at 9:00 since you plan to run at about an 8:00 pace. This will allow your body to warm up and more importantly will stop you from going out too fast and burning out. After the 3 miles you will pick up your pace to the point where you feel completely at ease and your breathing is almost unnoticeable.
You run the first half of a marathon with precision and the second half whatever way you feel. But as anyone who has ever run the marathon will tell you...one runs the first 20 miles to see what the last 6 miles are going to be like.
Keep up the training and watch your run times. If you see your run times dropping constantly you may be reaching a peak so back off a bit.
Just my own experience talking.