How To Survive Your First Marathon

Step one: Heed the advice of a seasoned marathoner.

These running tips from Sundown Marathon founder Adrian Mok won't just help the biggest couch potato make it to the finish line, they ensure you'll do it in style too.

#1: Start training early.
Ideally, your prep should begin six months before the race. The bare minimum? Four months. "[If it’s the latter] you ought to already be exercising a bit, and not be starting from scratch. Six months is a good gauge because the first two months will be about adjustment, like getting into the routine of regular exercise. I’d say start with three training sessions a week. From the third month, begin to set distance goals," says Adrian.

#2: Set milestones.
"When you train for a marathon, you need to progress up. The rule of thumb is to increase the distance by 10 per cent every week. But the limit is the three-hour mark, or around 25 to 30km. After one-and-a-half to two hours, your body runs out of energy — or in runner’s terms, you hit the wall. That’s when runners supplement with food like energy gels and drink water. This is also the point where you need to push through the mental barrier. If you can overcome this, then it’s really about sustaining it until the end of the race. When you go past three hours, it becomes easier to get injured and you take a longer time to recover. So you don’t want to [experience the three-hour limit] too close to the actual race," he advises.

#3: Find ways to combat boredom.
If you’ve ever tried running round the track countless times, you’d know that besides grappling with fatigue, you’d have to deal with boredom too. If you’re constrained by a certain route, make things interesting by turning it into a high interval training sesh. "If you’re running round the track for five to 10 times, try for a better time with each loop, so that timing becomes the goal and you’re less occupied with thinking that the route is so boring."

#4: Take the road less travelled.
If you’re all about variety, Adrian’s advice is to pick and choose routes with the help of the NParks website. "Search for park connectors islandwide to find out how they all link. For example, Punggol Waterway is linked to Coney Island and you can run up to half a marathon’s worth of distances in that area alone."

#5: Feel the pain. Then forget the pain.
"To get over the mental barrier [that comes with tackling long distances], there are two methods: association and disassociation. For the former, it’s important to read your body’s signals and make the call if you should continue and risk further injury. Is it joint pain or something more serious? Or do you need to drink up? Then there’s disassociation, where you don’t think about how you feel. This is critical in ultra-marathons, where you’ll experience pain and you may not feel good, but you push through. I often find myself to be the most creative when I exercise, especially when I’m doing long distances at low intensity. You think about life, work and everything else. That level of solitude builds strength and character. You learn that if you can get through this, you can certainly tackle harder things in life."

#6: Test your race #OOTD.
It ain’t just a fashion thing, okay? "The psychology term for it is anchoring. You need to test out your running gear prior to race day. You don’t know if the outfit may cause chafing or if it’s too warm," says Adrian.

#7: Take power naps.
If you eventually tackle an overnight race like Sundown, you should note that you may start to feel sleepy, usually at 2am to 4am. What should you do? Stop and snooze. Yes, really. "I have taken naps in the park when I’m training at night. They last for 15 minutes to an hour. I’d suggest to nap at the Sundown Marathon only if you really, really need it. We do have a cut-off time at 8am, after all. If it’s not necessary, you should just try to finish the race [without stopping to sleep]. And, while you don’t have to always train at night for Sundown, you should at least have one to two trainings through the night, just to experience that fatigue level," Adrian advises.

The Osim Sundown Marathon 2017 is on Mar 25. Runnerdotes: A Collection of Anecdotes from Inspirational Runners is available at all major bookstores, online (, and the Sundown Night Festival at the F1 Pit Building on Mar 21 to 24 (5.30pm to 10.30pm) and Mar 25 (2pm to 7am on Mar 26).

Seen on instagram

As Seen On Instagram