After going for 13 of these little jog things, you can't help but learn as you go and accordingly adapt and change your behaviour or approach. The last post looked at how my wardrobe has developed and in this slice of introspection, here's some lessons from my learning-curve in getting to this point and the onward's march:
Red Bull/ energy drinks make you piss like a diuretic camel! After drinking a few cans before that first canal marathon it forced me to drain the vein every 15 minutes, which was an irritant to say the least... So energy drinks are reduced to a maximum of a single can/ a few swigs out of a bottle when heading in to a race.
Vaseline... There's no such thing as too much of it! Pembroke taught me that I need to grease my toes and the balls of my feet as well as my vitals (a very sage piece of advice from Smithy about greasing up those bad-boys!), and if you get too sweaty or soaking wet then the vaseline can rub off of said vitals, so a small tub to carry in the kit for emergency application would be advantageous.
Choose the right footwear: Running on the slick surface of well pounded muddy paths on the coastal trail of Pembroke following a solid 24 hours of rain made me realise you need specifically designed trail shoes, not trainers from ordinary manufacturers that claim to be for trails… Simply put they do not cut-it on mud and rock. Conversely, for 2 runs where I wore these specific trail shoes, the ordinary 'trail' trainers would have been better, so taking both to a run and choosing on the day after speaking to the organisers is the best policy. Also Gore-Tex may be great for keeping water out but it also seems to hold it in very well so not a good plan for a material in trail-shoes as it feels like you have a brick tied to either foot after running through where water can get in!.. Also change the laces in the trainers to elasticated ones so they never come undone whilst running which is a right royal ball-ache.
Have a winter jacket for running in the extreme cold and a lighter one for running in the not-so-cold so you do not overheat and end up running with your jacket unzipped and flapping in the breeze the whole time.
Run with a Camelbak pack with pockets on the belt strap so you carry everything easily to hand in there rather than in your jacket pockets, as seasonal changes will mean that the jacket is not needed and you no longer have the pockets that you previously relied on to carry any essentials. Also the food & gels weigh the jacket pockets down so it can annoy whilst running, especially if you run with the jacket unzipped because you're heating up.
Running belts are irritating and keep bouncing/ moving around and offer little in the way of practical storage - also the water bottles moving if carried can cause friction burns as I will attest to :(
Neck 2 pain killers/ anti inflammatories before the start of the race and top-up with a couple every 2 hours. Normally I do not use them EVER - something that stupefies LSS, but best to prevent the onset of pain rather than reacting to discomfort and the delay endured as you wait for the pain relief to kick-in... Although I'm pretty sure a lot of the pain killing is a placebo effect at work here, but it seems fine by me if by whatever reason I do not feel pain!
Do not drink too much due to the unpleasant sloshing sensation in the guts and do not eat anything too heavy as it makes you feel ill, even if chewed to a paste before swallowing.
If wearing a Garmin, load the course on to that so you can follow the arrow if needed in case of getting lost - so long as the course is the same as the previous year!
Assess if hat/ gloves/ buff are really needed for a race. It may be brass-monkey whilst you're standing there awaiting the off, but after 15 mins of running you will be too hot and end-up taking them off just to sit in your pocket for the remaining 9/10ths of a race.
Pin your race number to the leg of your shorts as you never take your shorts off - however you may remove a top with your number on it or put something on over the top of it and obscure it.
When running in hot conditions take your rings off beforehand as your fingers can expand alarmingly so they resemble a bunch of bananas and the rings just feel very uncomfortable.
As a rule, don't stop at aid stations if running self sufficient… In fact don't stop at all, ever! slow down to a walk yes but never arrest your progress as you are just adding time in a pointless manner that is not achieving anything. The exception to this though is when you feel your heart pounding so fast it wants to leap out of your chest and run-off by itself. That is a very good time just to stop and regain your composure!
Talk to people - pretty much everyone running a trail marathon has a good story about why they are there, and a chat for a little while can really help the miles drop away.
Other people run other races, you run your personal one. Keep going at your own pace that you feel comfortable with. The challenge is the finish, the time is secondary; manage your goals and pursue them whilst ignoring what is going on with those around you.
Lastly NEVER GIVE UP!.. In a marathon, as much as there are mountainous highs of elation, there are canyons of despair when all alone in the middle of nowhere you feel your whole body tiring, screaming at you to just stop and rest as you wonder whether you can physically make it to the end. Don't do it! The only way to the finish is to put one foot in front of the other and keep on with the journey as each step brings you closer to your destination.