This is Justin Lagat's first column for 2017. Justin observed these lessons on races in Kenya, and here are some of his lessons.
If you are beginning to developing a new hobby of collecting marathon finishers' medals like me, then some of the lessons below, learnt through experience and through sharing with other athletes, may be valuable to you as you seek to meet your goals.
1. It is not necessarily the distances of the long runs you do that translates to running a good marathon, but the daily efforts you put in your training:
In 2016, I witnessed a friend who never did a long run of more than 30km the whole of the year and still managed to finish two local competitive marathons in Kenya by finishing 2nd and 7th and running a personal best time of 2:14:08.
The reason he could not do a longer run is because there was no vehicle to give him drinking water in his training, and so he decided to be doing two runs of 25km - 30km twice every week. He ran faster than other athletes who at times did up to 50km long runs.
2. Starting out a race too fast often results in running slower times in the end:
This is the one lesson that most runners often learn it the hard way. 42km is a long way and when you start it hard you will definitely find yourself hurting at 5km and wondering how and if you will ever end the remaining 37km!
3. Finishing a marathon is a great achievement in itself:
Often, runners running a marathon would feel the need to drop out of the race at some point in the middle of it. Some drop out, then regret later why they never held on a little longer and finish the race. There is a great feeling once one finishes a marathon regardless of the time they run.
After all, there are many people across the world who cannot even manage to finish a 2km race. In the future, when you will be counting the number of marathons you ever finished, you will likely regret why you failed to finish one in which you had the potential to do.
4. Training for a particular marathon should take time; at least three months:
When it comes to the marathon, it is always good to focus on one race at a time and build one's training slowly towards it. Giving yourself a short time to put in everything from long runs, hill and speed workouts can most likely result in illnesses and injuries.
Training should take about three stages where you start with moderate runs to shed off some weight and get in a better shape before stepping up the long runs and speed workouts.
5. The one person who should believe in you is yourself:
Most of the running is actually mental. There are runners who do very well in training, but when it comes to races the outcome at times would not be what was expected of them.
Runners who believe in their potential often succeed in their races while those who doubt themselves often come up with excuses as to why they could not perform.
6. There is always room at the top:
There is always room for improvement. It is always possible to train better and smarter than you ever did in the past. It is also possible to run harder and faster than the last time.
And, when you reach the top, there are many agents and race organizers looking out for fast athletes.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!