The week before a marathon
For me it all properly began the week before. If you haven't trained that much but want to get through it then the key is trying to make yourself as comfortable as possible, don't try anything new just before or during the marathon, it could come back to haunt you. Also don't buy new running shoes, people will always tell you that, you need to wear them in.
I spent most of that week looking at blogs for advice, visiting runnersworld for tips and drinking water. One of the key messages was to take on the carbs! I ate pasta for the whole week, this helped build up my storage of glycogen in the muscles (for energy).
Have your playlist ready, some motivating tunes to keep you going, one of the worst parts for me was the amount of parks I was running throguh at about 18 - 23 miles. I took a break from my music but the silence was deafening!
Establish a comfortable running pace per mile. I had mine at about 8-9 minute miles.
Finally, rest, don't over do it, if you are panicking that you haven't done enough training and want to get in a 20 mile run a couple days before, it is a bad idea. You will only be in pain for the marathon and that rules out my 'be comfortable' stage.
Start - 6 miles
It didn't help that people were all talking about how much training they had done when I was waiting at the start line, so for that reason this was a tough stage. However, when I got going I felt far more relaxed.
My advice will be the same as others, warm up, stayed focused and of course take it slow, you have a long way to go. When I started the weather was ok, people were quite excited and adrenalin will push you on, try and control yourself.
The week before I had established what a comfortable pace was for me, but being a little too ambitious I thought 8 minute miles would be okay, I was wrong and felt it 13 miles in. I was taking on a steady amount of water and I recommend doing the same, don't stop and drink try and keep going and don't gulp it down!
After about 6 miles you should be feeling comfortable and in your stride. I felt okay, my muscles weren't aching and I wasn't out of breath, I was keeping to the pace I wanted and it is up to you how fast you go. However, I knew after this, it was all down hill :(
7 miles - 14 miles
After this stage I knew I would be out of my comfort zone, and running further than I had done before, but this is where the mental side of the marathon really started for me.
I recommend trying to keep your mind focused not on how far you have got to do, but how much you have done. A positive mental attitude is very important here as you cross the half way point because you will be tired and will automatically think 'you are only half way'. Try and take in some of the crowd, they are supportive and one of the best things you can do is have your name on your top because the crowd will shout your name and help you get across the finish line.
It isn't the end of the world if you have to stop and take a breather, but try not to sit down or stand still. Try walking for 30 seconds and see how you feel. I had to walk at several point but the one time I stopped for good I found it very hard to get going again.
15 - 22 miles
At 16 miles I was in a new world. You will be too, but still DON'T STOP, try and stretch out your legs, be confident and set yourself short goals, every mile.
My legs stiffened up after 16 miles and a couple friends of mine got cramp, to combat this stretch out your legs and keep that positive attitude. I began to think about that finish line and the people cheering me on, it really helped keep me going and I recommend you do the same. Having the belief is very key here and the last thing you want to do is start thinking negative thoughts.
23 - 26.2 miles
The last stretch! I got a second wind around 22 miles because I knew the end was in sight, and I feel this is where the PMA kept me going and helped me finish. I was aching and I expected to be tired but the thing that I didn't expect was the impact on my joints. I was genuinely broken at 22 miles but the thought of the finish line kept me going throughout the last stretch.
The exhaustion and pain was obviously the hard bit here and preparation for this can be aided by following conditioning before the race.
All I can say is good luck if you are running a marathon without any or minimal training but if you only take a few things from this, let it be:
1) BE COMFORTABLE
2) STAY FOCUSED, CONFIDENT AND BE POSITIVE
3) TAKE YOUR TIME