Mary Nolan has been running the Dublin Marathon every year since its creation in 1980; on Sunday Oct. 30th, she will take to the start line for the 41st time, the only woman to have done every Dublin Marathon. In a recent conversation with Her Sport, the 70-year-old shares some advice for those about to run the marathon for the first time — and with her experience, she's sure to have the top tips!
Especially for inexperienced runners, Nolan is blunt about the need to stick to a pace that works for you:
"Well, if it's your first marathon and you've no crazy wild ambitions of fast fast time, then the thing is to go out easy, don't get caught up in the excitement of the first few miles... Ease your way in. Run by feel I always say, but if you feel like you're going to win in it, you're not. So run handy, run easy, get yourself into it."
A good way to regulate your pace is to watch those nearby.
"Use the people around you, just pace off someone who is handily running around the pace you feel you want to run. You don't have to have long conversations with them! But if their pace picks up too much, drop away from them, find someone else."
"Just don't go mad in those first 5-6 miles," Nolan reiterates, with the conviction of someone who's been running for over five decades (as a sprinter before switching to marathons), "because that'll ruin your marathon for you."
"Unless you want to win it," she adds with a laugh, "then you have to go mad."
Of the inevitable rough patches, Nolan says:
"You probably will hit a few bad patches, we all do. We hit a few really bad patches and you think everything is gone, you're not going to be able to recover — but usually if you just zone into yourself, look around, take some breaths, slow down if you have to, and go along for a little while, you'll usually find your rhythm again. Things will improve, even if you get a stitch or a cramp, mostly they will go away, just don't panic and keep going and you'll come out the other side. And once you get to that last three-to-four miles — you'll get there, you'll get there."
Mental tricks can also help get you through the lows:
"Take it one mile at a time. I always count my marathon from 26 down to 1, I don't go 1, 2, 3, 4, I go 26, 25, 24, counting down the distance in my head."
Safety is also a priority; Nolan warns against impatiently "running all over the place" if you get stuck behind a group toward the beginning of the race. "Just keep your line, stay safe, be careful. Things happen in a marathon, so the main thing is mind yourself."
"And drink the water! Don't be afraid to drink the water," Nolan adds, although she advises against lingering too long:
"I find water-stations can be hell-holes of misery, because it's an opportunity to whinge and complain, people will look at each other and say 'Oh I'm not feeling great, I don't think I can do this' and the other person will say 'Oh I don't think I can either' and it creates a cycle of negativity. I usually say 'No, I'm not feeling great, but we're going to be fine!'"
Best of luck to all new and returning marathoners! Keep an eye out for the legend that is Mary Nolan and be sure to visit Her Sport on stand 44!