Home Advice Do Not Get Complacent While Prepping for a Marathon By Ray O’Connor

Do Not Get Complacent While Prepping for a Marathon By Ray O’Connor


Last weekend, I took part in my 159th Marathon and a lot went wrong. 

My 159th Marathon was along the Greenway from Achill to Westport. I’ll admit it was a last minute decision to take part in this marathon as it suddenly dawned on me that if I did one more marathon before this weekend, that would make Dublin Marathon my 160th marathon. Which is kinda cool. Silly perhaps, but cool nonetheless.

When you have taken part in 158 marathons, including some pretty extreme ones like Marathon Des Sables, you start to get complacent about your prep a mere little marathon. This is what happened to me at the weekend and I will NOT be making these mistakes again. Here is a list of the things that went wrong for me and the valuable lessons I learned from this.

Lesson #1: Think About What You’re Wearing

When I crossed the start line of the race, I quickly realised I was still wearing what I had been wearing on the bus. In all my excitement for the race and catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, I forgot to take off my layers. I was sweating after running a mile and it was because I was wearing too much clothes.

This meant I had to pull over, take off my long sleeve top, put it in my backpack and readjust what I was wearing. Obviously, this led to me being behind the other participants.

Lesson #2: Stick to your Predetermined Pace

I’m back on the road. Dressed right but behind.

My goal was to run steady 8:30’s all the way to do 3:45 nice and handy. Instead of that, in an effort to catch up with everyone else, I was running at a 7:50 pace.

I soon caught up with the others but found it very hard to slow down after that. I kept running at the 7:50’s/8’s which is way too fast. I knew I needed to slow down but just found that I couldn’t – I was feeling so good. I was delighted to be out running and just kept going.

Lesson #3: Bring Extra Salt Tablets

The weather was a bit weird last weekend. It was better than I had expected. Between that and running at a faster pace than I should have been, I was soaked with sweat by mile 10.

When I sweat, my salt levels go down. When my salt levels go down, I end up getting sick. Therefore, I always run with salt tablets and usually take one every hour. I had three salt tablets with me. I took one in the first hour and one in the second hour. I was at mile 15 in the second hour which is way too fast for me.

By mile 18 I was in trouble. I started feeling sick because I was sweating so much and running low on salt. I went for my third salt tablet but it had broken up in the bag so I couldn’t take it.

By the time I got to mile 20 I was in real trouble. By the time I got to mile 23 I was walking. I walked the last three miles and finished around 4:08. That should have been 3:45.

Recap: After that, I reflected what went wrong on the day.
I didn’t dress properly >>
Which caused me to run too fast >>
Which caused me to sweat too much >>
Which caused me to lose too much salt >>
I didn’t have enough salt tablets >>
Which caused me to feel sick. 

Given my levels of fitness, I should have been able to keep going despite all of those elements going wrong. So I thought about my pre-race preparation.

Lesson #4: Meal Prep for the Day Before

I realised I hadn’t eaten at all on Saturday until 9pm (the race was on Sunday). At 9pm, I had a very small bowl of pasta. That was all I ate on Saturday.

Lesson #5: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

I did hydrate before the event. Or at least I thought I did. Thinking back on it, I realised I had spent an hour going from the sauna to the jacuzzi the night before. So all the water I had drunk was just bringing me onto a level of hydration but nowhere near to what you need before running a marathon.

My nutrition was wrong.
My hydration was wrong.
My pace was wrong.
My strategy was wrong.
My salt intake was wrong.

And to top it all, I realised, over the past year and a half, I had spent the toughest week in the gym leading up to the event. I was tired.

How does an experienced runner like me get all of this wrong? Well, it goes to show that with experience comes complacency. You SHOULD NOT be complacent when you are going out to run 26.2miles.


Ray is the founder of Proactive Design & Marketing and RunIreland,com. A graphic designer and creative strategist by day, Ray is an avid marathon runner outside of office hours, recently completing his 152nd marathon, including multiple MDS, 100mile, and 24hour events as well as 10 marathons in 10 days. He has no plans on stopping anytime soon.