While attempting to endure 42-kilometre slog the first time, rookies can fall foul of a host of mistakes, both in training and on the big day. Here's how to avoid these errors.
Too much or too little training
Steve Watson is a 42-year-old, events manager and a keen member of the Abu Dhabi Striders running group. He advocates an eight-week programme based on five runs a week with two rest days. One run a week needs be a lengthy.
"I've always believed in building up your long run by 10 per cent each week until you reach about 32km, but this should be your maximum length," says the veteran marathon and half marathon runner.
Shane Moynihan, also 42, of Dubai, advocates opting for a more structured programme such as the Adidas MiCoach system.
Ignoring other exercises
Incorporating a variety of workouts into your training can markedly boost your running performance.
"Some believe cycling can improve running performance. Others take to swimming and some to Pilates and yoga," says Moynihan, a regional managing director and former rugby union player. "All of these can benefit and help to repair and stretch aching running muscles."
Not varying your route
Sticking to the same running course is a good way to lose zeal for the sport. Watson and Moynihan advise venturing out over many different routes.
"The best places to run in Abu Dhabi are off island," says Watson. "We hold a running group every Saturday morning on Yas Island, starting at the Viceroy Hotel." He also recommends Al Bateen and Zayed Sports City.
Moynihan says Dubai also has its share of scenic circuits. "There are lots of safe, distance-marked tracks being built now, such as Safa Park and Al Barsha Park... Dubai Autodrome is also great as it opens its gates on weeknight evenings."
Eating the wrong food
There are opposing trains of thought on diets. Some advocate carb loading while others say a protein-rich diet is the way forward.
Watson says people should see what works for them. "Everyone's chemistry is different so you have to experiment," he says.
Moynihan says: "I recommend that two weeks before, lower your carbohydrate intake. Then a week before, start to fill them back up [with] pasta, rice, potatoes, oats and fruit and keep your protein levels low. Also, lots and lots of water."
Starting out too fast
This is by far the most common rookie mistake. Often, new runners line up too close to the front of the field, then adrenalin takes over and they try to keep pace with the elite athletes before spectacularly crashing and burning.
Resist your urge to sprint. Work out your average speed beforehand and split times for each kilometre. Rigidly adhere to this, even if you feel you're going too slow.
"A good way of working out what sort of time you'll finish [the marathon] in is that if you've run a half marathon before, you double your finish time for this and then add 20 minutes," Watson says.
"The fact is the last 10 kilometres of the marathon will be unfamiliar territory to you. Your body will never have experienced this kind of fatigue before but if you pace yourself should have enough in reserve to push through."
Not drinking or eating during the race
You will need to replenish your energy levels while running, whether that be with water, fruit or energy gels. "The accepted rule of thumb where hydrating is concerned is to take water on board when available and before you actually feel you need it. A few mouthfuls every 3 to 5km is enough to keep runners sufficiently hydrated through the marathon," Moynihan says.
The Dubai Marathon takes place on January 25. For more information visit www.dubaimarathon.org