Things I wish I’d known before my first marathon

Ok, runners. There are always things that you learn through experience and even though people will tell you do this or don’t do that…you still might, because what do they know, right? 

Here are a few things that a few friends and I wrote up about our first marathon, things we wish we’d known before and things we wouldn’t change:

1) Don’t marry yourself to a certain time
There are tons of factors that aid in how quickly or slowly you complete your marathon: heat, humidity, hills, rain, blisters, allergies, the runs (yep, it’s happened before). Truth is, even though you can look up what the weather will be like or check out an elevation map of the course, just looking at things is never the same as actually being there and running the course. 

If you find yourself falling behind your goal time, don’t kill yourself for it. If you’ve got the energy and your body can stand it, slowly build your pace back up to where you want to be. If you don’t, DON’T PUSH YOURSELF. Finishing at a slower pace and injury free is better than reaching your desired time.

2) Hydrate – the right amount
On my very first marathon, lots of people didn’t hydrate enough. They had runners at the side of the course waiting to be picked up by the EMTs because of heat stroke and dehydration. Don’t let that happen! Make sure you hydrate properly the day before and during the race. Don’t be afraid to take the cup of Gatorade or whatever else they might be handing out.

Also, don’t OVER hydrate. That can be just as bad. What would be best is to research different hydration brands or products to see what they recommend. My absolute favorite-the one that’s been the best for me? Osmo Nutrition. They have excellent pre-hydration, active hydration and post-hydration products which aid in recovery, no cramping during your run and providing the nutrients you sweat out during the run. They’re awesome.

3) Make your long run workouts count
With these, don’t give 50% or even 98%. You’re prepping for exactly how you’ll race. My piano teacher always said perfect practice equals perfect performance. Therefore, you’ll perform how you practice. If you’re not serious, if you don’t push yourself, if you don’t go as long or has hard or as fast during your workouts then you’re more likely to give yourself slack on your race.

Yeah, you’ve gotta listen to your body. But if the only thing your body is telling you is that it’s tired – no pain involved – then during your training process that’s probably about the time you’d slow down or stop during working out. Listen to your body. Don’t let your body win over your mind UNLESS your are in absolute pain. Make sure to train how you want to perform.

4) Smiling helps. Literally.
it’s been proven that if you smile through something that’s hard – physically, emotionally, mentally – it’ll help you believe that it’s not impossible. That you can do it. 

If you’ve gotta force a smile for the last 10 miles then it better be an damn good one!

5) Pack Advil/Tylenol
Pre-race pain prevention is great. However, the relief won’t last the entire marathon. Chances are that something else might hurt or the meds will wear off. Pack more and don’t be afraid to take them! 

6) Run with friends 
Running with people keeps you going, keeps your mind off of exactly what you’re doing or how long you’ve been going and it helps keep things fun! Talking during a marathon is great for distracting the mind and body of everything accompanying a marathon. If you’re by yourself, find someone to run by. Chances are that if you’re near others who are the same pace, they’ll talk to you. Maybe not a ton at first, but everyone needs a friend. 

If talking doesn’t quite do it, play a game. Put a new twist on an old game. My first race, we played the alphabet song with song titles. We also played where you spoke one line from a song and whatever word was the last word needed to be matched/continued by finding the same word in a different song. People who were passing us would even play along! It was great.

7) Bring extra clothes AND shoes for after the race
Your toes will want to air out after 26.2 miles. I’d recommend sandals, if you can stand them. You will, too. Packing at least an extra shirt will help you keep your heat in (so you don’t freeze from standing in the wind in your sweat) and not be completely unbearable to stand by.

8) Recovery runs are HUGE
Go out the next day. Or even later that day. It doesn’t have to be long or fast, just something to shake up those muscles and get the lactic acid moving again. Go with friends. Go with family. Run somewhere new. 

After you run make sure you stretch. Hamstrings, quads, glutes (all 3 of ’em), calves, achilles, hip flexors, back…everything. One day soon I’ll write a post about my favorite stretches for running. Till then, don’t be afraid to be Gumby šŸ™‚

9) Don’t wear new gear/try new supplements THE DAY OF the race
My friend Blair made this huge mistake. He wore new shoes and new shorts the day of – worst chafing I’ve seen around the waist and his feet had blisters. He was not a happy runner. If you decide to get new gear specifically for a race, MAKE SURE YOU TRY IT OUT BEFORE RACE DAY. That way you can go back to any clothing or shoes you’ve ran in before if your new gear doesn’t perform how you’d like it to. 

10) If you need music, don’t listen to your playlist at the very beginning and very end – soak in the experience
The excitement and nervous energy is tangible at the beginning of any race. With marathons, it’s no different. Look around you. Talk to people around you. Really immersing yourself in the moment before the race AND after the race is a phenomenal experience. Go and live it – don’t just do it. 

What are some tips you wish you’d known before your first marathon?


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