I know the election was last night and the internet is rampant with opinions and thoughts around that. I’m taking a break. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t vote (I did) or that I don’t care (maybe I do a little bit too much), but rather that my mind needs to get away from it all. So, back to your regularly scheduled programming about all the running things.
- 10 things I’ve learned about marathons in 10 years
- 7 tips for a great marathon
- Everything you need to know about marathon training
But what I’ve been thinking about quite a bit is what it was like the first time I ran a marathon… and how it was so overwhelming because I really had no idea what was going on. Luckily the internet is a good place to find information and resources 😉 so in the meantime, I’m going to share some of the things that I’ve learned over the years that will make running your first marathon so much more enjoyable:
1. Make a plan.
Yes, a race day plan. If you have what you want the day to look like mapped out in your head, it makes it much less stressful from that standpoint.
Race week —> figure out what you’re going to wear (I like to have A and B outfits planned) and make sure you have your fuel ready (bad idea to wait to grab it at the expo).
Day before the race —> I love grabbing a few of the spectator guides at the expo so my friends/family can look at it too and help me figure out a plan of attack. I like to figure out exactly where I need to go in the AM to get to the start (especially from where I’m coming in from) and what my game plan is for after I finish — most importantly: where am I going to meet people?
I also lay out my clothes the night before and make sure they are all in a spot where I can easily grab them and get ready in the AM.
2. Aim to have fun.
I like to tell people that your marathon is your victory lap. You’ve put in the work and now it’s time to celebrate. Just because it’s time to celebrate and you want to have fun, doesn’t mean that you can’t go for a goal. Make sure you’re enjoying it in the process!
Some ways to have fun during the race:
- Laugh at signs (seriously, people are so creative!)
- Give high fives (I usually only do this when I’m feeling great, but it makes a huge difference!)
- Laugh at people’s conversations around you (I love hearing what other people talk about on race day)
- Remind yourself how far you’ve come and give yourself a virtual pat on the back
- Give some thumbs up to race photographers
3. Wear some throwaway gear!
When you get to the start, there is bag check, but you generally have to check your things a good chunk of time before the race actually starts… so put on some throwaway gear and stay warm til the start! If I don’t have anything in my closet, I generally head to Goodwill… and lately, I’ve been relying on old race heat sheets and Delta blankets (thank you for leaving them behind, first-class people), which are surprisingly super warm.
Also, most races will donate the gear that’s thrown away to charitable organizations. So, you are also supporting a great cause!
4. Wear a shirt with your name and/or mantra.
YES, love doing this! When I ran the Twin Cities Marathon, I wore a Brooks shirt that said “own the run.” I heard so many people yell this out as I went by and it instantly made my smile. I love when races have your name on your bib, because when things get tough, it’s so much better to hear people yelling your name than a random number that you likely don’t really remember in your head.
5. Don’t rely on your spectators.
My sister shared her experience as a spectator in a recent post, and talked about how stressful it can be for spectators on race day! Yes, we all want to see our spectators along the course and as part of your plan, you should talk about where you expect to see them. However, and this is a BIG however, know in your heart that there’s a chance you won’t see them. Either they get stuck in traffic and miss you, or you miss seeing them completely. Whatever it might be, be OK if you can’t see them where you expect to (because of this, I also don’t recommend on relying on your spectators to bring you stuff that you need in case you miss them — unless you can guarantee that they will be there! AKA, a course that they know well or if they are able to easily travel between spots).
6. Run YOUR race.
When the gun (or cannon or horn) goes off at the start, it can be so easy to get caught up in the excitement and speed out at a pace MUCH faster than what you could ever imagine. It’s so hard to learn not to do this… but it can save you race later on. On top of that, make sure you are running a race that works for YOU. I, for instance, am terrible at the whole even splits for every mile. I like to have a little variation (which is why I tend to do better on courses with hills), so I embrace that. Embrace what works best for you — mentally and physically.
7. Learn how to drink water. 😉
I wrote about this a few weeks ago —> mastering how to drink water while you’re running a race. It makes a world of difference! And takes some talent… I still end up with some water up my nose a few stops along a marathon course. Even if you swear that you’ll carry your own water, you might want to learn how to drink from cups because you never know what might happen come marathon day. It’s best to be prepared.
8. Run the last mile and/or sprint to the finish.
I know that sometimes you get to the end and you just have nothing left to give, but I highly highly HIGHLY recommend that you spend the last mile running as much as you can — and sprint to the finish. This is your victory lap! Showcase your strength and enjoy your last minutes of the race. I feel like running into the finish gives you such a natural high that makes the accomplishment feel that much more amazing.
What are other tips that you have for first-time marathoners?
What was the first marathon or race that you ever ran?
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