Tips for Your First Marathon

Happy Opening Day! Yesterday was the official announcement of the NYC marathon lotto results. Although I didn’t make it through, I found out that two of my good friends did. I’m so excited for them!.  So in the spirit of the day, here are some pearls of wisdom that I wish I had known before my first marathon…

  1. Relish this moment.  Remember that tingly, excited, happy, feeling you got when you found out you actually have a slot to run? Savor it, and then tuck it away in the back of your mind. There will be moments during training when you’re physically and mentally exhausted, starving and just all around cranky – and you will ask yourself  “what was I thinking?!” And that’s when you’ll bring out this memory..and you’ll remember why are you doing this
  2. Start jean shopping. Ok, maybe not right this second – but in a few months, you will likely need to do so.  Unless you are already running really high mileages, your body will start to adapt and change to the marathon training. At least in my case, my legs got much more muscular and my waist smaller. Which is a good thing! Until you try on your skinny jeans, and they no longer fit.  You are building an athletic body to match your athletic goals – and it’s totally ok!
  3. Get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable.  New York (many other marathons) are held in the fall because of the prime weather conditions. But guess what? That means training through the summer – when it’s likely very hot and very humid. You will have to set some very early am alarms to “beat the heat” for your long runs. You will have to run through some scary temps. And you will sweat. Alot. You will be on your feet for hours at the time. You will be hungry. You may not find a bathroom right when you want one. And you know what? You will be a strong runner, and person, for it all.
  4. Make some new friends. Training for your first marathon can be a roller coaster ride. While it’s absolutely great to have some friends who aren’t runners/marathoners (and can be refreshing to hear sometimes that yes, the world will still revolve if you miss a training run) it’s also really nice to have some friends who are going through, or have gone through, the same thing as you. Plus, 20 miles can be a long, long way to run on your own. So head over to your local running store and see if there any training groups around your way. Besides, you never know who you might meet!
  5. Don’t forget to thank your support system.  Yes, you’re putting in all the miles, but who is listening to your whining? Helping out around the house? Supporting you despite your cranky moods? Tolerating those 5:30 am alarms? Scheduling their lives so they can be there cheering their hearts out for you on the big day? Don’t forget to say I love you every once in a while.
  6. Celebrate little victories. If it’s your marathon, you are going to hit a lot of “firsts” along the way before hitting the 26.2. Maybe it’s your first training run past the half marathon point. Maybe it’s the first time you’ve hit more than 25 miles/week. Most likely, you will hit your first 20 miler. While yes it’s all leading up to the big race, but they are still landmarks in your running “career” and worth celebrating!
  7. Long runs are not the time to diet. I know it’s tempting to ignore nutrition on the run. All the sports drinks, gels, and recovery foods can sure add up to a lot of calories. But this is not the time to diet! If you deprive yourself during the run, you will most certainly see some adverse effects on your performance. In a worse-case scenario, you might not be even be able to see your finish line. Be smart – make sure you are hydrating along the run, taking in enough carbs every 45-60 mins, and you are recovering with the right protein/carb ratio for your body.
  8. Listen to your elders. There are many running experts out there, and they all have their own training plans. I’m not going to tell you what plan to follow – that’s totally up to you. But which ever you choose, listen! Don’t try and push the pace on the long runs, or do more mileage than you are supposed to. There’s a reason why the authors of these plans are considered “experts” – because they (generally) know what they are talking about. You are a first time marathoner – listen to what they have to say.
  9. Respect the distance. You are going to run  26.2 miles in one day. That’s a heck of a long way to go (more than some are even willing to drive!)  Start off slow. Don’t rush it. You can always pick up the pace later on, but if you start out too fast, you will regret it far more later on.
  10. It’s just one day in a lifetime of fitness.  When I was prepping for my first half marathon and worried about hitting my goal pace – my dad told “It’s just one day. It’s not not like passing a test in school, and finishing the class.” That stuck with me. Despite your many months of hard training, anything can happen on race day. Weather can suck. Crowds can slow you down. In my case last year, a knee injury decided to flare up at mile 8, and persistent the whole way. Whatever will be will be, and it’s out of your control.  All you can do is the best you can do under that day’s circumstances, and enjoy the ride along the way.
I made it across the finish at last year’s NYCM, and you will, too!

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