Things You Should Know About Your First Marathon

Ok, let’s get this out of the way. I’m not claiming to be a marathoning expert. In fact, I’ve only run 1, and it was back in October. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I got a lot of great advice from my friends who are avid marathoners before my first. There were some things people don’t think to tell you or just don’t want to mention because they don’t want to scare your or be gross.

So here are some tips and ideas that I wish I had known beforehand or that other people told me and I found helpful.

Marathon Tips

1. If it’s an early morning start and the weather indicates that you’ll be cold in any way, bring a trashbag. You read that correctly. Since my marathon was in October, the morning weather was a bit chillier than I anticipated. If course I read the weather, but 40* means nothing to me in real life. I saw so many people walking around, warming up in upside-down trashbags with head holes cut out. It kept them warm, and they could just toss them a few minutes before race time.

2. Don’t wait until you’re hungry to fuel. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. I waited WAY too long to take my first gel/Shot Blox. At about mile 15, I was starving. I might have stolen candy from a kid on the side of the road. THEN I got to a gel station and had WAY too many nasty-tasting goops. I felt like I was going to throw up a fruity mess by miles 18-20. Raspberry-key lime-cherry vomit. Please enjoy that reference.

3. If you’re running by yourself, arrange a cheerleader. Sean wasn’t running the marathon with me, so I was trekking the 26.2 alone. (He had a knee injury from soccer that killed him when he ran training runs with me that were over 12ish miles.) After my fruit jelly belly incident, it was like seeing an angel on the side of the road when I spotted my friend Amy with some water and a massage stick at mile 22. She’s a real-life runner (New York City Marathon style), and it was so encouraging to hear her say, “You’re beating your goal time! You’re only 4 miles away!” The massage stick was also a huge perk.

New York Marathon

That’s Amy in red running the NYC Marathon!

4. It’s ok to set a far-fetched goal. Duh, Carolyn. Right? I was really afraid to set a goal and tell other people about it because, what if I failed? I told everyone that my main goal was to finish under 4:30, but I probably could have done better than that. I started the race WAY too quickly–running with the 8-minute mile pacing group. When I got to mile 13, I remember thinking, “If I bust my ass, I can make it sub-4!” But let’s be realistic, people. There’s no way I was doing that on my first marathon, but it’s ok to feel optimistic about it. I ended up finishing in 4:24, but I know I could have done better than that.

5. Don’t touch your face. You’re covered in salt, and it will sting/burn. Even in the cold, I was sweating so much that my pants, shirt, face, etc. were all covered in salt. This is one way that chafing can get you. If you’re legs or arms are rubbing other parts of your body, the little salt crystals act like sandpaper, slowly sanding away your skin. Ouch! My face is very sensitive, so anytime I rub my skin, especially around my eyes, it feel like I just sandpapered my face. I saw people after the race with salt on their eyelashes and and eyebrows. It hurts, y’all. Be warned.


6. You will be crazy sore. I never get sore right away or even the day after. I’m one of the few sufferers of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), but I was instantly sore after my marathon. Your body chugs out tons of adrenaline while you’re running, so you don’t really feel how your bones and muscles feel while you’re moving. But as soon as you stop, oh the pain. Sean was at the finish line waiting for me. I was given a goodie bag, and I squatted down to shove more stuff into the bag. Then I couldn’t get back up. It was seriously less than one minute from crossing the finish line. The car was WAY across the parking garage and down a few flights of stairs. Sean nicely offered to carry me, but I was too much of a champ. I had just run 26 miles, after all. 🙂

These are just a few things I learned from my first marathon. Avid runners, what tips or “things to know” do you have for first-timers?

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