So you’ve made the plunge…signing up and training (hopefully) for your first marathon. Congratulations! This step is one that many people will never make. So now that you are about to become a “marathoner” your mind might be set on how to cross the finish line and not hate life the entire race. Let’s try to make this running experience as good as possible. Here are 5 tips that I have learned along the way that helps first time marathoners.

race-expo-big-sur-sign

My last marathon was the Big Sur Marathon. It wasn’t my first but it was definitely my favorite.

  1. Study the course. The course map and elevation profile should be available on the race website. If not, contact the race director to receive this information. You should pay close attention to where the aid stations are and what type of terrain you’re running on. Some key questions you should be able to answer:
    1. How many aid stations are there and where?
    2. How hilly is the course and at what miles are they?
    3. Is the course on road, trail or a mix of both?
    4. Is the start and finish line at the same place?
    5. Is the course a loop, out and back or one way direction?
  2. Wear layers. Most likely the start of the marathon will be chilly. You need to be comfortable before you start but obviously during the race you will warm up and not need to wear as many cloths. There are two options here:
    1. Is there a drop bag option at the start line? If there is, awesome! You can put your jacket in a bag just before you start and find it at the finish line.
    2. If there is not a drop bag option, then this is when you grab something you’d be happy to donate or don’t mind ever seeing again. A lot of races will gather left behind shirts and jackets and donate them. Trust me, the last thing you want to do is to waste your energy by shivering in the cold for an hour before the gun goes off.
  3. Practice fueling. You should have done at least 1 or 2 long runs during your training. (If not don’t freak…it’s your first marathon and this is a learning experience) So during those long runs it’s a great opportunity to practice taking in fuel. You should be taking something in every 30-45 minutes. This “something” could be a gel, bar, gummies or something homemade. Water and electrolyte fluids should be used throughout the entire race and the amount greatly depends on how hot the day is. The key is to get in about 200 calories of fuel, use something easy to ingest while still moving and also be sure it’s easy on your stomach. A lot of runners will have stomach issues during a race. You can possibly avoid this by testing out your fuel during training to be sure it agrees with your stomach.
  4. Iron out the details for your fans. Most likely you will have someone out there supporting your endeavor. Let them know where a good place to see you along the course is and where you will meet at the finish line. Some races even have an option to follow you online as you run along the course. Share this information to all the people who want to cheer you on but can’t be there in person.
Big-Sur-medal-with-Oz

Grabbing that medal at the finish line with your biggest fans always feels amazing.

  • Be prepared to love it or hate it. I feel like there really is no in between when it comes to running a marathon. You’re either hooked once you cross the finish line or swear you’ll never be back. The only “in between” part is that you may change your mind after the marathon high has worn off. This is what happens to me. I run hard the entire way so granted I’m hating life towards the end of the race and telling myself this is the last marathon I’ll ever run. Then after a few weeks I’m searching for another marathon to run and train for. It’s like a roller coaster for me but I cant wait to get back on every time. I know for most people once they run a marathon they catch “the bug” and train for more. For others, it’s simply a bucket list item and while they do continue to run there are some factors that make a marathon just a one time thing. This is understandable since there is a lot of time and effort needed to train for a marathon. With family, life and work commitments they aren’t for everyone. So if you cross the finish line with a huge smile and can’t wait to do it again, that’s awesome! And if you cross the line knowing this is your one and only be sure to congratulate yourself for the achievement, then find a different distance or sport to continue to train for. Fitness is a lifelong endeavor and everyone should have some sort of goal to work towards.