My Advice to a First Time Marathoner

Crossing my first marathon finish line in 2012, Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon 

Crossing my first marathon finish line in 2012, Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon 


Before I ran my first marathon I knew nothing about running marathons. Well next to nothing, my aunt ran them. I also knew they were a great physical accomplishment. I signed up for a marathon and knew I had to train. I googled some marathon plans. I found a few and began to look through them, I was looking for the shortest plan out there. I think I found a 12 week “training plan”. I didn’t have GPS on my phone. I didn’t own a Garmin. I didn’t know my pace. I had a pair of clearance Nike’s from Kohl’s, some old athletic clothes, and a dream!  I would drive my car around the neighborhood to try to map out some of my “long runs”. I would bring water with me in a plastic water bottle in a drawstring backpack. That was the extent of my equipment or knowledge before I started running. I’m trying to expose some of novice “mistakes”, so hopefully you won’t have to make the same ones. 

My first learning experience came from my mileage tracking method. Turns out that driving the course of your approximate run  looking at the speedometer was not a good technique. I thought I had a 5k course and 10 mile course. Now, I know these estimations were off with my built in GPS watch.  I know that the corses I used are 1.8 miles , and 7 miles. I really wouldn’t pay attention to how long runs took me. These over estimations caused me to under train for my first marathon. There is a lot of good inexpensive sources for you to keep track of your runs, like map my fitness or strava. If you don’t own a smart phone you can even track it with map my fitness post run. Just make sure you note what time you leave and return from the run at. 

My second learning experience is use the porto-potties.  Most of you weren’t sponsored by Nike before you started the race and you didn't ruin your sponsorship by Nike now.  If you need to pee or 💩, please just go to the bathroom. The few added minutes won’t hurt your time. The extra minutes are not be as horrible as if you have an accident, trust me. Not to mention the added stress you are putting on your internal organs. Running a marathon is tough don't make it any harder by trying to avoid going to the restroom.

My third learning experience is eat and drink!!!! You want to eat a breakfast the morning before your race, even if it’s something small. You should have been eating breakfast preparing for the big day all along. So, you will know what works well on your stomach and what doesn't work well on our stomach. Please drink water and Gatorade on the course. Honestly my first marathon I was so afraid of needing to pee, I didn’t drink enough water. I usually get an ounce or so from every aid station. I always stop and walk through them. Not worth choke running to me. I strive to eat 100 calories at least every hour possibly even more. If you feel lost or confused about race day nutrition see a nutritionist, preferably one who specializes in marathons. My first marathon I felt “good” the first 8 miles so I didn’t eat any food; however that good feeling evaporates and then you have to try to play catch up which will usually result in poor performance. As part of your pre-race plan I would think about when you want to eat and the bring a long a few extra food items- in case your not having a good race and you end up staying out longer than you expected. Try out your food and drinks before race day, some peoples bodies handle different food item differently. Find what works best for your body. 

My forth learning experience is wear clothes you’ve worn before. The night before my first marathon my mother and I went shopping, we got a whole new outfit. I was worried about the weather so I completely overdressed. I thought buying a new outfit would help. I chafe very easily and didn't know if I would or wouldn't in this outfit. Not only did taking a shower sting and burn but I probably used about more energy trying to regulate my body temperature. So practice in your race day outfit before the race. 

My fifth piece of advice is go into your local running store. Even if your a broke college kid who can’t afford $150 training shoes.  You’ll get to meet some of the most kick ass experienced runners you’ll ever know. They tell you about local running clubs, put on free events, and know which races to avoid. Seriously learn to love your running community.  Other runners will give you lots and lots of free advice and encouragement. Plus you'll feel much better on race day if you see a few familiar faces. 

My last piece of advice is enjoy the race! At mile 20 you’ll probably think I’m crazy but honestly enjoy this moment. Once you cross the finish line your weeks of hard work is over. I suffered from a 3 hour window of post marathon blues before it was squashed by me signing up for a half marathon. If talking to another runner helps you out, DO IT! If blasting you headphones listen to lady gaga gets you through, DO IT! If you love getting high fives from the kids, DO IT! If there is pretzels, doughnuts, or other junk food at the aid stations and you feel like indulging, DO IT! Seriously, you earned every single moment so enjoy it! 

If your an experienced marathon feel free to leave the newbies some tips below in the comments section. If your newbie come back and let me know if any of this helped you out or at least got you thinking about your race day and training.

Happy running! 


Finisher medal and jacket pose

Finisher medal and jacket pose