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26.2 Running Tips I Learned While Training for My First Marathon

Posted Oct 09 2012 12:49pm
Thank You to my Nike Pegasus 28's for sticking with me all 26.2! 
This is my attempt to re-live Sunday for the 27th time in 72 hours. Attention-freak, I know. 

The good news? I'm not attempting to impart wisdom because that would mean I actually know what I'm talking about... I'm just here to share my experience. 26.2 experiences to be precise: 

1. Weather
Prepare for ANY type of weather. You can control your training. You can't control the weather. You should have race gear that is long-run tested and approved for 30-90 degree weather. I had 60-90 degree race gear but I forgot about the 30-50 range. Luckily for me I'm a hot-runner (not hot-sexy, more like hot-gross dripping with sweat) so I was able to tough it out. 

2. Plan Locations With Your Fans!
If you have people supporting you during your race make sure to communicate locations ahead of time. I knew my awesome crew was going to be at Mile 1 and Mile 3 but we didn't plan after that due to the big city traffic. I was fortunate enough to see them four times during my marathon and I call that a MAJOR WIN!! Thanks to them, my pace picked up over 50 seconds per mile each time I spotted their smiling faces and hands-a-waving... they fueled me, no doubt. 

3. Get to the Start Line Early
If it's your first marathon, get to the start line early. And I mean early, like 1 1/2 to 2 hours early, if possible. Especially for larger races. Why? So you have plenty of time to sit and wait. Haha, just kidding. 

The real reason is so you are in control of your destiny. It's okay to be a bit of a control-freak marathon morning. Find the potties, find your corral (for a big race like Chicago), find a clock to give you the accurate time, and find a place to rest. You'll be up early anyway with all your excitement... use that time wisely and prevent a "chicken with your head cut off mad dash to the start line" moment. You're already running 26.2 miles, do you really want to run more?  I didn't think so.
The Point of No Return!
4. Throw-Away Clothes If there's a potential of cold temps race morning buy throw-away clothes ahead of time. I bought a jacket and a zip-up hoodie. Both were ditched right before the gun went off, both were easy to remove, and both helped me keep warm. I also had tear-away pants (sexy, I know) that were easy to remove before the race began. Buy mittens or throw-away gloves for your hands as well.
If you're wearing a sleeveless shirt and you want some warmth for your arms but don't want to spend money on arm sleeves, buy knee-high socks (got mine from Target, $2). Cut a hole for your fingers and one for your thumb and tada, arm warmers! You can even cut a hole for your Garmin, or whatever watch you use. Great idea, thanks to Angela, my marathoner friend!!
See those Black Socks on my arms, that Grey Headband and the Neon Yellow one underneath? All donated as I threw them away after mile 25
(Duh, I could've kept them. I wasn't quite thinking straight at this point.)
5. Marathon Karma: Meet People I believe in karma. I believe in being kinder than necessary. Yesterday I smiled at everyone, I talked to people, I asked them about their journey. It helped me get out of my insane-asylum head. Always a bonus. 
Me at the Expo, SMILING! 
6. Suggestion Only: Start at the Back of Your Corral Up until this race I've always started in front. Maybe because I have a super-fast boyfriend that deserves to start in front and I don't want to be left behind. But, inevitably I get passed and passed hardcore by all the faster runners behind me when I pull such a stunt. This not only deflates my racing balloon but it puts me in the direct path of faster runners... which leaves me feeling like a schmuck for being in their way. Avoid being THAT runner.
7. GO SLOW! Don't be fooled, this is not a 5K. Well, unless it is a 5K and it that case run faster than you think you can run in the first 5 minutes, then slow down to your race pace. It's proven... somewhere, I promise. If this is a marathon, however, let people pass you in the beginning... you will pass them when it counts. I wanted to negative split yesterday and I did. But only because I started slower than I wanted to. Which brings me to my race mantra... have one!
8. Find a Marathon Mantra My Marathon Mantra is: Run the first half slower than you want and run the second half faster than you want. I'm very proud of my overall time but more proud of my negative split (when you run the last half of the marathon faster than the first). It's hard to do... I saw a spectator sign that read, "The real work begins after 13.1" and how right they were. 
9. Nutrition Eat and drink what you ate and drank during training. No exceptions. Don't be trying new things in the middle of your 26.2. With that being said, I did alternate water and gatorade at the aid stations. I had never drank gatorade on my long runs but I will from now on. Luckily for me it was a pleasant new experience. BUT I DON'T RECOMMEND IT! Find out what your race is providing for nutrition and either train with that or haul your own. 
10. Trust Your Training If you followed your program you are ready. If you skipped a few runs due to sickness and/or laziness (I wouldn't do such a thing, ever!!! Totally joking) it's not going to jeopardize your race... focus on what you did accomplish. The training is MUCH harder than the race itself. 
11. Smile I can't just list it once. It's true. The smile makes the difference. You've trained a LONG time for this moment. Enjoy it. Enjoy the good, enjoy the bad. Just keep smiling!
Me in the middle... SMILING at Mile 25!
12. Chicago Specific: Don't Be Distracted Before you even get to mile 1 you will run through the tunnel. You'll hear people WHOOPING it up, feel free to WHOOP yourself! But, don't be distracted by the scads of men running to the sides. They're peeing. Gross and annoying but I'm only grossed out and annoyed because I can't do the same thing. Just keep running and smile. 
13. Aid Stations: Proceed with Caution & How to Drink and Run Proceed with Caution: There's a lot of water, a lot of gatorade, a lot of gu, a lot of cups, and a lot of people. This combo is scary if you're not careful. I had a little slip in one of the first aid stations because I was hauling-ass and not watching where I was running. Shorten your stride and be alert. 

How to Drink & Run: No, not alcohol. Sorry, I'm talking about water and gatorade. There's a technique and then there's me. I finally figured it out after the 6th aid station. Grab the cup, pinch the sides together so it's easier to control the liquid, pour some of it out (they're usually filled too full) open your mouth as wide a possible, close your eyes, and take a big gulp. Close your eyes? Yes, unless you want gatorade to splash up into one causing temporary blindness... I mean, I can only assume that could potentially happen. Oh wait, it did. 

13.1! Don't Be a Bully Because I have Celiac Disease my stomach is beyond sensitive. I also can't handle caffeine so I'm left with one choice; carry my nutrition with me during the race or starve.
See my ammo? Don't I look tough?! :)
This being my first marathon, I didn't know exactly how many gu's I would need and I didn't want to risk running out. Unfortunately, a couple guys decided it would be really hilarious to make fun of me behind my back, literally. 
NEWS FLASH: When you're talking about someone and you're directly behind them, THEY CAN HEAR YOU. 

They made some extremely rude and condescending remarks about me that almost made me cry during the race. I was really hurt but kept my big mouth shut. Aren't you proud of me?

Instead I turned my ammo around to the front so my bib would hide it and thought, "Anger is a gift, Mother Truckers!" Okay, so maybe I didn't use the word "Truckers" in my head but you catch my drift. Although they were faster than me, they weren't better. I walked away from that race not thinking or saying a bad thing about a single person... they didn't. Bullies suck, don't be one. 
14. Use Your Words As a new runner it's easy to forget about other runners. Make sure you look before you veer away from the path you're currently running in... this is a race not a WWE Smackdown. It's also considerate to inform your fellow marathoners that you're walking or stopping by using your words and your vocal cords. 
15. Run the Tangents. The what? That was a new word I learned when training for my marathon. It simply means, run as close to the inside of the turn as you can. If you run on the outside of every corner you're adding precious distance to your run... aaaand I'm guessing most of you aren't going for the, "I ran more than 26.2 miles in a marathon" achievement. 
16. Compliment Other Runners Do you like their shoes, do they have your top, do you want their legs? Well, compliment them already! You'll make them feel great... and the residual benefits from a compliment will carry both for the next few minutes of the race. It's a bonus for all involved!
17. Thank YOUR Volunteers! They wake up just as early, or earlier, than you. They spend all day smiling at you, cheering for you, congratulating you, and helping you with any and all your needs... the least you can do is smile back and thank them. Hugs work too :) 
18. When it Gets Tough, and IT WILL! Remember your mantra, race stationary objects, and run faster. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. I was hurting in miles 23 and 24. Instead of slowing I picked a street light and increased my pace till I reached said street light. I did this at least 5-6 times in the second half of the race. It was always a very short distance but it gave my legs and mind renewed energy... weird, but true.
Starting to cry at Mile 26!
19. Smile for the Camera There are photographers out there just waiting for the perfect picture. Give it to them, SMILE!! See, there's that word again :) 
20. Be Inspired Read the signs, watch other runners, listen to the crowd. Chicago is a great first marathon because it has all this and so much more. I read one sign that said, "Be Noble." It still gives me goosebumps as I lie on my couch achy and sore today. I also read a sign at Mile 2 that said, "The end is NOT near!" and that will forever bring a smile to my face. 
21. Chicago Specific: It's Not Over Till THE HILL! Don't think you're done when you see 800M to go. Those 800M are not flat... you're about to approach THE HILL. Ugh, it's not a fun one and it's really the only one that will getcha on the course. Just know that right over that hill is a left turn to the finisher's chute and it's a slight down hill from there. Don't be a baby; you're almost done!!
Is it acceptable to sleep with your medal?
22. Stretch You've finished and you're officially a MARATHONER! And all of a sudden Mile 27 hits you like a semi going 95 mph. You all know I'm a Yoga Instructor... after 26.2 miles I finally knew what not being able to bend over and touch your knees feels like. To release your lower back, bend your knees and hinge forward from your hips. My lower back screamed, "HALLELUJAH!" when I did this. It's what kept me walking to the Reunite Area, which was located only another 26.2 miles from the finish. 
23. Bring a Change of Clothes You're going to be sweaty and stinky... do yourself and everyone around you a favor and change your clothes straightaway. If it's a cold day I recommend as many layers as possible and a fleece blanket as well. 
Changed my clothes and walked out of the Port-O-Pot to see my mom! Best moment!
24. Share Your Accomplishment and SAY THANK YOU! This is the easy part for some... not so easy for others. Be sure you let your family and friends know how you did. Let them be proud of you and be proud of yourself. You will never run your first race be it a marathon or 5K again so relish the moment. Be excited, be grateful, be humble... And don't forget to SAY THANK YOU to all the people who supported you, cheered you, and believed in you!!  Thank you, Mom!
Thank you, Dad!
Thank you, Brett!
Thank you, Mom & Dad Fenner!
25. Buy Finisher Gear If it's a big race, like the Chicago Marathon, there's gear that says "FINISHER" and I highly recommend purchasing at least a shirt. I'm wearing mine as I type... this is a big, huge, brilliant accomplishment and shirts are fun. 
26. Take the Next Day OFF (after a marathon) Don't be a superhero and attempt to work the next day. Instead, take the day off and rest, eat, smile, chat with friends, nap, watch TV (what's that?), and be happy knowing you just became a marathoner!
26.2! Plan Your Next Race :D
Maybe this was a cross-off-the-bucket-list day or maybe this was a beginning to a new lifestyle. Either way, plan your next race. If you had the sheer guts and determination to train forever for this day you definitely owe it to yourself to at least sign up for another 5K in the upcoming months. But make sure you rest for however long your body needs (it doesn't need a year, sorry!) before taking on another running challenge. 
My Upcoming Races: Gilda's Run 5K with my Mom (Run/Walk): October 27, 2012 Ft. Lauderdale Half Marathon: February 17, 2013 Berlin Marathon (AHHHHH!): September 28/29, 2013
Wanna Share?  What are some of your "lessons learned" in races... whether you're a 5K'er a Half Marathoner a Marathoner or an Ultra-Runner?

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