3. Get to the Start Line Early
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.
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!!
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!
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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?