Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Winner & First Marathon Advice–Mine and Yours

A reader, Monica, emailed me with this question:

“I just wanted to know if you had any advice for my first marathon in a week? I have run 2 half marathons but this will be my first full...”

Oh yeah, sister. I have some advice for you. Prepare to soil. Or is that just me?

First of all, you are ahead of the game. When I ran my first marathon in 2009, I hadn’t even run a half before. I had no time goal, no watch, goofy clothes, a mixture of random gels safety pinned to my shirt. No mantra, no pace band, no cute clothes, no clue – really – except that I did not want to pass out or die on the course. I didn’t.


I used the shorts as a tent later in the summer. And don’t even ask why I had that ribbon tied around my sleeve. Maybe I was trying to be in the “present.”

Here are some tips that work for me:

Days leading up to the race:

  • Limited or no dairy or fiber three days before the race unless you want to make a mess. Or is that just me? If you don’t tend to have GI issues when you run, then don’t sweat it, but I tried to follow this (from Dean’s book 50/50) for both fueling, rest and running:


  • Learn about course. There are so many unknowns about race day, so at least this is one thing you can know for certain - the one thing that will not change.   When checking out the course, I always visualize myself running the race strong, smiling and at my desired pace.  
  • Have a time goal? Make it known. I make my goals public. There were times when I really wished I hadn’t done this because I felt like if I didn’t get there, I’d be a failure. But in the end, I think it made me work harder
  • Sit on your ass. The week before the race I watched inspirational movies like “The Spirit of the Marathon” and “Race for the Soul.” These help get you motivated and in the right frame of mind.
  • Trust your training. You’ve put in your time. Don’t psyche yourself out.
  • Check and re-check the weather. Do not be ill-prepared. Go to Goodwill and buy a fancy outfit to throw away. Wash it well in hot water and Tide before wearing. Don’t buy underwear from Goodwill. This was my best throw away ever. I got very attached to it and almost couldn’t toss it:


Day of the race/during:

  • Wait on the tunes. If you are going to run with music, try waiting until the half way mark to put your buds in. This will give you something to look forward to and will give you a boost in the later miles.
  • Turn off auto pause. If you use a Garmin, be sure it’s not auto pause or your total time running will be off.
  • Have faith. Even when things fall apart, it doesn't mean everything's going to hell. Always have hope. NEVER lose sight of your goals. Keep the faith. If you don’t get them this time, try again. They’re yours for the taking.
  • Stop worrying about what other people think. Do what’s right for you. Have confidence. Run your own race.
  • Be kind to yourself. A time at the finish line is only hours and minutes. It doesn’t define you. You are not “good” because your time is “fast,” and you are not “bad” if you run at the back of the pack.
  • Expect highs and lows. This is one I think you learn from experience. Now when I run a marathon and I get frustrated, tired, etc. I know it will pass. I don’t get sucked in.
  • When the going gets tough:
    • Distract yourself with spectators, participants, and the scenery of the course. Think about your form. Tweak it a bit to take your mind off of pain.
    • Stop negative thoughts dead in their tracks and change them to positive affirmations.
    • Think about how proud family members and friends will be of you and your accomplishment.
  • Have your family/friends there in the later miles. Knowing you will see them will get you through some hard spots.
  • Hold your head up. When you cross the finish line, don’t look at your watch or you’ll miss your photo op. Here is a picture of Ken at the RnR Denver Half. Notice how he stops his watch, but looks up for the photo. I married him because he can multi task.


**How about you? What advice can you give Monica or the blog world about running your first marathon? You know you’ve got something up your sleeve.**

The winner of the Sporty Girl Jewelry Giveaway is 49/338 – Beth S.  Please email me at shutuprun@gmail.com. I don’t have any way of getting ahold of you!




  1. Start at a much slower pace than you ever can imagine - plenty of time later to use that saved energy to finish strong.

  2. Also, remember to have fun! If you're feeling drained, pump up the crowd or give high 5's to kids. It won't slow you down and you'll get more energy and excitement from it!

  3. Thanks so much for the tips...I have my first marathon in about a month and am getting anxious! These were great and helped remind me to just take in the whole experience :)

  4. Great post Beth - I'm running my first half in a few weeks and will definitely re-read this advice again!

  5. Great advice. After waiting in the port-a-potty line for 15 minutes at the MCM last year, I learned the benefits of no fiber/dairy before the race.

  6. i have never run a marathon and don't have any current plans to do so, but you lay this out so well that it almost makes me want to! almost...

    i love your advice about waiting on the music until later in the race. i would never have thought of that! but, i'm a person who's very motivated by music, so i'll definitely keep this in mind. thanks for sharing!!

  7. Its OKAY to walk - you will not get kicked off the course for doing so.

  8. These are some great tips... I may have to save this if I can ever get to a point of being able to run a marathon.

  9. I ran my first marathon last fall. Had an awesome experience. First and most important piece of advice...ENJOY IT..enjoy every last second of it..after months of training it goes by so fast.
    One piece of advice stuck with me through out. Plan your race then race your plan. We had it all planned out, what pace we wanted to run (we had pace bands on), when we were going to take energy gels (we wrote the mile points for taking gels on our hands in sharpie so that we knew when to take it before a water station).
    Another piece of good advice was to start with a pace group. It is very easy to go out too fast but the pacer stops you from doing that (we didn't run the whole thing with the pacer as they don't stop for water)
    Try running in your "outfit" a couple of times before the race so you know it works and if you are going to wear a pouch etc fill it up with gels adn whatever else you think you will need.
    We were almost advised not to waste any unnecessary energy...we just focused on running the whole way..no talking, no waving to the crowd etc (we were pretty focused on a particular finish time).
    Drink lots of water/fluid leading up to the race and during the early part of the race. I didn't drink enough during the first 20 and felt very thirsty and stopped for at least a minute at mile 21 to drink and drink.
    We also avoided dairy/wholewheat. Ate simple chicken/pasta type dishes all week, drank lots of water and rested as much as possible.
    Lay everything you need for the marathon out the night before. Know exactly how you will get to the start. If you are planning on meeting people at the end make sure you make meet up plans the day before..day off its hard to think! But most important of all....

  10. Great post, Beth. I will definitely re-read this before MCM in October!

  11. Seriously....all your advice and you forget about SMILE. Photogs are everywhere and the last thing you want to do is look at race pics and see that 'HOLY SH*T WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO' face. No, you want to see that bright smile so that your reflections are 'That wasn't so bad.'

    And for a first marathon don't worry about time. Use the race as a way to say you did it and then get your training program for the 2nd ready to go after some recovery time.

    When done DON'T race to the food tent. Stop look at the finish line and take it all in. Know that you did it. Know that you kicked that course's a** and fist pump and yell like Tiger on 18 at Augusta. You did it.

    Walk to the food tent and get some carbs/calories in, but don't hoard it all otherwise that GI issues can pop up late. 2 hours later eat everything in site as your body is ready to absorb the food now.

  12. great post with great tips with the touch of SUAR humor we have come to love!
    Thanks :)

  13. Even with the ribbon on your jersey, I still want to THANK YOU for doing Team in Training. I'm a coach and have been volunteering with them for 7+ years now and fundraising for my 5th event with the Team. :)

  14. The energy at the start can have you going out faster than you planned. Harness that energy to use later in the race instead. Enjoy the day!

  15. Great tips! Not specifically related to race day, but enjoy the journey! The race is like the final prize, but you need to enjoy the steps and training it takes to get there.

  16. take more fuel and electrolytes than you think you will need. Get a pouch like an ifitness or a SPIbelt to carry your fuel.

    Keeping your fuel up even when you don't feel like it do it anyways!! Very important. Its easy to crash but hard to come back so don't crash in the first place. Come up with a fuel plan and stick to it no matter what. I learned this from Beth and Mel (tall mom) and they are both Boston babes!

  17. Helpful advice?....I always suggest to newer runners to be careful during waterstops. It seems everyone wants to get to the first few tables, no matter if they have to cut directly across your path or, possibly, bump into you. The pavement is sometimes slippery, too. Just be cautious, especially if you plan to run through them.

  18. Encourage the other runners around you. It's motivating to motivate other people. Also, usually when you say "good luck" or "good job" to another runner, they usually say it back, which is very helpful.

  19. My advice is to just relax, no need to freak out or be overly nervous. If you've done all the training then the hardest part is behind you already!

    Beth, I like your outfit, you look cute in that picture!

  20. You already said it, but "Work the crowd, work the crowd, work the crowd!" Okay, this may only work for vain attention hogs like me, but I LOVE interacting with the people on the side of the road. It probably saps me of some time but it gives me SO much joy. For instance, if a sign says "Go Jeff!" I tell the people holding it, "Hey, I'm Jeff!" and I wind up with some weird looks AND some great cheering. I always, ALWAYS cheer on my fellow runners whether I'm passing them or they're passing me. I like to be "that crazy lady in the race" that people remember.

    Good luck to you first-timers!

  21. You pretty much nailed everything. I would stress the "this is just temporary" thing. Know that it is going to hurt. Know that there are going to be times when you really feel bad. But know that there will also be times when you feel really good, even after you hit the 20-mile mark. And just keep telling yourself, 'This is just a temporary feeling. It won't last forever. It will be over soon.'

  22. Great advice! I am getting so excited for my first half marathon even though it is in October

  23. Thank you so much for this. I'm running my first marathon on Sunday and am starting to freak out just a bit... this has been great advice. I'll have to come back and read more of the comments too after they've been posted.

  24. LUBE! It just makes everything better, doesn't it?

    And what Kovas said. I recommend using that Macmillan thing Kor whatever it's called) to determine a realistic pace. No matter how awesome you feel, rein that sucker in.

    And be prepared to feel really emotional several times during the race.

    Beth, I do believe that ribbon is holding the tank strap to your bra so that it doesn't slip down and annoy the hell out of you ;-)

  25. i recently found an interesting article about carb-loading for marathons...old advice but the calculator is pretty neat. http://health.msn.com/health-topics/how-marathon-runners-can-avoid-hitting-the-wall?gt1=31036

  26. Great post. I believe in taking it all in and enjoy all the spectors. Those spectors will give you so much energy if you just yell right back at them when they are cheering you on. They are your cheeleaders.

  27. For a first time marathoner, your great advice aside, I would add to that they need to remember it is just a race. It is simply putting one foot in front of the other. Quickly. Slowly. How ever. 26.2 miles is not a magical portal after which they will forever be changed. It's just one in a series of challenges that those who are corageous enough push themselves to experience. Respect the distance, experience the distance but don't fear the distance.

  28. Thanks so much for this post...I'm training for my first race ever (10K) in June, so these are awesome things to think about!

  29. You already covered it and others have echoed this but there will be some TOUGH parts mentally in the later miles. Have a mantra/song/person to think about that will help you get through those! Good luck, Monica!

  30. I'm less than 8 weeks away from my 1st marathon and your post just made me get teary - emotional much? Thanks for the post. I'll be sure to revisit it over the next 8 weeks!

  31. Best advice I can give - don't worry about the physical part of running your first marathon. This is what all the training was for. Know that it will hurt.
    The most difficult challenge is keeping your mind/thoughts in check. Best way to prepare and preserve your mind is to:
    - be prepared (lay everything out the night before, wake up on time, arrive a tad early, avoid potential unnecessary stress)
    - be well rested
    - pay attention to your fuel intake and hydration during the race
    - prepare a playlist ahead of time - pick songs that pump you up!
    - Remember that the race is just the icing on the cake... it's the REWARD for all of your grueling training. People will now be cheering for you as you run - take it all in, absorb all that positive energy, and use it to get you to the finish line. That's all you have to do. Don't worry about your time. Just finish, and soak it all in! It's an amazing accomplishment.

  32. My first marathon is this coming Sunday. Just got an email with my bib number, guess this thing is really happening! Thanks Beth and everyone else for their comments.

  33. Drink before you get thirsty
    don't over dress it is ok to be cold for the first couple of miles..
    no new clothes on race day.
    porta potty: they are gross but use them before the start, once you are done go at the end of the line and repeat.
    cut your toe nails a few days before not the day before
    try the fuel you will use before the race on a long run

  34. These are great, thanks to everyone for the awesome info! I especially loved Caroline's advice on the porta potty: "once you are done go at the end of the line and repeat." lol!
    Also nice to see there are some other SUAR followers doing the MCM this fall.. it will be my first marathon, and now I have some more great tips to get prepared!

  35. Excellent compilation of advice!!

    I made the mistake once of cutting back on water race morming so I wouldn't have to pee... yeahhh, that didn't turn out so well! Pretty sure I lost more time due to dehydration than I would have with a potty stop!

  36. Thank you all for your advice and thank you for setting up this blog for everyone to offer their advice. I am trying not to let myself get to anxious or nervous for the run. We'll see how it goes, really appreciate all the input. :) Monica

  37. - Start slow! I'm going to have to take my own advice on Sunday since I didn't in October... It is really easy to get caught up in the excitement. Remember, though, unless you're in it to win it you don't need to be keeping up with the leaders.
    - If you take walk breaks make sure you let other runners know. There's nothing worse than having someone stop dead in front of you. Put up your hand, shoulder check, move to the side, etc. I take breaks and, aside from not wanting to be cursed out, I don't want to be run over.
    - Have fun! I had a blast at my first marathon even though it was not the race I wanted. Wouldn't trade it for the world. :)

  38. Running my first marathon on Sunday ! Thanks for all the great advice ! Here's something I'm going to try - I'm having all my friends and family (who can't make it to the race) write a little note of encouragement or whatever to me. I will pull them out one at a time as needed along the way.

  39. I am also running my first marathon this year. I've talked to just about every marathon runner in Utah and they all say the same thing. Thanks for confirming this Beth.

  40. I have a half in June (my third) and I'm still desperate for advice!!!

    My advice to Monica? Just. Keep. Going!!!
    You've already succeeded, so just run the race and be done with it.

  41. great advice! I'm running my first marathon in october! :)

  42. thanks for the advice - especially the no fiber one! i guess i should have put two and two together there, but i hadn't, lol. good luck to everyone else on their races this weekend and in the future!

  43. Love the post ... but I have to say that after running my first marathon having a time was my worst decision! I was so afraid of disappointing people because I had made my goal time so public, that I wasted lots of energy worrying the morning of the race! Truth for me was that even though I had trained properly and had run three half marathons, I had no idea how my body would react to 26.2 miles. For me, the "first" of any race is about getting to the start line! (But that's just me! I know plenty of people for whom the public pressure of a time goal works!)

  44. GREAT POST. My first marathon is this Saturday in Nashville . . .same, two 1/2 marathons last year, and this is my first full. I know that while this is my first marathon, I hope it won't be my last-- I am a completely changed person because of running. I think of "doing" a marathon as a weird way to honor that . . .however, I'm not that noble-I'm going to be decked out in a green sparkle skirt to keep my motivation high!

  45. Thanks for this post! Such great tips. I am running my first marathon in October and will save this to read over and over during my training.

  46. This is such an informative post Beth! I am book marking it as Marathon #2 is coming up and I too dove right into a marathon #1 without even having run a half! Ignorance is bliss...er, maybe not.

    Thanks for the tips!!

  47. Always remember to thank the volunteers!

  48. My 2 year old just saw your picture on the Sporty Girl blog and started yelling, "Look at that pretty girl." Then she yelled, "I need ten dollars!"

  49. I know everyone once in a while you check in on my 14 yr old daughter's PRs. She was reading the Jack Daniel's book tonight and was SO SAD to learn that he does NOT believe in secret victory socks. She thought for sure the silly socks she wore in the hours leading up to a track meet (which are totally against the school uniform) helped make her faster.
    Like Dumbo and the magic feather...

  50. This was such a helpful post! I'll be running my first marathon in November and will be checking back here regularly before then!

  51. Great advice, and a huge congrats on you success.

  52. Best advice I received before I ran my first marathon: ENJOY IT!!! You're not going to win. This really put everything into perspective for me.

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