Wednesday, July 22, 2015

19 Things That Should Happen Before and During Your Next Marathon or Half Marathon

When I did my first real race (Rock ‘n Roll Arizona in 2009 – my first post EVER!) I had no clue what to expect or what to do. One of my favorite memories is that I wanted to carry gels, and thought it would be a good idea to safety pin them all over my Team in Training singlet. I don’t recommend that strategy, but it’s kind of cute to look back on (for more stuff that I expected that was not reality whatsoever, go read my article over at RunHaven). I also did not have/wear a Garmin and had no clue about time. Kind of nice, really.


And those are just the ones in the front

Below are a few things that I wish I had known going into my first longer distance race.

1. Don’t get stressed because you haven’t peed for the 8th time before the gun goes off.

2. Take off your hat when the National Anthem is played.

3. Fall apart multiple times during the race and then pull your shit together (self talk, mantras help with this).

4. Set up a meeting place with your family/friends way ahead of time. The last thing you want to be doing is walking around on tired legs looking for them for 2 hours.

5. Cut down on high fat, high fiber foot in the couple days before the race. This will guard against crapping your pants – my specialty.

6. Check out the race course making notes of where the hills, aid stations, etc. are.  Surprises are great for birthday parties and engagements, but not so fun at races.

7. Thank the volunteers.

8. Have a strategy/goal. Even if it is simply to finish. A, B,C goals are good too (A goal = dream time. B goal = realistic time you’d be happy with. C goal = to finish).

9. Don’t pin your gels to your body. Use pockets, your sport’s bra, a SpiBelt whatever. Pinning is inefficient and hurts you when you stab yourself in the nipple.

10. Bring throw-away warm up clothes for the start. For my first marathon in Phoenix it was under 40 degrees and I stood at the start freezing my ass off for at least 1.5 hours. I could have spent $5 at Goodwill and avoided that altogether.


You can actually find some steals. Check out this sweet outfit
I wore before the Colorado Marathon. Almost couldn’t part with it.

12. Pay attention to chafing areas during training and lube the hell out of those parts. Balls and boobs included.

13. Don’t over-accessorize. Carry only what you need and use stuff at the aid stations (which means do your research and train with it too).  And,  you don’t need to wear a crap load of makeup. This is race not a red carpet.

14. Read the signs because you will laugh and forget about your pain for a second.


15. Trust your training. Don’t get all freaked out the night before. There’s there’s nothing you can do about it anyway. However, if you haven’t put in your training time you are screwed and I hope you learned your lesson.

16. Even in a hurry, lock the porta potty door. I failed to do this once at the Boston Marathon and gave someone quite a peep show. He was pretty turned on, I think.

17. Everyone will tell you to smile and have fun. At some points this is nearly impossible. You will be in a bad mood, tired, sweaty, stinky and ready to be done. So, if for a bit you DON’T have fun and DON’T smile, so be it.

18. Don’t look at your watch when crossing the finish line or your race photos will suck. Look up, smile and relish in your accomplishment

19. Then put a freaking sticker on your car.

Any other tips for before or during your first full or half marathon?

What’s a “newbie” thing you did during your first race?



  1. If it's someone's first-ever big race, I tell them to enjoy the race itself and not to get too focused on all the details on their watch (pace,splits, etc.). It may very well be a once-and-done gig for them, why not enjoy the scenery? If they enjoy their first race, they are more likely to do another....and then they can decide if they want to "race" it because they'll have something to compare it to. #myopinion

  2. When I was in the corral for my first marathon a more experienced runner told me to double knot my shoe laces. It wasn't a suggestion, it was a command. She said it is too hard to tie your laces later in the race when your legs are tired. I obeyed and had no shoe trouble.

  3. Great tips. On point as always.

  4. I'm doing my first marathon in the fall and I love these comments! The longer my training runs, the more I realize that I am going to to have to re-evaluate my time expectations. I am pretty excited and I love the idea of throw away clothes.

  5. I don't remember my first race--it was that long ago, but my first marathon was a painful experience. Everyone told me not to have a goal time, but I did, and it came and went. Finishing is winning.

  6. I'm guilty of #18 every. single. time. My race photos suck regardless and I never buy them, so I feel it's not much of a loss.

  7. Figure out what to do in the dead areas of big marathons. The crowd can pump you up and then you hit a five mile patch with not a soul. I usually go into a marathon shuffle and start singing out loud. Its probably annoying but it gets me through.

  8. No new stuff on race day! Don't wear a brand new outfit you've never tested out for 13.1 or 26.2 miles...potential recipe for disaster!

  9. I am planning on doing my first half this year and my first trail run next month. The trail run is a 15k and will be my longest distance to date. I know you mentioned a SpiBelt but do you have any suggestions for a belt that holds water bottles? I live in South Texas and I know the heat is going to play a large factor in my trail run.

    1. I wear the Orange Mud pack on the trails. Love it.

    2. my other half wear this too cause if u...and loves it!! thnx :)

  10. For our first race, my friend and I wore cotton shorts, sweat shirts and trail running shoes we'd had for years. No one ever mentioned anything to us about moistur-wicking fabric and getting properly fitted for shoes! We finished chafed and with very sore feet... but we learned our lesson!

    Best piece of newbie advice: For your first race at a new distance, your goal is to finish upright, under your own power, within the time allowed. Anything past that is just style points. :-)

  11. Great tips, as always. And YES, thank those volunteers! And the next time you're injured and DNS, see if you can volunteer because it's a great way to see a race. Unless it's 100 degrees or raining.

    I've only been reading your blog since 2012, so I had to go back and read your first post EVER! The anonymous comments were awesome :)

  12. Love everything and such good advice to have multiple goals. I'm running my first marathon in the Fall and I'd like to shoot for a sub-4 as my A goal, my B or C goal will definitely be to just FINISH!

  13. The newbie thing - my first marathon was in Hartford, Connecticut, October 11, 2003. I had a neat little plastic baggie with candy corn and mallow creme pumpkins. At the end of each mile, I would get a candy corn, every 5 miles was a pumpkin. By the time mile 3 came around, the baggie contained one melted, sticky lump of sugar. There goes that mileage reward program.

    1. Hahaha!! Well it WAS a brilliant idea. Until it all melted.

  14. Mae sure that you are not pregnant when you run your first half-marathon. Recovering time can be longer than expected. I had no idea I was pregnant when I did my first half. The race was great and I managed to reach my goal to be under two hours (1:58;52). But afterwards I had nooooo energy left. It took me nearly another month until the thought crossed my mind I might be pregnant.

  15. Great tips!! My biggest would be: DON'T GO OUT TOO FAST. Especially in a marathon, that first half should feel easy. I still make this mistake and always regret it when I do.
    Also, if a volunteer hands you some gel on a popsicle stick -- it's Vaseline. For the love of all things holy, don't put it in your mouth.

  16. Trim your toenails with great care several days before. Use a nail file to make sure they are smooth everywhere.
    Learn what nutrition works for you over the distance. Do not try anything new, unless it's so bad already it can't possibly get worse. Some of you are thinking Beth is joking about how worse, the worse can get.

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  18. My first race was in 1978- Bonne Bell 10k in Phoenix-an all women's event. I jumped right in to a marathon that fall-upped my mileage too soon and my knees paid for it! Still running thanks to strength training and cycling and KT tape! ha!

  19. Very vital information. I think we all marathon performer should keep those in mind for getting good result. As a runner I always try to follow that and hope that I will able to always maintain those rules. Thanks

  20. You mentioned don't overaccessorize, I'll add to that, Don't Pack Too Much Hydration and Food/Gels... I've seen some people at races with a Camelback, a Fuel Belt, what appears to be a dozen gel packs, a couple bars, you name it. With hydration stations every couple miles throughout the course, save yourself from unneeded bulk and weight and use the stations! That's why they're there.


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