Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What I learned From My First Marathon

As taper time is approaching for fall marathons, I have found myself getting asked tons of questions from marathon virgins.

First off, I am overly flattered that people ask me advice for marathons. I still have a hard time handling the fact that I am a marathoner. To be able to give advice on the beast is a huge thing! 

After my first full marathon.

My first marathon was nothing short of picture perfect until around mile 21. Then the injury flared up and the mental aspect showed its ugly face. 

True story, I yelled at a relay runner for walking when she had just started and I had been running for hours. That was about my 23ish. Then I was given beer and candy and knew it would all be alright. 

I decided to compile a few of my experiences with my first marathon and share them with you all. Like always, I'm honest about this stuff. I'm sure some of the things I will say is something you could never find in a book! 

First things first, if this is your first marathon your only goal should be to finish. Do not stress yourself out by having a time goal. I wanted a sub-4 marathon so bad my first time out. Even getting as far as a sub-2 half! By mile 20 I saw my goal slipping away and by 24 I knew it was gone. I could barely celebrate what I just did. NEVER AGAIN!  Finish your first then set a time goal.

Next, believe in your training. Most marathon training plans are 16-20 weeks long. Through those weeks you have been through it all physically, mentally and emotionally. You will need all three of those things to get through the race. Remember, marathons are 90% mental.

While you might be so insanely nervous in the corral, try to eat something. I usually keep dry cereal with me for the start. You are going to be running for a few hours, you are going to need some food! I'm not a big banana or orange person, so I usually carry crackers with me for during the race as well.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Review the course, drive it if you can! A lot of races have video tours of the course, WATCH IT! Know what you are getting in to, besides the number of miles you are doing. Remember different landmarks and other things along the way to make the race seem more manageable.

DO NOT BE AFRAID TO WALK! Now I know this sounds crazy, but some people think that you need to run an entire marathon to say that you did it. (Oooo oooo pick me!! I'm pointing at myself!!) Even though I was in the worst pain I have ever felt, I still could not imagine walking. It wasn't until I got the beer and the candy towards the end of the race that I actually walked, you know so I wouldn't spill the beer. WALK IF YOU MUST! Don't feel defeated. Take a walk break for a little and continue on your journey! 

The last piece of advice I can give you, and I wish someone would have told me this, take it all in. You only have one chance to do something for the first time. Give little kids high fives! Laugh at signs, Thank volunteers and do some sightseeing. Let your emotions carry you through those miles. You will be getting a PR that day no matter what, enjoy the ride!

I promise, it will be ugly and when you are finished you will never want to do it again, but it will be so worth it. No one will ever be able to take away from you the fact that you have completed a marathon!

What did you learn the hard way from your first marathon? If you are running your first, what is your biggest fear?


  1. Great post! I think a lot of these apply to people running their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. marathons as well! I know I tend to get so focused on my time goal that I forget to take it all in and enjoy the experience, and what is the fun in that?! Thanks for the good reminders - newbie or not!

  2. Love this!
    I learned SO much the hard way during my first full. Pretty much everything they tell you NOT to do...I did. Even worse, was that I KNEW not to do them and I did it anyway....Didn't eat enough in the day(s) leading up to the race, started out waaaay too fast, tried to force myself to drink water/Gatorade when I didn't need it. I was a mess.
    I'm excited to give it another shot - hopefully I'll get it right next time :-)

  3. I was with Team in Training for my marathons and they made sure I was smart about race day. I did, however, learn that mid-race port-a-portie lines can get REALLY long and the people who have to use them are ANGRY about it. I did not have to use them, but the lines around mile 7 were SO long they basically cut ACROSS the path of the marathon course (which was on a freeway at that point, so that's saying something). Runners had to either go AROUND the lines or try to cut through where there were gaps. I tried that. Mistake. A lady yelled at me for running through her potty line. Like the 10,000 people behind her trying to run a marathon were not nearly as important as her spot in line. Hee hee. :-O

  4. Steffany, these are such great suggestions; thank you so much for sharing your personal experience. I don't even know what I'm most worried about; I guess finishing. You know, I trained for so long and felt so good in March and then when I was not able to finish, due to weather, I felt really discouraged. Now that I'm having this hamstring issue, I feel like I missed an opportunity; nevertheless, I'm going to give it my best! Crackers are SUCH a great idea - I have never thought of that before, but I think I would love it! Thanks again!

  5. Great ideas. I learned that fueling right during the marathon was important.

  6. What a great list. I completely agree that the goal of the first marathon should be to finish. I think that will be my primary goal for my second marathon!

  7. This is great advice! I am planning to run my first half in the spring so I've definitely got this bookmarked!

  8. Steffany Smith RubelSeptember 25, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    Yay! You will enjoy it! Just remember to run your own race!

  9. Steffany Smith RubelSeptember 25, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    I couldn't believe my reaction when I finished my first. Not proud that I did it, but upset that the time goal slipped away. Never again!

  10. Steffany Smith RubelSeptember 25, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    So important! I carry a water bottle now for that reason!

  11. Steffany Smith RubelSeptember 25, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    You are going to do great! Little munchies make me feel better!

  12. Steffany Smith RubelSeptember 25, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    I usually don't stop for potty break during the race but that is an awesome tip! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Steffany Smith RubelSeptember 25, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Live and learn, right? I think I was overconfident in my second and was thrilled to have finished!

  14. Steffany Smith RubelSeptember 25, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    Of course! After two marathons, I'm ready to just enjoy the ride this time!