First marathon advice (from experienced marathoners)

Training for your first marathon is a big undertaking; I know, I’m doing it now. I’ve asked some of my friends with a marathon or two (or five) under their belts to share wisdom borne from past experience. Here’s what I learned:

TRAINING

Nutrition

“SALT SALT SALT. I can’t emphasize this enough. I literally ate salt packets when it was really hot. Each time you do a water break have a salt break also. I found that JUST drinking Gatorade didn’t cut it.” -Steph G, 3-time marathoner

“Gatorade is key on any run longer than 12 miles.” -Aman S, marathoner

“Though one should keep to a nutrition plan that they’ve set for themselves and not change too much (and practice it on your 20 milers!!!) I did find eating the bananas given out on the course really helpful! they don’t upset your stomach and you can eat them easily while running.” – Camilla G, 2-time marathoner

Marine Corps Marathon 2013

Karen V after the Marine Corps marathon 2013

“Practice what you will eat and drink during training. That includes the night before a long run. ” – Blake E, marathoner

“If you don’t know how you will fuel yourself during long runs, try different things early on.  By the time you get to 16-20 mile runs, you should know what works for you, what doesn’t, and what will make you poop your pants.” -Matt S, marathoner (read his full marathon story here)

matt NYC 2015

Matt running the NYC marathon in 2015

Gear

“Don’t penny pinch on gear.  New water belt? Yup. Gel packs? Yup. Special socks? Yup. Training is hard enough; get the gear that you want because it actually does make a big difference and comfort is KEY.” – Karen V, marathoner

“Splurge for the Spotify premium.  Totally worth it!” – Matt S, marathoner

Camilla NYC Marathon

Camilla G  during the 2014 NYC marathon

Getting started

“The first month is the hardest. Your legs are getting strong, and it’s HARD to start running so far.  There will come a time (at least there did for me), when something clicked.  The runs were still hard, but my body felt strong.  Just know it’s gonna get better. And then worse, and then better, and then you have to run a marathon.” – Matt S, marathoner

Long Runs

“Run three 20 + milers before the big day. Yes, there are plans out there with only one (you probably know people who did only one) but your body doesn’t learn how to convert energy properly unless you do a few. Don’t be afraid to walk part of them (this past summer I had to walk a bit for all of my long runs because of the heat but still crushed the marathon). You will feel better the day of, recover better after the marathon, and overall enjoy it more.” -Steph G, 3-time marathoner

“No matter what the training guides say, run at least two 20-mile training runs. You will have a more pleasant marathon experience.” – Aman S, marathoner

Aman 2015 NYC marathon

Aman S during the 2015 NYC marathon

How to train

“I would do more strength training [than I did the first time]. Lift weights on shorter run days (or run a tiny bit less and do more barre classes). “ – Katy S, marathoner

“Don’t JUST run. Any time I ran a marathon (and I’ve done 3) I ran 3-4 times a week, strength trained 1-2 and did other activities (swim/bike/elliptical). If you ONLY run you will injure yourself. Plus its REALLY boring.” -Steph G, 3-time marathoner

“Do at least one long run starting at the start time that you’ll be starting at.  Mostly I ran early, but then come race day you run through lunch, which was a bit tough for me. ” – Jon S, marathoner

“If possible, try to combine runs with your commute.  This really helped me as the mid-week mileage got up to the 6/7 mile range because it was hard to find ANOTHER hour-hour and a half to run. What I would do is bring my clothes for work the day before, then run to work (adding on whatever I needed to) and shower at the office. Great time saver. ” – Karen V, marathoner

“Do not stress about missing a run here and there. It’s going to happen. Either you have other plans or you’re tired or you’re sore. Whatever it is. Do not squeeze that run in and do not stress about it. Over 4 months of training, a few missed runs will not matter. I wish I could have kept my cool on this. ” – Blake E, marathoner

“Runs on tired legs. Consider a shorter run on the day after a long run.” – Jon S, marathoner

 

Katy NYC marathon 2015

Katy S. during NYC marathon 2015

Recovery

“Give yourself 3 full weeks to taper.” – Steph G, 3-time marathoner

“Foam roll every damn day. I didn’t do this for my first marathon and found myself with 13 + miles of IT & knee pain on the day of (and weeks prior).” – Camilla G, 2-time marathoner

 

RACE DAY

Race morning

“Have a plan for the wait before you run. It can be a loooong time, hours of pins and needles anticipation. It’s a mental battle to stay focused but not wear yourself out.” – Timmy O, marathoner

“PEE before and make sure it’s ALL out. I had to pee miles 1-16.” -Katy S, marathoner

No new clothes

“Get yourself a marathon outfit but make sure to run once in it. Don’t wear new shoes on the day of the marathon without having done a long run in them.” – Steph G, 3-time marathoner

“No new clothes on marathon day.”- Aman S, marathoner (Bloody nipple photos omitted)

steph chicago 2016

Steph G. during the Chicago marathon 2016

The actual race

“My #1 piece of advice is to stick to your race plan even though some random voice in your head is screaming to try something new. It is the marathon after all.” – Timmy O, marathoner

“Don’t high five that many people, it gets exhausting.  You need that energy later on. ” – Jon S, marathoner

Expectations

 “You will run your first marathon slower than you probably could of because you will be nervous about finishing and that’s ok.” – Aman S, marathoner

“In general, I would try to let go of time expectations if you can at all. On race day, it really won’t matter to you (at least for your first marathon).” – Katy S, marathoner

“Get to the starting line healthy. You have many more marathons ahead of you to train for speed or a certain time, and it’s not worth risking injury for your first one. Enjoy the experience!” -Dori G, 5-time marathoner

Jon NYC marathon

Jon S, during the NYC marathon 2015

THE NEXT DAY

“Take a day off of work after the race, you earned it!” – Jonathan M, 2-time marathoner

“It’s very painful to squat to go to the bathroom a day or two after the race :)” Jonathan M, 2-time marathoner

 

post-race

post NYC marathon 2015

 

Have you run a marathon?  Got advice for a first-timer? Please share it in the comments!

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