was successfully added to your cart.

Eleven Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Ran My First Marathon

You would think that after running since seventh grade, including Division I Track and Field in college that I would know what to expect when I decided to run my first marathon at the ripe age of 30. Well, I was wrong. Full disclosure, I did not do my due diligence in preparation. I had the “how hard can it really be” attitude, which I still find all-too-common in folks who attempt to run their first marathon without proper training. So please learn something from my mistakes and read on.


  1. The training is truly the hardest part.  Folks, 26.2 miles is a big deal! Most people cannot show up without proper training and finish without injury. Long runs are an absolute must. Take your training seriously and follow a program. The long runs you did are/will be the hardest part. The actual race is much more fun. You will be exhilarated and energized by the sights, smells and sounds of the actual race day.
  2. Take care of those feet. This was a biggie for me. I had no idea how much my feet would swell up throughout the race. It’s a lot of work for those pair! Make sure you have a little room for growth in your shoes so your toes aren’t cramming up against your shoes and you lose eight out of ten toenails like I did. And toenails take a long time to grow back fully!
  3. Chaffing is for real! Regardless of your body type, body parts and skin rub together when you run. If you’re running 26.2 miles, body parts and skin rub together a lot! Do yourself a favor and buy some anti-chaffing rub and get acquainted before the big day.
  4. Practice race fueling and hydration. It’s amazing how dehydration and lack of adequate calories can affect your race: fatigue, cramping, hitting a wall, irritability. Practice your fueling techniques well ahead of your race, during your long runs. Find what you like and make sure you know how your body reacts. During my last marathon, one that I fully plan to vindicate, I had three caffeinated gels when I had used no more than two during my training runs. Bad idea. I actually bonked the last 5 miles and ended up greatly dehydrated and in the medical tent, even after drinking as many fluids as I could.
  5. Don’t try anything new before the big day: new shoes or clothes, techie gear, gels, or even new food. If you’ve never spicy pad Thai from X restaurant, the weekend of your marathon is NOT the time. If you don’t usually eat dairy, do not eat the lasagna at the marathon party the night before! Plan ahead.  Start fueling for your race 2-3 days in advance and eat plenty of familiar whole foods and carbohydrates.
  6. Plan lots of recovery and restoration in the post-race week. Most people think that massages are an indulgence, but after a major physical event, they can really aid in your recovery. Plan for a massage a few days post race and ask around for a reputable referral, some one ideally who has knowledge of sports massage and lymph drainage. Some massage therapists can make things worse not better.  And walk plenty and stretch in the post week too!
  7. Prepare mentally. Anyone who has run a marathon knows that most of the race is mental. And it gets tough. If you’re like most, there will be some part, maybe more, of those 26.2 that you will feel like stopping, question your sanity or even stop, cry and hide in the porta potty. Practice self affirmations, plant friends and family along the later part of the route, pray and remind yourself that you worked really hard to get that far and you can do it.
  8. It’s okay to stop and go to the bathroom. Even elites have to stop and go sometimes. What’s better: relieving yourself and running more comfortably (and probably more efficiently) or being stubborn and running with the awful feeling of a full bladder.
  9. Marathons are emotional. Period. Just know that you may get emotional and that’s okay. You are asking your body to do a lot of work, perhaps something it has never done before. It will be one of the hardest and greatest things you’ll ever do. You may get mad at your husband for being in the wrong spot a lot the route or burst into joyful tears during your last mile when all you see, hear and experience are the thousands of people that are cheering you to the finish.
  10. Have fun! If you’re running a marathon you’re either doing so because you love running or you’ve decided to knock this one off your bucket list. If you love running, try to remind yourself of that and have fun. Enjoy the music, slap hands, see who you know along the route and try your best to relax. If it’s a bucket list item, you’re about to accomplish a major thing and you never ever have to do it again!
  11. The crowd is a powerful thing. I was pregnant for the 2014 Pittsburgh marathon and it was the first I didn’t run since it returned in 2009. I was more emotional as a spectator than I ever was as a participant (ok, I was pregnant too). It makes a huge difference when folks are so friendly, encouraging and truly excited for YOU! You will feel like a rock star. It really is the best feeling, well a close second to crossing the finish line.