Sage advice oft-repeated for first-time marathoners

by lachicaruns on

advice for your first marathon

Mention to another runner that you’re running your first marathon and prepare for the gleam in their eyes and to be peppered with advice. Everything from what to eat to what to wear to what training plan you should follow.

(And, yes, I realize that that’s exactly what I do here on this blog.)

But today I want to share the best advice I’ve been given by people who have a ton more experience than me:

1. Don’t wear anything new on race day. New clothes, socks, shoes, headphones are all no-nos. Just today I heard a story from a very-experienced runner who told of wearing a new tech shirt only to get bloody nipples at a marathon. Wear your race-day outfit several times during long runs and in different types of weather. Adjust as necessary.

2. Don’t eat anything new on race-day morning. Just like any clothes or gear, try out different breakfasts before long runs. As I’ve mentioned before, I frequently feast on Dunkin Donuts before long runs. A few weeks ago, I went all healthy with whole-wheat waffles and had to turn around after I’d left the house because they just didn’t sit well. Donuts it is!

3. Similar rule for the night before. Don’t carb-load yourself into eating so much rich food that you make yourself sick. Stick with what you’ve been eating throughout your training before those long runs.

4. Same with fuel and liquids. Notice a trend here? Train with what will be offered during the course, or what you plan to bring with you. It may be tempting to try the new stuff you got at the expo the day before. Don’t.

5. Make sure your shoes are up to the challenge. Different people have given me advice about whether I should run the race with the shoes I’ve trained with or new ones. I went with the advice I heard most consistently and that also came from the expert who makes my custom orthodics: Get a new pair and break them in at least a month or two before the race.

6. Choose a meeting place beforehand to catch up with family/friends after the race in case you get separated. Depending on who they are, try the beer tent or the aid station.

7. Make a list of every single thing you need on race day. Yes, everything. I’ve heard of very experienced runners who’ve forgotten shorts, shoes and bras. No joke. And check off each item as you pack or wear it. Better yet, lay it all out the night before. You can even take a picture of your flat self and share it with your running friends who’ll be excited for you.

8. Thou shall lube up. Think of any spot that may possibly chafe and put some Body Glide or other lube on it. A bra I’d worn many times failed me on a long run. I found out when I went to shower that afternoon. Ouchie.

9. Be creative. Race-day may be hot, cold, wet, dry and anything in between. Your running partner may get food poisoning or be late to the starting time. Your iPod or smart phone may die. You get my drift. So practice running in all kids of weather, with and without your friends, with and without music and in any other situation you might encounter (hills anyone?). This way, no matter what, you’ll know you can push through it.

10. Have fun. You’re never going to have another fist marathon. If you want to wear the pink tutu, go for it (I suggest you wear it on a long run or two beforehand; just sayin’). If you want to take pictures, go for it (but check behind you before you stop to do so!). And if you want to stop to post progress reports on Facebook, well, then you may need to take this whole running thing a little more seriously. But do try to enjoy the experience.

And if something doesn’t work out as planned, just think, you’ll have one piece of advice for the newbie runner you get paired up with during your next group run.

Have you ever run a marathon? Any sage advice for newbies? What’s the best race-related advice you’ve received?

Written by: lachicaruns

My name is Gisgie. It's pronounced geese (like the birds) and gee (like the letter). Now that we've met, I'm glad you're here. I'm an injury-prone runner who manages to find reasons to keep coming back to the road despite ongoing challenges. Most recently, I've struggled with piriformis syndrome. I'm currently winning. Most days.


Sue Nichols

Little addendum to the “set up a meeting place” — try to foresee what roads might be closed after the race begins. I was a frustrated race sherpa when I discovered that the whole landscaped near the finish line changed once the race began, and I couldn’t get anywhere near the meeting place.


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