27 Things I Learned From My First Marathon

27 Things I Learned Running My First Marathon


  1. Figure out nutrition and hydration very early on – figure out what you’re going to carry, and how you’re going to carry it. I had a mini-emergency when I switched up my source of calories two weeks before the race and hadn’t tested out what I was going to carry on more than a 10 miler. That made for a very stressful couple of trips to the running store. I switched to UCAN as my source of calories in addition to ENERGYbits as fuel, but I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to carry it. I bought an 8-ounce flask and was going to carry two servings in it, but I lost it the week before the race. I ended up with 2, 2-oz gel containers, which was less than ideal, but got the job done.
  2. Don’t forget electrolytes too – this was my one hydration/fueling mistake. I carried two electrolyte packs (Vega/UCAN make good ones) but only remembered to take one. I ended the race with yellow salt streaks all over my face and shirt. If you’re running a local race and have the convenience of a blender and refrigerator the night before, try this “Real Sports Drink” recipe from Julieanna Hever, The Plant Based Dietitian.
  3. Flat runner pictures are fun to take and even more important the morning of race day. If you lay everything out the night before, there’s a good chance you’ll remember everything you need.flat runner
  4. Don’t skimp on building up a base before you get into serious training. This was my issue last year that led to a stress fracture and a cancelled half marathon. I spent 2 months building a base this year while working with a coach before getting into the serious training cycle.
  5. Hit the track – hard. Speed work is important for getting faster, but the mental training it provides is almost even more important. There’s no better feeling than crushing a tough workout that you felt like giving up on. When I was struggling at mile 24, I thought of the 12x400m session and how it was uncomfortable during, but felt awesome afterwards.
  6. Pick a running mantra – I hadn’t been wearing my LIVESTRONG bracelet for a couple years now, but I threw it back on prior to my race as a reminder. Say what you will about Lance Armstrong, but the guy knows a think or two about motivation. Lance said “Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever.” This helped me last year during the Pan Mass Challenge before a particularly rough hill at mile 170, and helped again during my marathon when I was ready to give up when staring down 2 miles of hills to the finish.
  7. Pick a few races to run as training runs during your program. Have a goal and aim to crush it – it’ll help build confidence!
  8. Run with friends – find a local running group that you can get your easy recovery runs in with, or if you’re lucky, the hard ones. I was fortunate enough to be able to run hills every Friday morning with 200 friends.
  9. Laugh at the signs and thank the spectators. My two favorites were “Press here for a power up” and “Smile if you just pooped a little”
  10. Runners are anything but normal. See my last post.
  11. Runners are willing to do anything for performance, even if it means an upset stomach later on. But there are alternatives. Again, see my last post for my fueling plan – I had no hunger, GI issues, cramping or bloating during or after my run.
  12. Go out slow – I made this mistake and only slightly paid for it, but it could have been a lot worse. I was over 1:00/mile faster than I had planned for the first 10 miles, but you have a goal pace for a reason.
  13. DON’T JUST RUN – I think this may be my most important tip. I incorporated 1-3 days of strength training for about 2 months of my 5-month program, but I could’ve done with a lot more. More squatting means stronger knees, hips and ankles, which are critical for distance running, especially if hills are involved.
  14. Learn to set nighttime alarms – if you set an alarm for 9:30 or 10pm to remind you to go to bed it’ll be a lot easier to roll out of bed at 5am for the early morning runs
  15. Train hills.
  16. Find the start line the day before if possible – the race I ran didn’t list an address for the start line. I was given a map and was told to show up at 7am the next day. It took us 25 minutes longer than expected to find the location the afternoon prior, which would’ve meant I missed the beginning of the race.
  17. If you can, train with a coach. This was the single best choice I made with my training. I worked with Steven Stam, a running coach from Florida who wrote me a base phase as well as 3 training cycles worth. He altered the program based on things that came up and coached me every step of the way. Working with a coach is the best way to get faster, avoid injury and ensure a great race day. Tweet @stamgator on Twitter if you’re interested in learning more, and let him know I sent you.
  18. Eat to perform, and remember to eat to recover too. You just ran 26.2 miles. You just subjected your body to quite a bit of stress – time to help it heal. I went with a loaded burrito bowl (extra guac, grilled shrimp) for my post race meal, but not before I had a few extra ENERGYbits and RECOVERYbits to speed the recovery process. The combination of this plant-based approach ensures that your body is getting the nutrients it needs to begin to repair itself and reduce inflammation – the cause of soreness and aches. As I write this, it’s Tuesday morning and I’m ready to run again.
  19. Tweet/Post about your successes. Putting it out online is the best way to hold yourself accountable, and you also never know who you’re inspiring.
  20. Recruit some friends to join you along the course – seeing a familiar face can give you a boost that no amount of fuel can provide, especially if it’s at the bottom of a big hill or right as you’re nearing your 20th mile. If they can run with you, even better. Be sure to thank them for joining you.
  21. No matter what, just keep moving. I stopped once or twice for water and it took me out of rhythm. Even if you walk through a water stop, or need to run/walk, just keep moving.
  22. Own a foam roller and lacrosse ball and use them both as often as possible. The lacrosse ball helps with your hips and the foam roller helps with… everything else.
  23. Have a song on your playlist that doesn’t fit but pick it intentionally. Use it as a pick-me-up. On my mostly country running playlist, my pick-me-up song was Timber. It made me laugh and sing along momentarily when it came on. #shameless
  24. If your goals don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. I was terrified of the distance when I signed up for my race. As long as you train smart, that’s where the real gains happen.
  25. When the running gets tough – think of those that aren’t able to run or do sport at all. Dedicate those tough miles to them.
  26. Enjoy it.
  27. BONUS: Run the shortest route along all corners. If you don’t, you may run quite a bit extra. I ended up running 27 miles instead of 26.2


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