Fall marathon season is in full swing, and if you’ve been logging miles since July/August training for your fall race, the payoff is almost here!
Veteran marathoners know what to expect when it’s time to toe the line, but for first time marathoners the experience can feel like a complete and utter whirlwind.
But it doesn’t need to be.
There are several things that I wish I would have known going into my first full or half marathon now that I’m able to look back on the experience. So if you’re gearing up for your first big race in the next few weeks, hopefully you’ll be able to learn from my experience.
Top 5 Tips for First Time Marathoners
- Spend Some Time at the Expo: The quality of race expos varies wildly, but if you’ve never been at a race expo before (especially if your race happens to have a good one), spend some time walking around, talking to vendors, and scoring some samples. You don’t have to buy anything from the expo, though if you realize you forgot something vital (gels, belt, etc.) you can probably pick up a replacement at the expo. And if you’re looking for official merchandise for your race, the place to get it is the expo.
- Try to Get Some Sleep: But don’t stress about it. A lot of runners find it really difficult to get a good night of sleep the night before a race. In an ideal world, you’ll be able to get a solid 8-10 hours of sleep but don’t stress if you find yourself tossing and turning or waking up with a start to make sure you didn’t oversleep. The night before the night before the race, however, make sure you go to bed plenty early if at all possible.
- Have the Morning Planned Out: If you’ve never run a race before, you probably haven’t refined your pre-race routine just yet. Hopefully, during your training you’ve been trying different things to help you get ready to run. I wouldn’t have thought I’d need a big breakfast before running a race if I didn’t experiment with running after a big meal from time to time. If you need to eat, is there an IHOP or Denny’s nearby? Maybe the kitchen in the hotel is open? Whatever you need pre-race, make sure you have a plan in place to get it. Also, make sure you’ve got all of the gear you are planning on running with laid out and ready to go. The last thing you want to do is forget something in the morning. Check, double check, and check again just to be safe.
- Start Out SLOW: When the race starts, you’re going to be excited. I promise. And with that excitement, it can be easy to start off going a bit faster than you should be going. You know about what your pace should be, so stick with it. My first race I was planning to try and stick with 10 minute miles (which didn’t happen), and when I looked at my watch at mile 1.5 I was cruising right along at 7:30 pace. It didn’t feel like I was running hard at all, I was just so caught up in the moment and the excitement. Start off super easy, and settle into your goal pace after a couple of miles.
- Have Fun: This is the biggest one! Remember the race is the payoff for all of the work and time you put into your training. So even if things aren’t going as well as you’d like them to be, remember to have fun during your race. Stop for pictures. Talk to other runners. Thank volunteers. Give high 5s to spectators. Sing. Dance. Whatever. Just enjoy the experience and don’t worry about the final time, because any finish is still a PR!
That first half/full marathon is a great experience, but like I said, it can definitely be a little stressful.
But it doesn’t have to be.
If you make it a point to have fun during your first race, everything else will take care of itself!
Race Vets: What Other Advice Do You Have for the Rookies?
Race Rookies: Do You Have Any Other Questions I Can Answer for You?