Quick Tip: 5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Running Your First Marathon


There are no shortage of listicles within the running blogosphere offering tips to help you prepare for your first marathon.

Another "Your First Marathon" Post? Really?

Another “Your First Marathon” Post? Really?

However, while there may be a ba-gillion different blogs/pages devoted to tips on successfully running your first marathon, they seemingly recycle the same list of suggestions from one post to the next.

Now, I don’t mean to say that many of these common tips like remembering to taper, gradually increasing your mileage, and not starting the race too fast aren’t important tips because they are, but how many different websites need to basically repost the same information before enough is enough?

If you’re looking for those types of tips here, sorry. You came to the wrong place.

Today I want to share some advice for first time marathoners, but I want to talk about some of the things that I’ve almost never seen talked about in running magazines or on running blogs before, yet are things that I definitely wish I had known before my first marathon.

So if you want some of the less actionable but no less real advice for running your first marathon, here you go.

5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Your First Marathon

  • Long Runs Are About More Than Running: As your long runs get longer and longer leading up to the race, the prevailing thought is that long runs help your body prepare for the demands of logging 26.2 miles on race day. That is true, to a point, but long runs are important for far more than just the miles. The long run is your weekly dress rehearsal that allows you to try some different strategies so you’ll be as ready as possible on race day. Fuel. Clothing. Hydration. Strategy. These are just a few of the strategies you should be testing out on your long runs so you know what works best for you on race day.
  • Taper is Tough: Pretty much every article with advice for first time marathoners mentions the importance of a taper, but very few talk about the fact that the taper can be really difficult! On paper, tapering sounds great. After weeks and weeks of increasing your mileage, you finally get a chance to cut back a bit. What is tough about that? For starters, I guarantee you’re going to notice something not feeling right during your taper period, and you’re likely going to be convinced that you’ve developed an injury. There’s a good chance you’re also going to question how much fitness you’ve lost since you cut back on your mileage. (Basically none, for the record.) You’re going to start going stir crazy the closer the race gets. I know. I’ve been there. And so has pretty much every runner in the history of running. The taper is important, yes, but it’s not easy.
  • Get Ready to Ride the Roller Coaster: I’m not an overly emotional guy, but I’ll be damned if I’m not fighting back tears (and often losing the fight) at least once over the course of 26.2 miles. There’s something about being out there and pushing yourself that just brings your emotions to the surface. Don’t fight it. Just accept the fact that you’re going to feel great, you’re going to feel like shit, you’re going to question why you ever started running in the first place, you’re going to want to quit, and you’re going to have a dozen more ups and downs before you finish your first marathon. It’s ok. And if the tears come, let them come. We’ve all been there, I promise.
  • The Finish Line Feeling is Amazing: And by amazing, I mean words can’t describe how it feels when you finish your first marathon. There’s shock. There’s amazement. There’s relief that it’s over. There’s regret that it’s over. There’s pain. There’s euphoria. There’s all that and more, mixed together in your own unique cocktail that you’ll never be able to fully explain, yet we all know exactly how you’re feeling.
  • Now What? A fews days after your first marathon, reality will set in. You’ve just spent the past 4+ months training for this one moment, and now the moment is gone. Yes, you’ve got the memories. Yes, you’ve got the medal. But now what? This is when the post marathon blues can set in, and sometimes the best cure is the hair of the dog. No, you don’t need to stack your marathons one on top of the other, but having another race already on your schedule (or at least tentatively on your schedule) can be a great way to avoid getting lost trying to figure out what’s next for you as a runner. The next race doesn’t have to be another marathon either. Just have something in mind that you can begin working towards once your legs are feeling back to normal and you’re ready to start running again.

Whether or not you’re one and done in the marathon, your first marathon is an event that you will likely never forget.

During my first 26.2, I had no idea what I was doing, I was woefully undertrained, and I promised myself several times that I’d never run another fricking marathon again.

I’ve learned a few things about running and about myself since then, and I know there is much more I have yet to learn and master about running a marathon.

But perhaps the most important tip I can give you as you prepare for running your first marathon is also the most simple:

Have Fun!

After all, you paid money to run this race. So you might as well enjoy it!


If You’ve Finished a Marathon Before, What Memories Do You Have From Your First Marathon?
If You’re Still a Marathon Virgin, What Are You Most Anxious/Excited About?

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