Friday, May 02, 2014

42 tips for the first-time marathoners

This weekend, I'm running my 27th marathon, my 97th road race. WHAT THE HECK?!

No. 27 and my sixth Goodlife full.

Today, I talked a runner through his first marathon, and realized there's a lot of pro tips I wish I knew... So, no fancy narrative, no GIFs, just this random list of thoughts. Here we go


  1. Friday night sleep is best for a Sunday marathon. You won't sleep that well the night before
  2. If you have a fuelling plan, mark it on your pace band. So you won't forget
  3. Yes, you can get a pace band that shows you your splits, that way you can track to see if you're hitting milestones (ie 5K) faster or slower than your goal
  4. Us old timers use running pace calculators like the one here
  5. Guys, cover your nipples. Trust me, 3-5 hours of chafing can HURT. Bandaids will suffice
  6. If you're wondering how many gels to take during a marathon, then go for anywhere from 3 - 6. But make sure you're fuelling early
  7. Yes there are portapotties on the course. And yes, if you're a guy, you can improvise on the course. Just make sure you stop
  8. If you're wearing a new pair of shoes on marathon day, then abort that plan. 
  9. Pin your bib to your race shirt the night before. I can't tell you how many times I see people, shivering, trying at the race start
  10. By the way, shivering at the start isn't a bad idea. You're dressing to run, not to stand outside
  11. Garbage bags with holes poked out for your head and arms are appropriate wind/rain gear
  12. Perfectly acceptable to wear warmup clothes to toss away
  13. Not acceptable to toss them at another runner - bundle it into a ball before throwing 
  14. Point at volunteers who are handing out water. That way, they know you're about to take the cup. Squeeze the cup to create a spout, then tip your head as you take sips
  15. Thank the volunteers
  16. Take those gels, if you can, right before you hit a water station, so you can wash them down
  17. It's fine to draft after runners to pace, but if you do so, also take the lead at times
  18. NOT fine to run on one's heels, give them space - and don't be all random about moving side to side
  19. If you're about to take a walk break, don't come to an abrupt stop - at the very least, pull to the side and put up your hand
  20. Smile and/or wave at any camera pointed in your direction
  21. Marathon plan 1: First half should feel easy, next 10K should feel like you're working and the rest tests your training
  22. Follow a pace bunny at your peril. Know your splits and know when to back the pace down. Remember, they are always faster runners who may not know your pace
  23. Double knot your laces.
  24. Hydrate well two days and the day before the race. Make sure you are getting electrolytes. 
  25. If you fall victim to cramps, salt intake isn't a bad thing. Think soups, pretzels. Just straight water may not be a good idea
  26. Also, fibre the day before isn't the greatest idea. Think of your GI issues
  27. Eat your breakfast 3-4 hours before the race. It can be as much as a bagel with peanut butter and a banana for an hour before. Some do oatmeal or cereal. Do what works but get the calories in.
  28. You will probably need to pee on race morning. A lot. This is normal. Nerves
  29. Charge your Garmin/GPS watch the day before. In fact, keep the darned thing plugged in overnight
  30. Have a goal time. Seriously. 
  31. If you don't have one, maybe use a race predictor, put in another race time.
  32. Yes you can listen to music during your race. I'm not a fan, but I get it. Just KEEP THE VOLUME DOWN when you're running
  33. Get to the race an hour before the start time.
  34. If you don't have to pee, and you're at a race early, go line up at a portapotty. Trust me, by the time you get to the front, you'll have to go
  35. BodyGlide. In any place you think you'll need it.
  36. Do not wear the race shirt during the race. If you have to ask, then... just don't ask. Don't wear it.
  37. Do not answer your phone while running the marathon. Even if you really wanted to say to the person on the other line that "I'm running a marathon." Everyone around you will want to punch you
  38. Race étiquette: look before you spit, or throw away the cup, or decide to weave. Just don't be annoying 
  39. Marathon plan 2: Run with your head, then your heart, and within your own ability
  40. If you are delirious, still NEVER forget to take that gel, Gatorade in the late miles.
  41. Bonking happens, walking happens, accept that you are running a long time
  42. And if this is your first, you will now remember that you have to always point out to everyone that it's not JUST 42K, it's... 42 POINT 2 Kilometres... Now you can call yourself a marathoner 

6 comments:

alice domingo said...

Awesome list. There is so much to think about and so much I forget. Thanks for putting it in writing. Have a great race tomorrow

Crystal Rhyno said...

Great list!

Anonymous said...

Really great tips I wish I'd read before my 1st marathon. Just have to ask the reason behind #36 Do not wear the race shirt during the race. I've never worn any race shirt cuz they're so ugly but what's your reason?? Just very curious.

Patrick said...

Great list!

yumke said...

Anonymous -- to answer the question on the race shirt. It's considered unlucky to wear a shirt of a race you have yet to cross the finish line. And, also you look exactly like everyone else who decided it was a good idea to put it on. Other than that, you shoudl only race in a shirt that you know you can run in without it chafing, for example.

Eugene - Ottawa said...

Thanks for the tips! So impressed how you have kept this blog for more than 10 years! Wishing you a long and enjoyable running career!