I can’t believe it’s been a month since I ran my first marathon. Since then, I’ve had ample time to think about what worked and what didn’t work, the lessons I’ve learned and what I’ll do differently for my next one.
Here’s some of the things I learned throughout training and on race day. These are in no particular order.
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1. Follow a Training Plan
You need some sort of structure and routine, whether it be running 3 days a week and one long run, or running 5 days a week. Ed made a rough one for me, and then I sort of combined it with some others that I found online.
While speedwork can help improve your speed, it also has other benefits. It can help with endurance, training your body and mind to fight through the pain and those feelings of, “I can’t hold this any longer.”
Sometimes, sleeping in is way more important than getting the miles in. I had a few long runs planned but I was just too tired to wake up when I had to. So, I slept in later and therefore had to cut my run down.
Sleep is important for recovery and helping your mind and body be at its best! Adequate sleep is also important for preventing overtraining.
4. Eat More Complex Carbs
Sweet taters, squash, brown rice, whole grains, veggies. They release slower in your bloodstream, helping with more sustained energy, plus they provide fiber and ample antioxidants.
5. Practice Your Race Day Plans
Don’t just practice once and think you are set. Practice during each long run before to nail your race day nutrition.
Tweak a little something each time, whether it be a gel flavor, the amount of calories or water you take in, or your pre run meal or snack.
I wanted to hear what worked for them, what didn’t. How they trained. I wanted to talk to Ed about my training plan, and how we had to tweak it.
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If you train alone, like I did for the majority of my training cycle, this is so so important. You need some scenarios to simulate race day. You need to get up and go through the motions like you will the morning of your marathon.
Have all the feels, the butterflies, the nerves, and practice your pre run ritual.
If you prefer not to run races before hand, try to join in some group runs. Learn what it feels like to be running with others.
10. Prioritize Your Commitments
You have to balance your life. I found it nearly impossible to keep up with all my social obligations. Honestly, after a long run on Saturday morning, you just want to chill for the rest of the day.
Eat and lay on the couch.
Don’t overbook yourself and don’t underestimate the power of rest. Even if you’re not sleeping or napping, you’re resting and rejuvenating your muscles.
11. Stop worrying about how your appetite changes. Just accept that it will.
While I’m not a fan of calorie tracking, this is one instance where I think it can be beneficial, at least for the short term. Every few weeks, or after a long run, I’d track my meals and snacks to ensure I was getting enough.
Sometimes you don’t feel like eating after a long run, but you and your muscles need the calories. It’s a difficult habit to keep up (tracking requires time) but for my runs that felt pretty crappy or my energy was really low, I could look and see what I ate and if it was enough.
Or, maybe it was the wrong foods.
12. Wear Good Shoes
Make sure you like your shoes because you’ll be spending a lot of time in them. Also, buy an extra pair or two because the shoes that you’re training in months before your marathon likely won’t be the same pair you’re racing in, unless you have a very short marathon training cycle.
Yeah, I get it. You will be hurting. Hard. But, not many people can say they’ve run a marathon.
And rather than thinking about how bad you feel, think about how pretty the course is, how enthusiastic the fans are, how much you love the song you’re listening to.
Or, heck, just think of happy things or your best runs.
23. Often times, the long runs are more about time on your feet rather than pace
I would get discouraged at my long run pace, as I would try to mimic my goal marathon pace. That often didn’t happen for me.
But, I realized that just getting my body used to running for 3 1/2 hours was the important lesson.
24. Remember that nerves are a good thing.
They serve as a reminder that we have feelings and we are anticipating something great to happen. Running a marathon isn’t an easy achievement.
It’s normal to be nervous. Enjoy the nerves – you’re alive.
25. Be appreciative of the support you’ve gotten along the way. You’ll have a chance to pay it forward.
There are so many people and gestures that made a difference for me in my training – my husband’s endless support and having a water and snack prepped for me after a long run, those who wished me luck leading up to the race, my coworkers who put together a goody bag and card for me before the race… take time to thank these people.
A marathon isn’t something we can do alone. My readers who read my posts and commented with well wishes, thank you.
Thank you to all the volunteers throughout the race and the spectators who cheered me on.
The people around you will play a part in your whole experience.
26. Reward yourself after the race!
Pick something you want and reward yourself. For me, it was this little nugget!
PIN it for later
If you’ve run a half or full marathon, or accomplished something you’re proud of, what did you learn throughout the process?
Sarah Schlichter is a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition. She specializes in sports nutrition and intuitive eating, and recipe development. She also co-hosts the podcast, Nail Your Nutrition.
Love these tips and congrats on your finish!! Check out Kukimbe Race Connect for your next race. It’s the first mobile app to find races across the country and it’s totally free. Thanks for your great blog, loved reading it!
Exactly. You need to be 100% prepared for a marathon.
You really covered it all here! I learned many of these lessons as I trained and completed my first in Philly! I think that getting enough sleep is SO important, and I love the tip to get ready for carbs earlier than race week…that’s probably what I should have done!
Awesome post. And where is the recipe for that stuffed acorn squash because OMG mmmm.
This is such an amazing list…all of it is totally on point! Thanks so much for linking up with us!
Thank you, Michelle!
This is a wonderful list that I suspect will help many, many others with their first marathon (or second or third, etc).. #21: I think some people expect they won’t hurt or struggle if they’ve trained properly. I say it’s going to happen anyway as you will continue to push yourself even harder if you are feeling strong. #26: I think about my reward during those last difficult miles, I love what you rewarded yourself with! Thanks for linking, Sarah!
I think the hurt is a positive sign in a way – our bodies are working to their max and we are feeling pain, pride, goals, accomplishment, excitement, happiness, nerves, frustration all in one!
Amazing lessons! I love adding races to my long runs. It makes them so much more fun!
Great point! And so much more mentally doable 🙂
So many great tips! I think incorporating races into the training schedule really did make all the difference for me!
So important for preparation and helping ease those nerves!
I enjoyed your post and loved hearing about your training. Whenever I accomplish something, it makes me believe that I can do more in other areas of my life as well. 🙂
Aw, thanks so much Ellie! The accomplishment feeling is truly contagious.