4 Tips for Running Your First Marathon

As a casual runner throughout high school and college I would go through different phases of interest with running. One month I’d have a set routine marked out on my calendar, logging a 3-mile run every Monday, 4-milers on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and adding in a bike ride or yoga class to supplement. Then the next month my calendar would reflect no such “training plan,” my yoga practice would lag, and all of a sudden it had been weeks since I laced up. When people described me as “a runner,” I was quick to correct them: “Oh, no, I run sometimes, but it’s nothing serious.”

Fast forward a couple of years and a friend talked me into running my first road race, the Boston Athletic Association’s summer 10k. It was torture. It was hard. I couldn’t breathe. I wore cotton shorts and a cotton shirt, both of which were heavy and drenched in sweat 5 minutes into the race. I finished. And then I signed up for a half marathon. The world of racing was open to me, and I had a newfound passion for longer and longer distances. It was only 9 months after my very first race that I was toeing the line at my first marathon. I finished that one, too, and in the years since I have completed 5 more marathons, 9 halfs, and a handful of other distances. I’m never the fastest runner or the one with the most enthusiasm. I find the joy in running in accomplishing bigger goals whether that be distance, time, or being able to walk the next day (which was decidedly not the case after my first marathon!). In that vein, here are my 4 tips for running your first marathon.

  1. Do the training. This extends beyond just your training plan for the race (can I recommend Hal Higdon’s ‘The Ultimate Training Plan‘, Jeff Galloway’s ‘You Can Do It‘, or this comparison guide?). Yes, of course, follow your training plan and log the miles and cross-training days. But also do the mental training. Spend some time visualizing running for 3-6 hours. Practice mantras or self-talk to keep yourself moving or trick yourself to stop paying attention by playing games (fan favs: I Spy, the alphabet game).
  2. Don’t overcommit. Know your limits and know your schedule. I’ve made the mistake before of signing up for a race in September only to realize that my calendar for all of July and August is chock full of weekends away, birthdays, and weddings, leaving no time for solid long runs. Before you truly commit to a race, make sure you’ll have the time and energy for it, not just on race day but in the weeks and months leading up to it.
  3. Give in to the moment. I’ve cried during every marathon I’ve run, and only one of them was because I was in pain and/or didn’t want to finish. The rest have been because being surrounded by thousands of other people who are doing this really hard thing is emotional! It’s so amazing to think about all the work and time that each runner put into getting themselves to the starting line, let that carry you for a few miles!
  4. Get yourself some crowd support and appreciate them. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by caring friends and family that have shown up to most of my races to cheer me on. If you are too, recognize that, that is an early morning for them, too, and be sure to show your appreciation! I’m always amazed at how often my friends have been able to see me on a 26-mile course, so I know their effort, while different than mine that day, is still to be applauded. Also, if you happen to be traveling for a marathon, or all your friends are previously booked, line up some phone calls for different parts of the course! I flew to Fargo a few years ago to do the marathon and, knowing exactly 0 Fargo residents, lined up a schedule of calls from my mother, roommates, and other friends so that I would still have some words of encouragement throughout the race.

To any L.A. Marathoners, good luck on this weekend’s race! And to the rest of the runners out there, let me know in the comments what other things have gotten you through your first marathon!

P.S. this post is part of our 30 Blog Post Goals for 2018, check out the full list!

Let us know what you think!