I can hardly believe that I finished my second marathon a few days ago. This second one was so much harder than my first, for a few main reasons:
For my first marathon last year, it was all new and exciting. I stuck to my training pretty well and the race day conditions were ideal-mid 50s and sunny.
This year, I was more lax with my training. I did my longer weekend runs but had less motivation to get in my shorter runs during the week. Also, the weather for race day was less than ideal. Hot and super sunny. I left with a major sunburn.
With two of these under my belt I thought I would share some tips I’ve learned along the way, as well as a few things I’d do differently if I ever do one of these silly things again.
+Treat your training days like the actual marathon. During your training, you will have 16, 18 and 20 mile runs. On these long runs, treat them with the same importance that you would for actual race day. If you have the same mindset for long training runs that you do for the actual race they will be so much easier. I promise you, a 20 mile run by yourself is SO MUCH HARDER than 26.2 miles with thousands of other people. So wake up early, have energy chews, water and a bangin’ playlist. Also, I played around on Snapchat a lot while doing my longer runs. This made it more fun and felt like I was interacting with people like I would be during the actual marathon. I posted my progress on My Story and received so many encouraging photos from friends in return. The proud, smiling friends sending photos from their cozy beds help after 14 miles at 9 am.
+vice-versa, treat the marathon like you did on your long runs during training. Mostly I mean that you should eat and drink the same things that you did while running your 18 and 20 mile runs during training. If you ate organic honey chews and shot blocks (like I did) during training, eat those things during the actual race. If you have never had a banana halfway through a long race, I don’t think that race day is the time to experiment. You don’t know how your body will respond and this is not that time to see if a banana will actually upset your stomach.
+Run home from work. While training for my first marathon, I would bring my running clothes to work with me and I would run home from the office. It made my weekday runs so much easier. This year, I live ten minutes from where I work. So I walk home form work, change into my running clothes and then get on my way. But let me tell you, once you’re home it’s SO hard to get motivated to go back out for a workout. I would find ANY excuse to stay at home. “Oh, the bed is unmade, I can’t possibly go on a run, I need to clean this entire bedroom!” Running straight from work eliminates that problem all together. Invest in a small running backpack and run home from work if you live a reasonable distance away.
+Use an app like Map My Run. This is (maybe) obvious, but Map My Run is my running app of choice. It helps me keep track of my pace and logs my routes for me.
+Play that funky music, and maybe a podcast. Good music is so important for me to enjoy my runs. I use Spotify and basically spend all training season building an epic playlist. Everything from angry 90s chick music (‘sup Alanis) to inappropriate rap to sing-along pop. Also, during training, having a podcast lined up to listen to is really helpful, but be aware that your pace will probably be slower than it is while running to a beat. For me, it was worth it a few times to have words to listen to to distract me, even if my mile times were slower.
+Have a rockin’ support system. I am so lucky that my boyfriend and best friends are so supportive and encouraging throughout my training and on race day. They always checked in on how my training was going and how I felt about the upcoming marathon. During race day, they chased me all over the city and spotted me at five different spots. FIVE! Sasha even ran with me for three miles AND they made a huge blowup of my face (haha!) They are truly the best, and it would be so hard to run without their support.
+ Create a schedule, and stick to it as best as possible. This is a pretty obvious one, but still worth mentioning. As soon as you register for your marathon and make the commitment to run, create a schedule. Print out the schedule, put it on your fridge, wtite it in your planner, put it in your phone calendar. Put. It. Everywhere. Be consistently reminded of the miles you have to do each day. My favorite resource for creating a schedule is through Hal Higdon. His Novice 1 & 2 programs are 18 weeks long and I used it for both marathons and half marathons that I’ve ran.
+ SMILE! On race day, smile so much and so big! It helps. Interact with the wonderful people cheering you on at the sidelines. Even though you don’t know them, they are there to support you. Read their funny and inspirational signs. Smile at them when they clap for you. This is one of the best parts about the entire day. It’s incredibly emotional to have thousands of complete strangers showing how proud they are of you. Take it all in, it’s one of the most helpful things to get you to the finish line.
THINGS I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY:
+ Listen to your body and see a doctor. I will do basically anything to avoid seeing a doctor. I hate going, I’m slightly afraid and I find it to be such a hassle. But I really should have gone to a chiropractor or physical therapist during my training this year. About three weeks before the race my right hip started hurting and I should have gone to get it checked out, but I didn’t. About halfway through the marathon it flared up and hurt so badLY, which really hindered my finish time.
+ Sunscreen! and vaseline! Put on sweat-proof, water-proof, high SPF sunscreen on long runs and on race day. The weather was so warm and sunny for the marathon and my chest, shoulders, back and face were tomato-red by the end of the race. Applying sunscreen might be obvious for some people, but if I forgot, then I’m sure there’s someone else out there who could use a reminder too. Similarly, use vaseline to avoid chafing. I have never experienced chafing like I did for the marathon. My underarms were in so much pain! Put some vaseline on in the morning of the race and take the vaseline that they offer at the aid stations throughout the course.
+join a run club. Personally, I am so much more motivated when other people are counting on me to complete something. I wish I had joined a run club so I could hold myself more accountable. If people are expecting me to show up and run 10 miles with them, I’m much more likely to stick to it then if I’m only holding myself accountable. It would also make runs much more fun and a great way to meet new people. A few good resources for run clubs throughout different cities are Lulu Lemon (ask your local store) and Meetup.
+ Don’t compare yourself to others & to your past. For my first race, this was really simple because I had no PR or past experiences running a marathon, I was creating my PR that day! But for the second time around, I had this number lingering in my head that I kept thinking about. A number that would be really satisfying to beat. I kept saying that I just wanted to finish, that was my goal, but in the back of my head I had this number there. And guess what, I didn’t beat it. Not even close. I actually took about 15 extra minutes finishing my second race than my first one. For a number of reasons: the weather, my hip, my training. When I crossed the finish line, along with the excitement was also a layer of disappointment, and I wish I could take back that feeling, because HELLO I just ran 26.2 miles and I should feel nothing but proud! Did you know that only .5% of Americans have run a marathon? You did something that 99.5% of the US population couldn’t do!! Something to think about when you feel disappointed with your results. Along with this (and also, pretty obvious) is not to compare yourself to other people. There will always be someone faster than you, who followed their training more closely than you did, but you’re not running for them.. you’re running for yourself and comparison is truly the thief of joy when it comes to marathons (and most things, honestly).
So there you have it.. my tips for successful training and marathon completion. I am certainly no expert, but I hope the knowledge I’ve gained from running two marathons so far is helpful to someone.