They say that running a marathon can change your life. I always wondered why and how, but it wasn’t until my first marathon that I realized what that saying meant. Today I wanted to share with you things I learned about myself and some tips I have discovered along my 26.2 mile journey – in training & on race day.
“Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself, you can learn in 26.2 miles.” – Lori Culnane
1. Pre-run bathroom stops are a necessity, multiple times on race morning. Nerves gives you the poops. Seriously.
2. It is not a good idea to experiment with your breakfasts on long run days. I tried this and ended up sprinting home to the bathroom before continuing on with my run. No, not every point will be about bathroom stops, I promise.
3. Pump up jams are great, but when doing a training run on the trail, listening to the sounds of nature is quite nice, too.
4. Get lots of sleep. Yes, you may have to leave an event early (or not go altogether), but running on little ZZZ’s is not helpful in the long run. Literally, the long run.
5. Bring a change of clothes post-marathon. As much as I love my running clothes, I also love the feeling of clean, non-sweaty clothes after a long run. Or, you know, a marathon
6. Face wipes will help too, unless you have a dog nearby to lick your sweaty face.
7. Practice your power mantras. Visualize yourself achieving your goals. “I can, and I will.” I had that written on my hand on marathon day.
8. It’s always helpful to have someone to bring you a hot cup of coffee while you are sitting in an ice bath post long-run. Bonus points if they sit in the bathroom (on the floor) with you and refill your cup.
9. Tell your friends and family, and accept their help and support. I am an independent woman in that I like to do things, mostly everything, by myself. BUT! I have learned that life is better with a great support team and a supportive partner by your side.
10. Take your time in the first handful of marathon miles. Don’t be a hero and go out too fast too soon, because you run the risk of fading too fast and hitting the dreaded wall.
11. Speaking of hitting the wall, make sure you HYDRATE and FUEL during the marathon. Fortunately I did a pretty good job of this (*toots own horn*), however there is always room for improvement.
12. Stay away from Instagram if you have to. It’s easy to get caught up in the comparison trap, and I am guilty of this, too. You are on your own journey, and it’s never good to compare your chapter 5 to someone’s 25.
13. It’s actually super gross to leave your unwashed marathon pants in the back of your Jeep for the whole weekend. Seriously. Don’t do it. And on the same note, don’t leave all of your running gear in the laundry basket for an extended period of time either. Again. Just don’t.
14. Drink lots of coffee. I mean, this is a given. Those early morning training runs (or late night runs if you are an evening runner) can take its toll on you. Keep yourself well caffeinated!
15. On a more important note, keep yourself well hydrated throughout training. Your body thrives on water and good nutrition.
16. Oh, on the topic of food now? Sure, you’re running a lot of miles, but that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. I learned quickly that I needed to fuel my body with whole, nourishing foods otherwise I would feel like garbage during my workouts.
17. Be grateful to have a live-in masseuse. Oh, I mean a boyfriend that will rub your tired feet while watching Netflix and not care that you fall asleep on the couch at 7:30pm.
18. Remember that running should be fun. It is easy to get wrapped up in the numbers of running, but try not to be so hard on yourself! I am SO guilty of this, and I have been trying my damnedest to be gentle with myself. Slowly but surely.
19. No, you don’t need to grab every type of cookie at the post-marathon food tent, but you are certainly entitled to after running 26.2 freakin’ miles! “Oh, I’ll share.” ; )
20. Even though it’s hard to do so, try to stretch after you cross the finish line. Yeah, ouch.
21. SMILE! Smile during your race. Thank the volunteers at the aid stations and on the course. Give high-fives to the kids that are cheering for you. You’ve earned this day, so make the most out of it!
22. Recovery is key. I took a solid two weeks off of running post-marathon, and despite going a bit stir crazy three days into my recovery time, the time off was so worth it.
23. Dedicate a mile to someone in your life. Run for your mom. Run for your dad. Run for your sister. Run for your boyfriend. Run for your dog. Run for your cat. Run for your best friend. Run for the barista at Starbucks who actually spells your name correctly on the cup. This can help you dig deeper when things get tough. And trust me, they WILL get tough.
24. Keep track of your training in a journal of some sort, whether that’s a blog or a physical notebook. It’s kind of fun to look back at your progress and see how far you’ve come.
25. Remember. You are strong. You are fast. You got this. “F@#! YES!”
26. A marathon will show you that you are capable of anything. It hurts, it’s hard work, training is rigorous, but there’s NOTHING – and I mean absolutely nothing – like that finish line moment when all of the sweat and all of the miles come together. And that feeling is something so, SO incredibly thrilling, emotional, and exciting.
.2 And just when you think you have had enough, a time will come and you will be looking up other marathons to run. Really. I have a tab open right now as I type.