things to know before running a marathon

Set Healthy Expectations
Even the most seasoned marathoners have no idea what their marathon times will be. Think about it—setting a finish time is a little like picking the winning lottery numbers because there are so many variables that can affect your performance: wind, rain, cold, heat, humidity, etc.

The best way to go into the marathon is with healthy expectations. This means aiming for a strong finish and being open to what the day may bring. It rained, sleeted, and snowed on the day of my first marathon, and the Gatorade was frozen at all the aid stations. Had I been racing for a time or had specific expectations of the day I would have been upset—but my goal was to finish upright and I did just that.

Running your first marathon is all about conquering the distance, not beating the clock. It’s a way to establish your marathon fitness, which you can continue to build on and improve in future races.

Taper Your Training
Most people think the longest miles are the toughest part of marathon training, but I believe it’s the taper. At about 3 to 4 weeks out, you’ve run your longest run, your mileage and intensity are gradually dropping, and you find yourself with much more time on your hands. It can be tempting to add more mileage to your training plan for insurance, but doing so will only risk you leaving your best miles on the training path.

Follow a gradual taper and rest up so you can run the distance on race day with fresh, strong legs. It may seem counter intuitive, but it works, and it will leave you chomping at the bit to start the marathon (exactly where you want to be).

Go With What You Know
The number one rule in racing is to avoid trying anything new on race day. The most frequently asked question I hear during race week is, “what should I eat?” My answer: eat what you’ve eaten all season, go with what is tried and true and consume a slightly higher ratio of carbohydrates.

Your nerves can work against you and cause you to question everything you’re doing, from which shoe to put on first, to what you should wear and what you should eat. Stick with what you’ve done all season in long training runs (dress rehearsals).

From an upset stomach from eating too much broccoli to hypernatremia from drinking too much water, you can get yourself into a heap of trouble trying to change things up during race week. Keep it simple; stick with what your body knows.