First Marathon Do's and Don'ts

First Marathon Do’s and Don’ts

In recent years, participation in marathons and half-marathons has exploded, but preparation for this mother of all races should not be taken lightly.  Whether you’re currently training for a marathon or considering it, read on for helpful tips to make your big day a success.running your first marathon


Prepare.  You cannot wing this race.  Follow an appropriate training schedule, and don’t miss your long runs.  

Taper.  For a full marathon, your longest long run should take place about a month before the race. (Do NOT run a full 26-mile trail week out.)  From there your mileage should gradually decrease. 

Be Confident.  As long as you’ve put the time in, you should be physically able to finish.  It’s easy to freak out about the race in the days and hours leading up to it but think of all the hard work you put in, and know that you’re ready.

Have a realistic goal.  For first timers, your goal should be to finish.  Beyond that, don’t add any unrealistic goals, especially if it happens to be unbearably hot that day. 

Choose your marathon carefully.  Pay attention to elevation, scenery, and season.  Does the event have a reputation for being well-operated? 

Have a plan for refueling.  Will you use gels, gummies, beans, Gatorade, or all of the above?  What brand(s)?  How often?  Will your brand(s) be offered there?  If not, do you have a pocket/pouch to keep yours in?  How often will you stop for water?  Will you walk at all? 

Music.  Many marathons don’t allow iPods, but some do.  If you’re used to running with music, find out ahead of time if your race allows it.

Warm up a little.  Do some light jogging or dynamic stretching beforehand.

Be prepared with clothes/gear.  Lay out everything ahead of time.  Don’t wear the sneakers you bought at the expo.  Wear clothes and sneakers you’ve trained in (Make sure your sneakers are not worn out, though).  Be prepared for any weather.  Dress in layers you don’t mind discarding if need be.  Don’t overdress–It’s good to be a little chilly in the beginning.  Don’t wear jewelry, and account for any chafing which may occur.  Bring a blister kit and clothes to change into afterward, as well as any pre and post-race food.

“Go” before you get there.   Use the bathroom right before you leave.  Otherwise, you may find yourself waiting in a mile-long line for the porta-potty, five minutes before start time.

Get your sleep.  Spread this out among the last few nights before the race, in case you toss and turn the night before.

Eat a 300-500 calorie breakfast earlier that morning, and sip a sports drink before the race.   Make sure your meal is a good mixture of healthy protein and carbohydrates.

Have a mantra.  Repeat it over and over again to yourself during those last miles when you’re dying.  It really does help.

Treat yourself well afterward!  Eat.  Take a nice bath.  You deserve it.

Walk down the stairs backwards the next day.  You may be sore.


Skimp on cross training.  Consider strength training and yoga throughout your entire training period. 

Walk around at the Expo the whole day before.  Save those legs–Do something relaxing.

Go crazy on a gargantuan carb-loaded meal the night before.  Eat a satisfying meal that includes carbs.  If you’d like to carb load for the race, spread it out through the whole last week or so.

Ingest anything out of the ordinary the night before or the day of.  This includes new foods, as well as new gels, sports drinks, etc.  Avoid unnecessary gastrointestinal distress.

Go too fast out of the gate.  Pace yourself.

Litter.  It’s not cool.  Empty out at the next trash can.

Take a ton of bathroom breaks.   When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go…but try to be strategic about it.  Some people could care less about whipping their pants down any old place.  Not a pretty sight.  Others don’t mind wasting valuable minutes in line.  Find your options out ahead of time, and plan the best you can.

Sit down immediately upon finishing…or you will not get back up.  Move around a little.  Get some food.  Get warm.  Get into some new clothes.

Forget to thank the volunteers.  They do a lot.

Forget to take it easy in the following days and weeks.  You just achieved an awesome feat–Now allow your body to repair itself!


Love running? Read more about the amazing benefits running has on your heart. 

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