Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
*Courtesy of Run Haven
When I crossed the finish line of my first marathon, I was completely overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with thanks for my family for being there with me, overwhelmed with pride for becoming a marathoner and overwhelmed with lessons I knew I needed to write down before I made the same mistakes twice in marathon #2. This is that list:
1. Pace groups are a gift. Use them if you like camaraderie. You don’t have to stay with them.
2. Drink fluid. Drink Gatorade. Drink it often. Drink something at every stop. Drink when you don’t think you need it. A marathon is far. Your body needs body juice.
3. Bring some kind of anti-chafe along with you to rub on mid-race. Nothing brings you down like bonking and getting 18-miles-in thigh chafing at the same time. And you still have eight miles to go.
4. If your race allows it and if you’re into it, have a friend hop in and pace you for the tough miles. My friend Hadley ran with me starting at mile 19. We thought she’d peel off sooner than she did but I was seriously crashing and she kept my spirits up.
5. Read the signs while they are around. Not every course is lined with spectators. Take it in while you can. Think of your favorites when you hit a bare patch.
6. Tell your people that this is important to you. Tell them you need cheerleaders. Tell them to Google marathon spectator signs. Marathons are huge accomplishments—find a reason to celebrate before, during and after.
7. Get someone to meet you at the finish. 26.2 miles is a long way—who knows what shape you’ll be in. When I finished my running partner was in the medical tent getting iv fluid, I was pretty sure I left my hips at mile 22 and my family was there to make sense of everything else.
8. The beer at the beer tent makes the hurt better.
9. Smile when you can. Give an encouraging word when you can. Smiles from strangers lifted me from my rut and elevated me even higher when I felt that I was on top of the world.
10. If you need to pass someone – don’t do it rudely. 26.2 miles is a long way (did I mention that?) and you never know who you’ll end up alongside for a few hours.
11. Toenails are overrated.
12. There are muscles between your pelvis and your spine that keep everything together. You’ll meet these muscles at mile 22. Stopping for a second and bending forward to touch your toes helps with that pain and then makes the knee pain worse. Pick your battles.
13. It’s not supposed to feel good at the end.
14. Setting a goal is a good way to keep yourself on pace and in line in the beginning. Once you’ve been running for 3 hours it’s okay to throw expectations out the window.
15. If you keep putting one foot in front of the other long enough, it’ll be over eventually. Don’t give up. Even when you left your brain by the 19 mile water station and you can’t find your right leg.
16. Extra hair ties are a great way to make a new friend.
17. Take a lot of pictures. Get people to take pictures for you. Wait a few days before deleting any of them. You never know what will end up being your most treasured moment.
18. Not everything works for everyone. If someone gives you advice that doesn’t sound right—it’s okay to nod politely and forget what they were talking about.
19. Don’t make post-race plans with people who are inflexible. You gotta be able to do your thing. Sometimes you need to have IV fluids, sometimes you have to take 2 hours to waddle to brunch. Post-marathon hours need to be a judgement-free zone.
20. If you run too close to a heavy sweater you will get splashed—every time he or she takes a step. It will never be nice. Just move away.
21. Marathon medals are heavy. Wear it if you can—but if you want to take it off, you’re not a traitor. You’re a marathoner.
22. You get to call yourself a marathoner after you run the marathon. It’s an enormously awesome life change.
23. It’s okay to have an identity crisis the day after a marathon. A huge part of your life has been training for the race. Now it’s over—there is bound to be a void.
24. Write down everything you want to remember from your race as soon as you can. It’s easy to forget and the mind tends to whisk away memories of pain. Write down the painful memories. They are good ones.
25. Make an effort to be nice to people during taper week. You’ll be crabby. Trying to be nice will bring you back to normal status. And then all the people who are coming to be your cheerleaders will still like you on race day.
26. Ham it up for your finish line photo. You’ll want it to be awesome. It’ll take everything you’ve got—and everything you don’t have, but it’s worth it.
.2 Marathons are far. You’re the coolest person in the world.
Going Commando Has Never Felt Better: What’s the Deal With Go Commandos
The 10 Stages of Getting Up Early For a Morning Run
8 Reasons Running in the Summer is Overrated
5 Crazy Things Runners Do On Vacation
Riding the Injury-Induced Emotional Roller Coaster