5 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Marathon

We learn a lot from every race we run—especially the first.


Before running the 2000 Chicago Marathon, my only exposure to the world of marathons was watching the LA Marathon one year and witnessing a man fall to the ground, writhing in pain with a severe cramp in his hamstring. No, this didn’t quite convince me I should do a marathon. A few years later, when I decided I wanted to run a marathon, I hadn’t even completed a half marathon yet and didn’t have the first clue on how to train for 26.2 miles.

Here are 5 things I wish I knew before my first marathon:

  1. Check the temperature high for race day.
    That day, starting temperatures were in the 40s and reached 70. I dressed as if we were going to stay in the 40s all day by wearing long blue tights and a long-sleeved thermal top.
  2. Garbage bags make perfectly good body warmers if it’s cold at the start.
    I really wish I knew this. I saw runners wearing trash bags and thought, genius! Non-runners may not understand this method of keeping warm, but I say, focus on functionality rather than fashion.
  3. Buy a real visor, or cap, and train in it.
    I used a foam visor I got for free at the expo the day before, and it kept slipping and flipping up during the race. Chicago is called the “Windy City” for a reason.
  4. Get properly fitted for running shoes.
    Chances are you may lose a toenail, or get blisters. I lost one toenail, and I was scared it wouldn’t grow back. It did. Eventually.
  5. Marathons are hard!
    Every ounce of my body ached. Of course, I chalk this up to my less-than-stellar training. However, what I physically felt was unmatched for the feeling of accomplishment.

Looking back I did many things wrong that day, and that’s because I didn’t know any better. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about running and marathons. I definitely have a garbage bag handy, just in case.

Christina is an avid runner from Los Angeles, who loves anything coffee, and discovering great new running songs. You can read more on her blog: