I’ve now run a total of one (1) marathon at the back of the pack. Logically, I’m now the world’s foremost expert in marathoning. You shall all come to me for advice from here on out.
All kidding aside, and despite the fact that I’m as far from a running expert as Australia is from Canada, I still decided to make a list of things I learned while training and running the marathon. Honestly, it annoys the heck out of me when bloggers act like experts, so you should know that I purely wrote this list because I made a lot of mistakes during this training cycle and it will be handy for me to refer back to when I decide to take the plunge again … someday.
1. Don’t forget about mental toughness
I finished the Ottawa Marathon on a very hot day with a smile on my face and immediately said: “That was fun!” It was fun, and painful too, but for some reason I just don’t remember the suffering as vividly. I chalk this up to the power of positive thinking and the mental toughness that I practiced a million times during training and outside of training in my regular everyday life.
2. Practice EVERYTHING
Nothing comes easy to me, except maybe singing karaoke. I find it hard enough to put pants on in the morning and not let the dishes pile up. Beyond just improving my running, I had to practice so many things to be prepared for this race. I was scared of passing out or getting pulled off the course.
Eating and drinking, clothing, pace, using a Garmin, mental motivation, not falling off a curb, wearing a fuel belt: I went over it all a million times. I even got lost several times and often started talking to myself on long runs so I eventually had to add “sticking to the plan” as something to practice.
These are the splits from my race. I rarely looked at my watch and it died before the end. I think all the practice really helped me have such consistent splits and prevented me from fading.
3. Don’t scramble at the last minute
Before our wedding I made a deal with myself that I would accomplish all tasks by the end of Wednesday night and then relax until the wedding day on Saturday. It was the best decision I could have made.
I tried to do the same thing for the marathon. I did my shopping and packing several days before leaving for vacation, and visualized everything I needed to do before toeing the start line (i.e., picking up my bib, carb loading, etc.). After I had my plan memorized and finished my last training run on Wednesday, I took a deep breath and told myself I was ready to run. I had prepared myself as much as I could. Time to stop being crazy.
From that point on, I just had to stay calm and relax. While all other members of my family were scrambling around, I had my plan for race weekend sorted our clearly in my mind. All I had to do was lay out my race outfit on the floor beside my bed. I didn’t get worked up about anything that was going wrong. I lounged around and was asleep before 10 p.m. the night before the race. It was great.
4. Listen to your body
I followed my training plan too rigidly in the beginning and was injured because of it. It’s hard to find that fine line between taking the easy way out and skipping a workout for a good reason, but if you don’t listen to your body you could derail your whole goal.
I was dangerously close to missing out on the marathon when I kept running on a mildly sprained ankle and made it worse. After I stopped obsessively keeping track of my mileage, and started listening to the experts and my husband, things got better. I also started cross training a lot more and that helped a lot.
5. Don’t ignore strength training
Despite my best efforts, I knew this would fall by the wayside when my mileage ramped up, and I was right. Most of my injuries and pains were caused by lack of strength. I could have had a more enjoyable training cycle and faster time if I hadn’t skimped on this.
6. It’s not free
I remember when I first started running and thought I only needed a pair of sneakers. So young, so naive. I spent a ton of moolah on this race. The race registration itself was over $100, but it didn’t stop there. New sneakers, massage stick, fuel (gels ain’t cheap!), physio co-pays, souvenirs, gym membership for treadmill access, eating out because I was too tired to cook: the list goes on.
And speaking of that eating out thing …
7. Don’t be surprised if you gain weight
I was ready for it to happen and it absolutely did happen. This is a whole other post for another day.
8. Believe in the taper
Because of my injury I was a full-on madwoman during the taper. Thankfully the rest was exactly what I needed to get my leg healed up completely by the time I started the marathon. The taper works!
9. Do research
If you are a newbie runner like me, you probably need to do some learnin’ before training for a marathon. Training for a half can be cobbled together, but a full marathon is another beast. I read a few books (Runner’s World being one of them) and did a million hours of research online (and it still took me 5 and a half hours to cross the finish line). I also joined a Running Room clinic and learned a lot from my buddies there.
There is so much to learn!
10. There’s nothing like race day
Seriously — what is it about race day? I mean, besides the adrenaline, the crowds, and that fresh tapered feeling in your legs. I knew about the power of race day from past experiences but I should have believed in it even more. It is a completely different experience compared to a training run.
If you have anything to add in the comments, I’d love to hear!