Marathon Tips: Things I Have Learned From Running Two Marathons

Having run only two marathons, I make no claims to be any kind of marathon running expert. However, each of these races has been an incredible learning experience, and here are a few practical things about marathon running that I have learned so far:

1. The saying that a marathon is “equal parts mental and physical” is 100% true.

2. The final 6.2 miles of a marathon will test you in ways you have never been tested before.

3. Proper fueling and hydration during a marathon are critical. I recovered much more quickly after my second marathon, during which I ate the equivalent of 6+ gel packets.

4. Gel is a lot more palatable when watered down a bit in a gel bottle. I carried two small gel bottles in my second marathon, and they worked great (one was a $0.99 travel shampoo bottle from Target, the other was this nutrition flask from Nathan).

5. It’s best to fuel early and often, because, at least for me, the thought of eating anything sugary during the last ten miles or so makes me nauseous.

6. It’s ok to walk to recuperate some energy, just be careful because once you do it, the temptation to continue walking can be hard to overcome.

7. Thinking about your post-race meal can be a great incentive to keep moving. I think about ice cream and pizza frequently when times get tough during the second half.

8. It sounds silly, but having a mantra to repeat to yourself can really help when you start to hurt. Repeat your kids names to yourself, or come up with some other motivational phrase, and repeat it in your head when you need a boost.

9. Adrenaline will force you to want to start out fast – resist the urge at all costs – you have a long race in front of you!

10. Train properly and sufficiently – you can’t skimp on training when it comes to running a marathon. At least one 20+ mile training run prior to the actual race is essential.

11. Eat a lot in the days leading up to the race – don’t worry about gaining weight. You will burn >3000 calories during the race, so it’s ok to splurge a bit and top off your glycogen stores.

12. While eating like crazy, don’t experiment with anything new the day before the race. Stick with things you know won’t cause you bowel troubles.

13. Don’t overhydrate immediately before the race starts or you’ll need a pit-stop shortly after you start running (around mile 5 of my last marathon, I saw a line of about 15 guys peeing along a fence). If you hydrate well the day and night before, and drink regularly once you start running, you should be fine.

14. Bodyglide anti-chafing lubricant is a lifesaver for marathon runners. Use it extensively or you may bleed from places you never thought could bleed!!!

15. Have fun and force yourself to smile from time to time when you are running the race. It’s amazing what a pick-me-up a smile can be! Even if you’re hurting, remember why you love running!

That’s it for now – I’ll probably add to this as more things pop into my head, but the most important point of all is that running a marathon is hard, but it should be enjoyable – prepare properly and it will be an unforgettable experience!

If you have any marathoning tips of your own, feel free to leave them in the “Comments” section below.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Believe it or not, I do find this very helpful. I am glad you’ve pinpointed a lot of good things. You make me re-think about this since I am trying to come up with ideas for my seventh marathon – Amica Newport Marathon.

    Outstanding post !!! A++

  2. Good stuff!

    I wouldn’t focus on eating “a lot” in the lead up to the event. Instead eating your normal, healthy meal plan should be plenty sufficient. If you want to eat “just because” then enjoy! :)

    To add to the list and assist in real-time race day pacing:

    Your perceived exertion (PE) effort should feel like easy/moderate (”cruise-mode”) effort for the first 17- 20 miles. If your effort doesn’t feel fairly easy early on, drop your pace into that easy/moderate level. I would go as far and say it should feel mostly easy through mile 15. From miles 15-20, you can start creeping into that moderate level.

  3. Melanie says:

    Awesome post! Awesome picture! I learn a lot from your advice. Thank you!

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