What I Learned in My First Marathon - Oiselle Team Weighs In
I did my first marathon as a fundraiser for a friend that had a double lung transplant. Running the marathon in support of someone else was an awesome experience. Whenever the pain came I thought of her and her struggles. It was rewarding for both of us and experience that I will never top again.
What went right:
I think what really helped me on my race day was all of the visualization I had done leading up to the race. Every day, several times a day, I held a very clear picture in my mind of how my race would go, from how I would feel at the start, to pushing through any tough points in the middle, to the exhilaration I would feel at the finish. I also really felt like I had dialed my nutrition in; I never once “hit the wall” and I feel this was in large part due to the fact that I was getting the nutrition (in the form of gels and fluids) that I needed at regular intervals.
What I would do differently:
Execute my plan! I got so excited and was soaking up the energy of the start, that I was pushing the pace too early. I KNEW I was going out too fast, but I just wanted to ride it out and see what happened. I know had I started more conservatively, I would not have slowed down near the end. However, I don’t regret how I ran this race, as I really learned a lot that will only help me in my next marathon, and how much more I am capable of!
1) Set a very doable, realistic pace goal that will make you feel satisfied, but hungry to go faster. There is nothing worse than a bad first marathon.
2) I wish I would have practiced eating / drinking more often in training!
First marathon was Seattle in 2004!
Good = found a girl who I really clicked with (personality and pace!) in the first few miles and ran much of the race with her until I had to have a bathroom stop!
Do differently = only trained 3 days a week, two runs of 4-6 miles and a long run which capped at 16 miles. (was coming off being hit by car while running and wasn't able to run much). Have trained harder in every marathon since.
During my first marathon, the best part of the experience was the point at which I realized I would actually finish (around mile 24). It was such a relief and accomplishment to be finishing that I almost cried during the race from the surge of positive emotion.
The big 'lessoned learned' from my first marathon was that running the whole race with another person is very difficult. I prefer racing a marathon 'alone', but finding other runners during the race to fall in step with. I pretty much find impromptu running buddies on the fly!
One thing that worked well for me in my first marathon was starting out conservatively. I had energy to spare at the end and managed a BQ first time out. What didn't work well that I would change? The same thing--I went out TOO conservatively and ended up with a 10-minute negative split. I've learned since then to take it out easier on the first couple of miles, but only a bit. Then I aim for even splits.
For my last marathon (December 2011), I paced out how many miles I wanted to go per hour and stuck to that. It allowed me to slow down or speed up (or make bathroom stops) and stay cognizant of my desired pace, without giving me a more restrictive goal, like 8:15 miles. I knew that as long as I was hitting my 7 miles per hour, I was in good shape. I'm not one of those runners who can keep a steady pace effortlessly. My speed often varies according to how I am feeling in the race. Setting a distance pace based on a larger chunk of time helped me to relax and run a PR!
The next time around, I would like to try running over the full distance. While I was able to complete the first 21 miles within the 3 hour time frame I had practiced for, the last 5.2 miles were a bit rough for me. Adopting a training plan that incorporated interval and speed training was definitely helpful, but I would like to feel more comfortable (read: faster) during the final miles of the race. If I can get used to running 30 miles, 26.2 should be a breeze, right?
My first marathon, I alternated water and Gatorade through the entire race, and it went really well. The one thing that I wish I knew was how to "pinch the cup." A good amount of liquid ended up on my arms and up my nose. I have since learned that if you pinch the cup, you have a lot more control of where that precious liquid is going.
When you raced your first Marathon what was something that went really well in your race/experience -
~ i had so much fun and when i crossed the finish line i knew there would be many more in my future.
What was something that you would do differently the next time around.
~ i learned how valuable it is to pace myself and to hold back no matter how good i feel so i have some to give at the end.
What went well: Practicing every detail during training, down to my baggie of cheerios, so that on race morning I was a well-oiled machine. I wasn't that nervous race morning because I felt so prepared. In fact, I don't know if I've felt that truly prepared going into a race, since!
What I would have done differently: Enjoy every second of the race. I got so focused on getting through the race and surviving the hurt that I didn't soak up the music, experience, spectators - including my family who traveled ALL around the course - and the fun as much as I should have for my first marathon. I make sure to do that now.
My first marathon was this past fall and I enjoyed every single moment, that was my goal and I think I nailed it. You only get to run your first marathon once, why not have fun and absorb every mile! My next marathon, this fall, I will have a time goal and I will push myself harder than I did in my first...so it might not be all smiles and waving to my hubby every 5 miles. The next one will be different, it's gonna hurt and I'm okay with that.
My first one was a good experience as my only goal was finishing (well, and to beat Oprah's marathon time, which I accomplished as well). I think you should go into the first one with your "A" goal being to finish and to like it, so as to have positive memories associated with it.
I wish I had known that you might feel overwhelmed around miles 8-10; I did, at least. I felt like I had already run a considerable distance and still had so far to go. The overwhelmed feeling will pass though. I wish I had known to do more long runs with mgp miles.
What went well in my first marathon was starting slow enough to negative split it. It feels sooooo much better finishing strong (yet still tired), than dragging those last several miles and watching people pass you. As for what I wouldn't do - also easy. Don't listen to other runners' training programs - and if you do, don't get psyched out by them. You have to have confidence in that your preparation was what was best for you..... I cried on the bus to the start of my first marathon when overhearing what other runners had done to prepare vs what I had done. It totally rattled me. In my mind, the goal of a first marathon, unless you're Shalane Flanagan, is to finish feeling good enough that you want to do it again!
I ran my first marathon by training virtually with another girlfriend. By that I mean we emailed what we thought we should do as our long run each week, then we'd email each other to see if we did it and how it went. We met up and ran the Portland Marathon together and stayed side by side the entire time. That was the best part of it, being with a good friend through the ups and downs in training and in the race. Our rookie mistake was not eating at all during training or in the race. We barely drank liquids in the race either. I think we just didn't know better because we hadn't ever race anything longer then a 10k.
Awful marathon mistake: At my first marathon, instead of using the sports drink and energy gels I was used to, I made the mistake of taking the ones the race provided. I didn't want to carry around all that stuff while racing... Bad idea...by mile 18, my stomach was so upset I wanted to throw up!!!
Great marathon moment: I know a lot of people say not to wear GPS watches at races, but for me, I loved having mine at the marathon. All the people and adrenaline at the starting line usually makes me want to run faster than I should, so my watch was a great tool to remind me to race smart. I was right on my target time crossing the finish line!
My first marathon was chicago 2002, one of my biggest fears was hitting the dreaded wall at mile 20, which i did not thank goodness, but going forward I always put in 1-2 22 milers, suggested by a marathon coach because it really strengthens your mental toughness and on race day knowing that if you can run 22 in practice, you can race 26.2 on marathon day. One less thing to worry about... So I guess I regretted not running over 20 miles in prep. But first marathon, did not really know.
Another thing i wish i had done... at end of race i saw all these folks sitting down icing knees and other things, and i felt so great from finishing, did not think twice, now i see the benefits of immediate icing to bring down or decrease inflamation, causing a more comfy few days after the race.
One thing that I did well: l dressed very appropriately, and matched weather conditions perfectly. Race day started at 36 and warmed up to 42, I layered up, but ran most of race in tank and shorts, threw away my throw away long sleeve shirt and gloves, i run at a hot temp i think.
Last thing i wish i had done: I started out first 3-4 miles at a slower pace, thinking i needed to warm up before hitting the full 26, what i have realized in marathons since, is to go ahead and run easier on first mile, but not too slow, your body has had 100's of miles of training and is ready to go, and the quicker you finish the race the less overall physical fatigue as well as mental occur, namely the last 2 miles of the marathon.... get er done..:)
"When you raced your first Marathon what was something that went really well in your race/experience and what was something that you would do differently the next time around..?
Oh I love this question. I would do nothing and everything differently. My first marathon was an impulse upgrade from a local half to the full, even though I hadn't even done sufficient half marathon training. The race fell on my 26th birthday, and I thought "what better way to celebrate than to run 26.2 miles?!" (Fact: there are better ways to celebrate when you haven't trained, such as running just the half, or even the 5k).
The thing that went the BEST was having my friend and running partner do it with me. She was no more trained than I was. Both of our families and friends came out in force, including some who rode bikes along the course and were literally EVERYWHERE! I don't think we went a mile without someone showing up along the course to encourage us. The best advice I was given was to enjoy the experience. I'm not sure I enjoyed every minute (see: what do to differently), but I did enjoy it. I ran for fun, I ran with a friend, I had tons of support and encouragement. I cried when I crossed the finish line, I think I am smiling in almost every picture taken during that day.
Have a fuel strategy. I was so nauseous I couldn't eat anything. My friend chowed down on actual Luna Bars! She has a stomach of steel.
What to do differently:
Do NOT wear cheap socks, even if they DO have a skull and crossbones on them. It won't make you hardcore, they will just give you a silver dollar sized blister that will pop at mile 21 and your running friend will be forced to try to stick a small bandaid onto your sweaty foot while people prop you up at an aid station, because sitting is not an option. The bandaid will not stick.
Wear body glide. Wear tons, and make your spectators carry it with them, or you will be asking people on the course if they have any body glide. Or duct tape to cover the chafed spots.
Make sure your shoes are a proper fit. My slightly small racing shoes were fine for up to half marathon distance, but cause me to lose toenails by the end of the full (twice. Because I don't learn from my shoe mistakes the first time around.)
Realize you might become a little delirious, and maybe shouting "OMG I LOVE YOU" to your commitmentphobic boyfriend when he shows up on his bike bearing powerade at mile 20 isn't the best idea you've ever had.
Make conversation if you can. We weren't RACING so we got to talk with a man for a few miles about the pink balloon he was carrying to honor his mother, who had passed away. There are so many awesome stories on the course, and if you are in a position to: ask and listen.
Mostly, the best thing I did was to have fun. And to not hold myself to my promise of "I'm never doing THIS again!"
I was a senior in high school wanted to qualify for Boston. What I did right: great pace, negative splits. Qualified!
What I did wrong? High school is probably too young for a marathon!
And I love this from Kelly Calway via Twitter:
Talk about getting it so wrong and then so right! Inspiring!