10 Tips for Running Your First Marathon

When you tell people that you’re running your first marathon, be prepared for a barrage of unsolicited helpful advice.  It’s a lot like your first baby: natural or epidural, breast or bottle, Ferber method or attachment parenting, disposable or reusable.  Your brain is combating the sensory overload onslaught of information coming your way.  But when your sweet friend and former college roommate texts to tell you that she’s running her first marathon and it’s                 St. George and asks if I have any tips?

DO I!  My very best tip, turned into three, which quickly transitioned into five, and eventually rounded out to a nice even ten!  Enjoy.


1. Finish. Your goal should only be to finish. Don’t put any additional pressure on yourself by having a certain time to meet or beat.

2. Drink.  Drink like you will be crossing the Sahara Desert.  The day before a marathon I drink about 5 liters of Smartwater.  I typically feel hydrated even for those hot days.

3. Carb load.  You need to add some additional carbs into your meal plan a few days leading up to the marathon.  Be carb smart, this isn’t an excuse to load up on junk.  Add a sweet potato, a serving of brown rice, and an apple with peanut butter.  Your body needs time to build up the glycogen stores that you will be running on for hours.  When I sat at the Elite Running Meeting before Boston this year, I was amazed watching these fast runners snacking on everything from white bread to lifesavers.  Those runners knew their bodies needed that extra fuel and energy.

4. Train your gut.  Make sure that whatever fuel you like and are used to is what you use during the marathon.  Don’t try anything new even if it looks delicious and promises speed and was free at the expo.  After 12 marathons, I know that at miles 4, and 8 I will eat 3-4 Honeystinger chews, at mile 13 I will eat 1 Honeystinger gel package, at mile 17, 20, and 23 I will have 2-4 more chews.  I know and trust these products and my body is used to using them for fuel.

5. The shirts are ugly.  Okay, not always but usually.  I mean it’s not Oiselle or Lulu.  Plan on spending a little money at the expo on a shirt, necklace, sweatshirt or jacket that you will really wear to celebrate what you accomplished.  You deserve to treat yourself with a memento, you’ve earned it.

6. Smile.  Smile for the pictures.  This is an amazing journey and even if in the moment you are hating every step, when it’s over,  you’ll want at least one good picture.  Just to remind yourself, your family, and your friends of your awesomeness.


7. You’ll want to quit.  You will.  Every marathon I run, I think at least 137 times, “Why am I doing this?”  You my friend, are part of the 1% who give it their all and give it their best.  Don’t give up.  Expect to have those feelings and then reframe with a mantra.  My favorite is, “My lungs, are strong, my legs are fast, mile after mile I’ll last and last.”  That has powered me through some tough miles.

8. Give yourself part of the course.  It’s okay to mentally give yourself a break.  I have a fast friend who struggles with the hill coming up by The Ledges at the St. George Marathon.  She told me that she gives herself that hill.  I love this advice.  She slows, ignores her watch, and just gets up it.  Then she powers down the rest of the course.  If a particularly hard part of the course is beating you down.  Give it to yourself.  Slow down.  Walk it.  Breathe.  You are not any less of a runner or marathoner for walking.

9. Take it in.  High five someone, thank a volunteer, shout encouragement to other runners, let the beauty that surrounds you inspire you.  This will be an amazing experience and it will go by all too quickly.  Don’t get so bogged down that you forget to enjoy the journey.

10.  Do it again.  Running a marathon doesn’t have to be a one-time-only, bucket list kind of deal.  It can be an annual ritual.  It can propel you to seek out new challenges like a faster time or an Ultra.  Give it a month and you will start thinking, I bet I could do that again, even faster.  Then you my friend have the heart of a runner.


Happy running friends!  And Lindsay, you’re going to rock it.

What is the best marathon tip you’ve ever received?

What is the worst “new baby” tip you’ve ever received?

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