Lessons Learned from My First 16 Marathons

Since I’m less than 2 weeks away from my next 50k, I’ve been reflecting on my marathon journey so far. It’s no surprise that I have a completely different mindset now than I did when I ran my first marathon in 2008. Hopefully you can learn from some of my mistakes so you don’t personally repeat them.

1) No matter how good you feel at the start & how exciting the race day atmosphere is DO NOT start out too fast. ย I allowed myself to get caught up in the excitement of the start in my first few marathons and start out at a faster pace than I should have. Do you know what happened? I bonked. HARD! ย The last 8 miles of my first marathon were a miserable death march that had me swearing I would never run another marathon. (Clearly, I have short term memory issues because I ran my second marathon just 3 weeks after my first. Ha!)

2) Realize that pacers are human too. I usually try to match up with a pace group so I can focus on other aspects of the race and let the pace team leader worry about keeping even splits. The pacers are usually awesome and do a fantastic job of keeping the group motivated while maintaining a steady pace. However, even pacers can have an off day from time to time. If that happens, don’t feel obligated to stick with the group. The pacer in one of my marathons was running 30 seconds per mile faster than the pace the group was supposed to be going. While that may not seem like much, it ends up being roughly 13 minutes faster than goal pace if you maintain it over the entire marathon. I let the group go at mile 12 and proceeded to finish the race on my own. Needless to say, of the 30 or so of us that started with the group, no one finished with the pace leader that race.

3) Don’t try anything new on race day. This goes for everything from gear to nutrition. I had heard this many times, and yet I still found myself wearing the super cute shirt I picked up at the expo the night before the race, and trying orange slices mid-race when I had never eaten them during a training run. Unless you particularly enjoy chaffing or an upset stomach, it’s really not worth it.

4) Cross training is a MUST! It’s easy to get caught up in the amount of time spent running & think that you don’t need to spend a little extra time cross training. Let me tell you, not only have I had fewer injuries, but I have run faster and more efficiently as I’ve incorporated more cross training into my schedule.

5) Always expect the unexpected. When you are running for hours at a time it’s quite likely that something unexpected is going to happen. You can have a plan going into the race, but be open to changing it on the fly mid-run. I’ve had to deal with less than ideal weather (both too hot & too cold), last minute course changes, and discovering that I had the flu at mile 17. None of those races were as fast as I was hoping they would be, but I finished all of them.

2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame  Marathon -Forty by Forty Fitness

2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon. This was the marathon that I discovered I had the flu around mile 17. Clearly this photo was taken before then. ๐Ÿ˜‰

6) Encourage other runners on the course. Some runners will want to engage in deep conversation & others will just want to focus on the run. Either way, a quick, “Nice job!” as you pass someone is always appreciated. They are hurting just as much as you are, so try to be uplifting as much as you can.

What other lessons have you learned that you would like to share?

The Stomp Apparel giveaway is scheduled to end on Friday, February 27, 2015. If you haven’t already entered, you can do so below. ๐Ÿ™‚


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  1. Definitely when I was using my iPhone as a fitness tracker and my headset came unplugged in my apt gym and everyone heard me listening to Britney Spears “hit me baby”. It’s a classic but everyone was staring and I got some sneers.

  2. Wow, congratulations on being so close to your 50K! That is amazing. I used to run marathons (and really loved half-marathons!) and couldn’t agree more with your advice. I also would say to follow your plan and take it easy that last week of training. I was so antsy the week before my second marathon that I jumped on my bike and rode…26 miles…I know, sounds insane, right? I just had so much energy because I wasn’t running as much. But on race day (a few days later), I hit the wall at mile 6. I will never forget that. My legs were just toast. So, lesson learned. Take it easy before the big day! I hope you have an AWESOME race! (visiting from the Peony Project fb group :))

    • Great point Jennie! It’s so hard to rest when you have all the pre-race energy & anticipation, but it’s important to stick to the plan! Thanks for stopping by! I love meeting new Peony Project members! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I’ve never ran a marathon but these sound like excellent tips even if one is running a 5K or 10K. I hear some interesting stories from my distance runner friends of what happens during the course of the race/run of longer races. LOL. #wowlinkup

    • Lol Diatta! Yes, there are certainly some interesting stories from longer distance races. I’ve had quite a few myself, haha!

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this- I will be attempting my first marathon in Oct and I am scared I am going to start too fast! I am sure I will make some mistakes but going in with a specific mindset helps. Thanks for linking up too- hope you have a great Thursday!

    • Best of luck on your first marathon Annmarie! That’s exciting. Just keep the pace easy and enjoy the race. As long as you finish you automatically have a new PR. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Great tips! Little words of kindness to fellow runners can go a long way!

    • Absolutely! I have vivid memories of small words of encouragement spoken to me by fellow runners. I know those small acts of kindness helped me through some tough spots in some of my races.

  6. You won’t start off too fast especially if the race is a large one. Isn’t a 50k is a little over 30 miles?

    • Yes, a 50k is 31 miles. I’ve gotten better about starting slower. It’s just so hard when your adrenaline is pumping & you feel good in the early miles. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. A 50K?! You are my hero! I think I’ve made all of these mistakes. I always start out too fast and it never fails I try something new and fun on race day…I need to break these bad habits ASAP! Good luck to you in your 50k!

  8. So so love these tips. I have done 2 half marathons so far and have enjoyed both. Lessons … I run well with a partner so finding a running partner that has the same pace is super important for me.

    • Running with a partner can be a huge help! I’ve only had a consistent running partner for 1 marathon so far, but I loved running with her. Great point!

  9. Hi Aimee, That’s a beautiful blog you have out there. Those are great tips you have given out. Thanks for the reminders.

  10. Great tips to keep in mind! I haven’t run a full marathon yet but I have done 10 halfs and I agree with all of these. I think I have just about seen and experienced it all in my journey #wowlinkup

    • Thanks Heather! Isn’t it funny how many crazy stories you have after doing this for a while. I never could have imagined some of the things that have happened in my wildest dreams, lol!

  11. Starting out too fast kills me every time. My fastest races have always come when I’ve started super slow and easy. I always have a hard time remembering that though LOL.

    • Me too, lol! It’s soooo easy to get caught up in the excitement of race day & before you know it you’re running way too fast. I’m improving my pacing with each race. Baby steps, right?! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. I run half marathons, quite a bit. I always start slowly. There’s plenty of time to speed up later. There is an immense amount of satisfaction when you pass other runners in those last few miles.

    • Yes, it is an amazing feeling when you pass other runners in the last few miles! I’m getting better at it, but still start too fast sometimes. Thanks for sharing!

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