Last Minute Marathon Tips

My sister, Briana, ran her first Marathon last Sunday at the San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon. Since I was the one who signed her up through Team in Training five months ago in order to help improve her (and her family's) lifestyle and show her that she could accomplish anything with focus, I felt it was my duty to give her some last minute advice. Here is the email I sent to her:
  1. You can do this. 
  2. This is going to be one of the hardest physical and mental challenges you’ve ever faced. 
  3. You can do this!
  4. You are going to be nervous out of your mind, but it’s normal. 
  5. Start the race slow, you are going to feel the energy of the event and the people around you and you are going to want to start out fast, but try to resist. Remember that you will be running for 5-6 hours, what you do in the first 30 minutes isn’t going to make you finish faster, but it can destroy how you feel at hour 5. (this is important advice.) In short words, start out too fast and it will come back and bite you (from personal experience). 
  6. I try to separate the race into 2 parts. The first 13-15 miles is your warm up. Try to imagine an easy 13 mile run on a Saturday for the first half. 
  7. As for the second half, know that you are half way there and you’ve gone too far and trained too hard not to finish. It’s just another easy 13 miles. 
  8. At the water stops, be careful. Let me repeat: Be careful. People will stop right in front of you and you can run right into them. Paper cups and water will be all over the floor, so watch your step because it is slippery. If you plan on stopping at the water station, there are usually 2-4 tables. Everyone gathers at the first and it is usually much clearer towards the back. 
  9. Bring Gatorade in your water bottle and get water at the stations. If your bottle gets empty, the water station will refill it, just ask nicely. 
  10. Say thank you. It’s funny, but it feels good to you and them to thank the volunteers... they’ll usually give you an extra cheer which helps. 
  11. If you start to cramp, blister or chafe... stop at the aid station and tell them. They can help you out. Taking 10 minutes to fix something at hour 3 is better than suffering for the next 2 hours. At Big Sur, I cramped at mile 16 and took 5 minutes to stretch. I stopped, moved to the side and stretched it out and still managed to improve my overall time by 26 minutes. It pays off. Last year at SF, I got blisters on my toes. I stopped and got Vaseline from the aid station to reduce the rubbing (similar to glide) and I still finished fast. 
  12. This is going to be tough to hear, but it will happen. At some point, you are going to feel like you can’t do it anymore. It is called “hitting the wall.” JUST KEEP MOVING. Even if it means walking or slowing down. JUST KEEP MOVING FORWARD. It happens to me all the time. Start concentrating on shorter goals. If you are at mile 18, don’t think that you have 8 miles to go... just try to get to mile 19... then to mile 20. If it gets to hard to think of it in miles, break it down by blocks, trees, corners or whatever is around you. Tell yourself if you get to the tree, then you can walk for 15 seconds and so on. 
  13. Try to imagine how you are going to feel after you have done this. 26.2 MILES. A marathon is a life-time goal for most people and you are going to do it. Think of all the people that have supported you, think of all the people that donated, think of anything and everything that will get you to the finish line. Start doing miles for people. At mile 21 think of one person, do mile 22 for your kids, do mile 23 for all the weight you’ve lost, do mile 24 for Mika (my dog), whoever. Just get to the next mile 
  14. Don’t worry about time. I did my first at 5:21 and I did SF two years ago at 5:40. Time doesn’t matter. Just FINISH. There are people that will run this damn thing in 3 hours so just focus on doing what you came to do. 
  15. Cheer other people on, especially after 20 miles. If you see someone struggling and you are passing them, give a little clap and say “You’re doing great” or “you look fabulous” DO NOT SAY “you’re almost there” or “one more mile, etc.” That doesn’t help. Way to go, keep it up is what you want to say. Karma will reward you and someone will pick your spirits up when you need it. 
  16. Talk to yourself late in the race. I yell at myself around mile 22. I don’t care who’s around. I’ll say “C’mon, you can do it” multiple times throughout the race. You’ll never see these people again, so who cares if they think you’re crazy. HA! 
  17. And finally, have fun. Enjoy the music they have on the course, enjoy the people around you. Thousands of people are out there to accomplish the same thing as you. Feed off their energy. Soak up the experience. This is a lifetime achieving moment and an accomplishment that no one can take away from you. That medal is going to be the best thing in the world once you finish. Imagine how you are going to feel one you cross that line. 

Five months ago, we sat in that building and you asked me if I thought you could do it... do you think you can? Well, go out and prove it. You’ve been training you *** off, you’ve lost a ton of weight, you are eating healthier and your family is better for it. Finish what you started and go run a marathon. You can do it sis, you know you can. I’ll be rooting for ya. Make me proud, make mom proud, make your kids proud and most importantly... DO IT FOR YOURSELF.

* * * *
And there it is. I asked her to print it out and read it a couple times leading up to the race. It's good advice that has been passed down to me and some that I have learned through experience. I like to think at some point during the race, one of these points helped. I spoke to her a couple time Sunday, but I didn't go into too much detail and wanted her to enjoy her accomplishment. I'm so proud that she not only ran her very first marathon, but also raised over $4,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training. Way to go, sis.


Melissa - Lisluvs2run said...

Great advice! :)

PrasenjitSarkar said...

Very inspiring ... thanks!

Sarah said...

My first Marathon is in a couple days and this is EXACTLY the kind of advice I was looking for (and needed)!

Anonymous said...

My first marathon is a couple of days away and reading this made me teary eyed. Can't wait to cross that finish line!! ~Tracy