The Do’s and Don’ts guide to your first Marathon/Half

I am one week away from my first half marathon of the year!  While I am using this race as a tuner for my marathon this spring (and thus am not expecting a PR time), I thought I would still offer some Do’s and Don’ts from a seasoned endurance runner for some of you first time marathoners and halfers!

  • What do I wear?
    • DO check the weather, and bring options!  I had a nightmare race a year ago when the weather turned and all I had brought was a tank and shorts.  I got a lovely visit to the med tent for hypothermia.
    • DO prep the night before.  Go ahead an pin your number on, put your chip on your shoe if you have to, get your fuel belt ready to go if you’re using one. That way you won’t forget anything that morning with all your race day excitement.
    • DON’T try anything new.  Race day is not the day to break in new shoes, try new socks, or wear your cute new race day outfit.  Make sure you have at least one practice run in your new race duds so you know nothing will chafe you the wrong way.
    • DO pack a garbage bag.  Most races start early in the morning when its a little cooler, leaving you standing there in the cold in your race gear sometimes as long as an hour before you get to start running.  Bring a garbage bag, punch some arm and head holes, and you have yourself a makeshift space blanket to keep the heat in before the gun goes off, so you don’t waste too much energy shivering, then you can ditch it once you warm up.
    • DON’T wear your race shirt.  You gotta earn it!  You’ll stand out as a race-newbie, plus wouldn’t you rather wear it all day long after your race so that everyone who sees you knows what you accomplished?
  • What and When do I eat?
    • DO eat breakfast.
      •  If you normally run in the mornings, eat what you normally eat before your long runs, and give yourself at least an hour to digest.
      • If you normally run in the afternoons, you’re used to having some food in your belly before running.  Eat a light, carb-dense breakfast with a banana.  My go-to is half a bagel, with a thin spread of nutella with a banana.  Again, give yourself at least an hour to digest.
      • If you’re a regular coffee drinker, go ahead and have a cup as soon as you wake up.  If you don’t you’ll have a hard time warming up because your heart rate won’t have that caffeine jolt to give it a boost.  If you’re not a coffee drinker, today is not the day to become one.
    • DON’T try anything new.  Again, you don’t want to venture in unknown territory, especially with your stomach and bowels jostling around.  Only take gels at the aid stations if you’re used to taking them, or else the carbs can cause an upset stomach on the course.
    • DO find out what they’re serving on the course.  If you plan on using gels or taking an energy drink cup instead of water, find out what they are serving on the course.  There are different brands of each, so you can give your stomach some practice digesting while running, and you won’t be surprised by flavors and textures.
  • During the Race
    • DO utilize the pace team.  Whether you’re trying to get a PR or just finish the race, running with a pacer ensures you aren’t running alone.  Most races have people whose job is to keep a set pace so that you don’t have to.  Usually they are wearing bright colors and holding a sign on race day, and they’ll keep you chatting the whole race and keep your mind off running.  Try to find the pace team table at the expo and you can know who to look for on race morning.
    • DON’T get too excited.  Theres a lot of people around you and a lot of energy, so you’re going to want to jet off at top speed.  Try to keep a pace you can sustain, remember its a long race.
    • DO challenge yourself.  While you don’t want to overdo it, you do want to utilize all that energy around you to exceed your expectations.  Don’t be afraid to go for it!
    • DON’T forget to smile for pictures!  Theres going to be a lot of photographers on the course, and while you may not look stunning (who does look stunning while running?!), smiling will exponentially increase your aesthetic.
    • DO thank all the volunteers!  They’re up and out just as early as you are, just to make sure you can safely cross major roads, stay hydrated, and keep an upbeat attitude.   They’re there for YOU!
  • Post-Race
    • DO sprint to the finish.  You’ll be amazed at the burst of energy you’ll get when you see that finish line.
    • DON’T skip the snacks.  You’ll be shuttled through a line of water, energy drinks, and snacks.  You may or may not be hungry, but definitely take some water and an energy drink, and some cookies or pretzels or whatever you think you can stomach.  Getting some nutrition in you immediately after will help you feel less exhausted later in the day.
    • DO grab a space blanket.  You may not be cold right when you finish, but once your body temperature drops, and the sweat lingers, you can get pretty chilly.  If they are offering space blankets, go ahead and grab one, even if you don’t think you’ll need it.  My mother likes to take an extra and save it for the next race, to wear in the start line instead of a garbage bag.
    • DO take advantage of the expo.  Does a free post race massage sound awesome to you?  Let me tell you, it is.
    • DO plan a place to meet.  If you are running with friends, its best to have a plan in case you get separated during the race.  A lot of races have “meet up” stations labeled A-Z for names.  Pick a meet up station, or find out where the race ends and plan on meeting by a nearby landmark.
    • DO wear your medal all day long.  All week long.  Show it off, you earned it!

If you have any unanswered questions, please comment below!

Happy racing everyone!




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