After more than 30 marathons, mountain races and ultra runs, this is my fun and easy beginners guide for first time marathoners, dreaming-to-be marathoners, I-want-to-run-10-k peeps and whoever is at the start of their running career.
1. Toilets. Always.
This is especially for my ladies out there. Before running, you should drink a lot of water (or whatever fits your taste) and hydrate yourself properly - otherwise your body will not be able to kick ass. So, if you pass by the porta-potties, don’t think and find excuses (later, after the first kilometer, whatever). Just find your spot in the queue and do it early. The first toilets in the race will be terribly crowded and you don’t want to lose a significant amount of time there. Along with this: Bring toilet paper and check the race map before running to remind yourself of the exact locations. In longer trail runs or ultras, infrastructure might be even worse, so no hurry there as you won’t find toilets anywhere anyway.
2. Stick to your habits
This is true for everything. No fancy first-time breakfast options in that cool hotel you are staying in, no new pair of running shoes that were on sale at the expo for the big day and certainly no new clothes you have not tried on properly before. Also - I cannot recommend any style of short hot pants (chaviiiiiing - nothing is worse). Even your usual outfit might cause issues when they get moisture due to sweat, showers, humidity, rain or idiots who spill their water. When it comes to bras, I would invest in a quality piece, though I never experienced pain or discomfort with cheaper models due to my boob size. (Guys might want to tape their nipples - seems to be a wide spread problem).
3. Stay hydrated
Already mentioned thet in (1). Something I absolutely underestimated during my first races. A thirsty "you" won't run far, believe me. It doesn't matter whether you prefer aid stations, small bottles or a hydration backpack - just take care of it somehow. Personally, I love the cheapest version of Decathlons backpacks as it has got enough space for keys and money, but still doesn't weight too much (I am clearly not a big fan of expensive overpriced brands). By the way, it may be helpful to fill your calories through liquids (Coke, gels, whatever) as it is way less fun to run on a full stomach.
4. Just for Girls
If there is any chance - being on your period won't help. I like to reschedule via birth control pills as that massive lack of magnesium only leads to cramps and sore muscles.
Your first marathon is a big thing. You feel excited when only thinking about it or even a bit dizzy? That's at least how I felt at my big day. Don't mess it up by setting unrealistic goals - this race should be about enjoying the atmosphere and people around you. Push your personal borders and run that distance you never did before, but make sure you have a good time. There is good and bad days in running, a shitty blister on your feet, your stomach feels weird or whatever - many factors contribute to the actual finishing time and ruining everything by absolutely wanting to make a certain time only leads to cramps, a shit mood and tears while running the last few miles. Stay positive and have an awesome day, you will never forget about it!
6. Learn to love your starting block
Don't sign up for a 3:45 if you are a 4:30. That is annoying for everyone around you, you "steal" another runners space and you won't be able to stay there for a long time anyway. Being in the right block is a truly beautiful thing - You feel home-ish and stick to the same crew as nobody won't run anywhere. Seeing the same faces for hours is sort of comforting. To me, being part of the last block was my thing for a long time - Running such an easy pace brings a lot of joy (and I am usually wearing running costumes anyway) plus I love cheering up fellow sufferers with a big smile and some dancing (while running, of course). Nobody can resist a smiling, blonde ladybug!
Probably the most important thing. You hopefully signed up out of joy and excitement. Take advantage of that crowd, the bands, the cheering groups. Everyone is smiling at you, there is funny posters everywhere and everyone is excited and happy. Moreover, there are many (sometimes hundreds) of volunteers helping out and making sure you get your banana, isn’t that great? I would recommend to speed up only at the very last miles, as you start to feel enthusiastic the closer you reach the finish. Crossing the finish line and receiving the first marathon medal ever was one of the best moments of my whole life. YOU.DID.IT.ROCKSTAR.
Of course, everyone defines "fun" for themselves, and some may enjoy a small, family-run trail event much more. In general, I recommend to chose a big event. Do you have a city you are burning for? A country? A beach? Meanwhile, you can run marathons everywhere, and to combine the whole thing with a little travel excitement never hurts. A larger event with many people has a lot more atmosphere, staff, music and volunteers - not a bad choice for the first time! So go out there and run New York City, the Great Wall or chase down the beaches in Barcelona. It only matters what you like and what makes your heart beat faster.
8. Crossing the finish line
Crossed the Finish Line? Awesome! First things first: Get that medal. Move smoothly out of the "line" and take whatever is being offered: bananas, sandwiches, water, coke, hugs of strangers. If there is any sort of rescue blanket or plastic cape, take it. You will be cold and freezing in a second, unless you are somewhere in the desert. Personally, I cannot really eat huge amounts of anything as my stomach is a bit sensitive after racing, but you should definitely try to get those calories back in.
Once you left the area, celebrate with your loved ones, go home for a shower and get some rest. This can often lead to the most painful moment of the day - hot water and soap on wounded, chopped of skin is the worst.thing.ever. After surviving that torture, it's time for a long nap - depending on how you feel. I have had marathons that felt like a nice walk in the park and I was instantly ready for traveling, shopping and exploring the area. Well. And there is races where you just want to die and sleep for a week.
After the nap, your stomach might feel a lot better, so it's time for a huge burger and ALL ZE CARBS. And magnesium. Just eat it all, whatever comes to your mind. If somebody complains about your eating, eat them as well. Prepare for super sore legs on the next day. Don't even think of taking the stairs. After the pain has gone, glory stays forever. You might be tired of it for now and have that "never ever again" attitude. Believe me, it won't take too long until you plan the next races or think about a new personal record. Marathon runners hearts are hard to control once they are set on fire.
What are your favorite tipps and tricks? Let me know to update this guide and make it continuously better for the newbies out there