I am now a married woman, on the eve of turning 35 and officially a MARATHONER as of one week ago. I remember a lot of people telling me how amazing it was going to be to say those words, I am a marathon runner. In actuality, the build-up and fear of failing (i.e. a “DNF” or Did not finish) possibility was more frightening then the race itself. I knew as soon as my legs had a chance to roll across the streets of one of the greatest cities on Earth that I would feel significantly better.
I was talking to a friend of mine (hi Jeanine!) and she had asked me for some advice. I figured I could blend it all into this post. I have been wanting to do an entry to just recall all of the critical details (before I forget) for future longer distances.
Marathon Running Reading: I wanted to recommend to anyone who is interested in some supportive reading about training, I found a TON of useful information. The Complete Book of Running for Women, by Claire Kowalchik. This woman was ahead of her time and though written more than a decade ago, she had a sense of what was most important in all aspects of running.
Some of the info is a bit dated and can give you a laugh but usually it’s pretty much spot-on and assuaged my own fears about certain aspects of training. Yes, it’s focused on women but there are a ton of helpful tips for anyone who is starting out on their running “career.”
A couple of anecdotal points about training and pre-race:
- Training is all-consuming. It can be mentally and physically exhausting and towards the end it can also affect your emotional well-being. The last few training runs felt really overwhelming for me and I had observed this was true while following the New York Road Runners Virtually Training group. This seemed to be a normal transition
- You will spend a significant amount of time by yourself. This can be an amazing and isolating experience. There were times when I craved more companionship from my now-husband because I would be on my own for 3-4 hours at a time. I did thoroughly enjoy the time to decompress and think and feel like I had the space to sift through things I never did before.
- As you close-in to the race day suddenly you feel like it’s all you talk about. “Are you ready,” “are you excited,” “what are you hoping to do in terms of time,” “wow that’s such a long distance, I could never do that.” These conversations are constant.
- You will suddenly feel like you haven’t trained at all. Did I do enough? I should have really pushed on that long run 4 weeks ago when I had to cut it short by a couple of miles. Will my injury flair up? What if I can’t finish.
Despite 5.5 months of pushing myself and saying “no” quite a lot to anything and everything fun, I still questioned my ability.
NYC MARATHON – The Journey Is Almost Over
We headed up to NYC the Friday before so we would have time to adjust and take it easy. Also, everyone is required to pick-up their own bib so you have more time to navigate the expo the earlier you arrive. I think you might get some sales deals by going Saturday vs Friday but I am not 100% sure.
So here are the tips!
What you SHOULD and SHOULD NOT do:
- At this point you want to eat the same foods your body is used to. Also, it’s VERY important to try and get off your feet as much as possible the day before the race. On race day about 3 hours in my feet really started to hurt and be on them for longer than I should have was definitely part of the reason.
- Standard advice: Don’t wear anything new at this stage. Exceptions exist. I bought compression arm sleeves at the Expo and wore them the entire race. It ended up being really cold (at least for me) and the more clothes the better. I regretted handing off my gloves to my husband because in the later miles I was really ready for some warmth on my fingers!
3. Have everything prepared the night before so it makes it easier to get ready in the morning. I laid everything out in the hotel room on the desk in the order I would put it on. You probably still will struggle to be able to get a good night’s sleep but knowing that your stuff is ready to go will give you a small peace of mind.
4. Wear 2 different running shoes during training. This is my biggest regret. My poor Saucony shoes had seen the best and worst of our training runs together and by race day they really needed to be retired. I had heard about cycling running shoes. I didn’t think I was doing enough miles to need that. BIG Mistake. There are so many benefits from running form to ensuring you don’t end up on race day wearing insoles as thin as a penny when you will be on your feet for a few hours. I am also not super excited about separate insoles for cushioning. I have managed to get so many blisters by doing this in the past
5. Body Glide, Body Glide, Body Glide. Everywhere. In-between your toes, legs, arms, chest, neck. I didn’t lose one toenail and have very few blisters or chafing when I used body glide. Your skin will need to toughen up during training but body glide is critical to avoiding hollering in pain in the shower post-run.
6. Electrolyte Support/Salt Sticks – I wish I had taken more electrolyte support with me on the race. I took some pre-race (see inventory below) but I should have had another couple of infusions or taken salt sticks with me. I hadn’t needed them during training runs but in hindsight realized I would have them with me for a couple of intervals during my longer runs and I felt the depletion heavier than I had expected. Thankfully, I didn’t have any cramping or dehydration issues.
7. Prepare for the worst. My IT Band has been acting up for months. I went to Physical Therapy frequently to address my issues but I knew it was very likely that I would experience a flair. At mile 12 it kicked in with a vengenance. Thankfully I brought a band support wrap. It didn’t make it 100% better but it made it manageable. I also ended up having severe tendonitis in my left ankle as well. Injury is going to happen and you just need to be prepared for what “could happen.”
8. Follow a training plan and preferably, join a community that will support you in your training. You are going to have days you don’t want to run. Days you truly feel angry that you have to do 12 miles after working a 60 hour week. Knowing other people are fighting alongside you and pushing you along either virtually or in-person is a game-changer. I worked with the NYRR virtual training program. Highly recommend it.
9. Be mentally prepared. The race may or may not go the way you want it to. What is your most important goal. If it’s your first-time your entire focus and vision should be on finishing it. Secondarily, a time or pace of negative splits, etc. Finishing is worth it.
10. NYC Marathon-Specific Advice: Take the poncho, don’t do a bag check. You don’t really need a bag check unless there isn’t a way to get warm clothes shortly after the race. The ferry is a good option for transport but some of the hotels will offer direct transport for you as well. The buses can get stuck in traffic easily and you don’t want to miss your wave. Plan to get there early especially if you are in the earlier waves/heats!
11. What do I eat the night before? 2 days before? People were STRESSING about this. I didn’t want to do anything differently and I have been following a very specific nutrition cycle through a program called, Primal Precision. I eat a decent amount of carbs, fat and protein to support my body and I am all about “sticking to what I know.” I tried to ensure I drank a lot of water, took my supplements, ate standard fare. The night before the race I had chicken and rice and water for dinner. I wasn’t interested in having any stomach issues by eating anything outside of the staples. I was craving a banana at the end of the race which may have meant some carb deficiencies but I don’t think I would have done anything differently.
12. STRENGTH TRAIN! This should probably be #1 but I am just building this list organically as it comes. I am a HUGE believer of strength training. I didn’t run a fast race because of my injury issue but I also barely felt sore the next day. My pain was mostly from my ankle and IT band. I credit strength training with this completely. Cross-training with Yoga, Crossfit, Planks, One-Leg Squats, etc. was critical to me feeling amazing so soon after. I kept waiting for the “other shoe to drop” and it never did. I was traveling for work on Wednesday and it almost felt like the race never happened because I didn’t feel it at all.
So what was my inventory?
- Lululemon Running pants (tried and true on 3 long runs)
- Nike Sports Bra (tried and true on many training runs)
- Running Shirt, Bright Neon Orange (tried and true on 2 long runs) – wanted someone that would help me stand out in the race
- Belkin Neon Orange Socks – these were new socks from the Expo but I am very familiar with the brand. If I didn’t wear Belkin all the time I wouldn’t have worn these socks
- Rings/Necklace – The necklace ended up causing a bit of chaffing during the race but it never did that before. I wouldn’t wear any new jewelry that you hadn’t trained with
- Bib – I wore this on my leg. You had to have this visible to get through any of the gates so it’s better just to have it on versus waiting until the race. For a “normal” race with less security measures I always do this a few minutes before I line up.
- Asics Compression Sleeves – First time wearing them but knew I could easily remove them if they irritated me. Felt like I needed another layer.
- Cheap Gloves from the Expo – Wore these for the first 5 miles and then passed them over to my husband. My hands always are cold!
- Running Pack – Wear this around my waist. I use this for my Clif Blok, iPhone, back-up iphone charger and cord, chapstick, headphones
- Long Sleeve Top Layer – I ended up donating this. I had a NorthFace long sleeve shirt that was particularly warm. It was also a bit small for me so gave me a good opportunity to use it by give to someone who could actually wear it instead of sitting in the back of my closet
- Winter Hat – I didn’t end up wearing this at all
- IT Band Wrap – I carried this around my wrist until I needed it at mile 12
- Red Wrist Bands – This was a little thing our training group all did together to indicate solidarity and support!
- Race Day Bag – Clear bag was provided when you received your bib. I brought 2 water bottles. 1 was filled with Pre-Wod and the other was just regular water. Right before the race I also added Gnarly to the bottle. I brought a magazine with me just in case that I barely flipped through. I also brought a Fuel for Fire Coffee protein pack with me as my breakfast.
This year has been absolutely life changing for me. This particular race was beyond anything I could ever describe. Sometimes it feels like it was really all a dream. One moment I was on the streets seeing my family calling my name and cheering me on a running tour through the epic scene that is the Marathon. In the next moment I was in a meeting on Monday morning recalling the adventure to my colleagues.
You have to remember to enjoy every second. Everyday there will be another challenge even if it’s just so small you don’t even stop to realize. I hope you each have a chance at your own Marathon and that it brings you as much joy as this race brought me.