Guest Post: Lessons of a First Time Marathoner

I am really excited today because I am participating in a Blog Swap! Katie, over at Healthy Heddleston invited a whole bunch of Sweat Pink Ambassadors to join her in the swap. I am happy to present Jennifer from Run it My Way, who is guest posting here today. You can find my post, Strength Training for Marathon Runners, over on Jennifer’s blog today! To find a list of all the blog-swappers, check here: Sweat Pink Blog Swap Hostess.

It seems really crazy when I think back to when I first started running (about a year and a half ago!) and I remember how HARD I thought it was to run 5k. I remember feeling on top of the world and totally invincible after I ran 8 whole kilometres. I totally geeked out and looked up a bunch of different landmarks and restaurants on Google maps that were 8 whole km away and revelled in the fact that I ran all the way to the movie theatres.

So it seems *really* wild to think that I’m now exactly 4 weeks out from running my first marathon. (Um, on that note, can I just say Debbie is amazing? More than 35 marathons?! I love it!!)

I didn’t know what to expect when I started training for the marathon. I signed up (and paid!) for the marathon months ago – cause you can’t back out once you’re registered!! Especially if you pick a non-refundable one :)

Marathon training has been an interesting experience.

Some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way:

1. You Are What You Eat

I’ve trained for and run three half marathons and a 20 km leg of a relay race – and to be totally honest, I’ve really noticed a big impact of what I’ve eaten on how I run… Well, except the time I ate a cheeseburger meal immediately before running. That was dumb. But eating my usual relatively healthy diet, I didn’t see a big impact on my evening run if I didn’t have time to grab breakfast on the way out the door in the morning, or if my lunch ended up being pizza and skittles because, well, skittles are awesome.

It wasn’t until I started training for the marathon, running more often and higher weekly mileage, that I began to really feel the effects of what I ate on how I ran. A greasy lunch = a horrible, sluggish run. A lunch consisting of coffee inhaled at my desk = lead legs on my after-work run. And most importantly, not enough water or balanced meals consisting of complex carbs, protein and nutrients the day before a long run = one very loooong, unpleasant run.

Run it My Way

2. Time is a Rare and Valuable Commodity

Perhaps the biggest surprise that came with marathon training was what a huge time commitment it really is. If you want to run well and stay healthy, you have to put in the miles. It’s certainly made the ‘balancing act’ of a demanding more-than-full-time job (I work as a lawyer), running, volunteering, blogging, walking the dog, etc, really challenging!

To be totally honest, I still haven’t totally figured how to balance my time, it’s a work in progress. I have new-found respect for the people who train for races AND have kids – now that’s impressive!

3. Any Way You Cut It, 20 Mile Runs Are HARD!

What a shock the first 20 mile run was! No matter how much you run or how much you prepare yourself mentally, the first 20 miler is tough (I’d venture to say ALL 20 milers are, unless you’re Dean Karnazes!)

For me, I ran until I was physically exhausted. I had a point when I thought I was approaching my limits – my legs were stiff and heavy and all I really wanted was a giant bottle of water and a recliner (

Once you push through that, the worst is over. It was a pretty incredible experience knowing you had pushed your body to that point, then broken through all the limits you though existed. Everyone should do it at least once!

Which leads to the next lesson…

4. Anyone Can Do It

No, that’s not just the running coach in me coming out – I really believe it. The marathon is 70% a mental battle. Almost everyone is born having the ability to run a marathon, if you are willing to commit to the goal. Most of us don’t have the hardware to run a sub-3 hour marathon, but we CAN finish one. If I can do it, you can. It’s just a matter of building up the mileage slowly and safely and PUSHING ourselves through those boundaries.

You want to do a marathon? DO it!

Run it My Way

5. Hydration is Key

Probably the biggest challenge that I’ve faced on this journey is getting hydrated, especially on and after long runs. Training during the summer months has made it especially tough! I have to remind myself to drink water constantly and on runs I’ve had to get creative about how to drink enough while I’m running.

My best tips for hydrating on the run:
 find a belt or hydration pack that you can tolerate and always take it with you on long runs;
 run a 5-10 mile loop route around your house or car so you can refill with cold water or sports drinks regularly;
 carry money with you so you can stop for a drink if you need to;
 place your bottles in the freezer the night before 2/3 full so you have ice water while you’re running;
 You can also drop off water or gatorade along your route if you don’t want to carry a pack.

Be sure to drink lots, it’s easy (and dangerous) to get dehydrated on long, hot summer runs.

6. Recovery is Clutch

Training for a first marathon, you’re pushing your body and muscles to do things they haven’t had to deal with before and placing a big demand on them. It’s so, so important after a hard workout that you help your muscles to recover properly to avoid injuring yourself!

I never truly appreciated the awesomeness of an ice bath before this summer! I love that I can run for 20 miles, until every fibre in my legs is screaming, then take an ice bath and throw on some compression socks and they feel almost as good as new in the morning.

Other important aspects of recovery include stretching, foam rolling, sleep and proper nutrition (especially making sure to get enough protein!)

7. Never Forget to Love Running

Above and beyond all, unless you’re the next Usain Bolt, DON’T take training too seriously. This is supposed to be fun! And I’m guessing if you’ve committed to running a marathon, you must love running. Never let yourself forget that – it is the thing that will keep you running long after the marathon is over. Take a run every week where you don’t worry about your time, pace or splits and just remember how fabulous it feels to hear your feet hit the pavement and the wind in your hair.

I read a great quote on a race sign once and I remember it when I get stressed or start taking things too seriously: “run easy, you’re not gonna win!”

This marathon journey has entailed some sacrifice and there have been lots of hard-learned lessons along the way, but I’m loving it. I’m so glad that I committed to this goal- and hopefully some day I’ll be writing a post about what I learned about training for my SECOND marathon… or Googling landmarks 50 miles away from my home :-)


Jenn is a runner/ blogger/ running coach who blogs at Follow her adventures and journey on the blog!

Twitter: @Runitmyway

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  1. says

    this is so insightful!!! i have never even consider running a marathon, but this actually inspires me a lot to set my goals much higher!! thanks for sharing! SPA love

  2. says

    Running a marathon is definitely on my bucket list! Never thought it requires so much training and preparation. Thanks for the tips!

  3. says

    Loved reading this! I’ve run 4 half marathons so now people always ask if I will be running a marathon. If I ever do decide to I’ll be sure to keep these things in mind!
    Katie Heddleston recently posted…Sweatpink Blog Swap HostessMy Profile

  4. says

    great advice!! i love that you say anyone can do it. because i never thought I could do a half! You just have to have the goal in mind, and do it! it is mostly mental…once I realized that, I was able to push myself much further. My work gym has a boxing trainer that is going on while I am there running, and he often tells his clients “the mind will give out before your body” I use that to keep pushing myself sometimes, and I finally realized…it is so true!!

    I was afraid of an ice bath too but after being so sore, after my first half, I will sing its praises!!
    fizzgig recently posted…Racing for Alcohol…My Profile

  5. says

    Thank you all so much for your sweet comments – what a fabulous pick-me-up after an exhausting day! I really appreciate it :) And HUGE thanks to Debbie, I feel very lucky to have been paired with such an awesome blogger for the swap, I loved your post on my blog and I’ll be referring to it often!

    • says

      And thanks to you, too, Jenn. It’s been fun. I’m so happy that we got paired up (a perfect match, a couple procrastinators waiting until the last minute :-)). I love your blog and will continue to follow it.
      Debbie recently posted…Guest Post: Lessons of a First Time MarathonerMy Profile

  6. says

    What a wonderful post! I’m currently training for my first half so I love getting others take on things! I especially love the last point, it’s SO important to remember to enjoy what you’re doing or whats the point! Awesome job thank you!
    Kelsey @ Blonder Side of Life recently posted…Is It Just Me?My Profile

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