Many first time marathoners make it through the big event without too much trouble. However, there are runners, like myself, who learn absolutely everything the hard way and make several mistakes in their debut marathon. Fortunately, I am also willing to write about them to save you some of the same trouble!
Marathon blunders can happen to anyone, especially if the newbie runner is not well informed about the more typical race day mishaps. These can happen to even the best trained runners, because some things about the marathon are simply learned by trial and error. Pheidippides unfortunately, learned the hardest lesson of all. Lucky for you and all newbies, there are usually medic tents along the course, so there is little concern that you will meet his fate. You may however, suffer the effects of blisters, bleeding nipples (yes, that is a thing), dehydration or extreme fatigue. Fortunately, these are all avoidable plagues for each runner on the course.
Stick with what you Know
One of the main common mistakes for a first marathon that new runners make is to try new things for race day that they have not tried in training. I can personally attest to this being a horrible idea. During my first marathon, I switched gels during the race because the expo representative assured me that I needed an extra energy boost. I bought several packets and carried them in my fuel belt. Once I was about 5 miles into the race, my stomach started to lurch and it was a very difficult run. I spent at least a minute each mile doubled over in pain. What is the moral of the story? Don’t ever try anything new during a race that you haven’t tried during training.
Dress for Success
Another common mistake newbie runners make is with clothing. When I ran my first marathon, I made the colossal mistake of running in cotton. Cotton socks and a cotton shirt left me chafed, blistered and bleeding by the end of the race. I still rock the battle scars from that first marathon, and will never run in cotton again. Cotton absorbs sweat and keeps it on the body, causing painful friction.
Proper Footwear is Critical
Shoes must be fitted properly for a marathon distance. You may have noticed during your training runs that your feet swell significantly. This is due to the intense pounding that your body takes, beginning with your feet. Experts recommend running in shoes that are 1 to 2 sizes bigger than your normal shoe size for distance training. A telling sign for shoe size is to check your toenails. If you find that they are turning black, or falling off, your shoes are likely too small. I learned this one the hard way during my first marathon, and paid for it in toenails.
Running your first marathon is sure to reveal a few mistakes along the road. The key is to make it a great experience, enjoy the run and learn from the mistakes to make the next race even better. If you can laugh (or write) about your experiences on the road, you will find that your love of running will grow with each race.