What I Learned from Training for and Running My First Marathon

Since crossing the Chicago Marathon finish line almost three weeks ago, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on what went well, as well as what didn’t, in preparing for as well as running my first marathon.

1.  Marathon training is hard, especially during the summer when the heat and humidity provide an additional challenge to what is an already taxing task.  It is both physically and mentally demanding, and it requires a lot of adjustment to your personal calendar, especially on the weekends when you hit the high mileage long runs.

There were several times over the summer when I questioned my sanity about running in the heat and humidity. Thankfully, all of that hard work helped me on race day.

2.  Training for and running an early fall marathon works best for me.  Marathon training takes up a lot of time, and being able to do the bulk of it during the summer when I am not at school helped significantly with being able to balance training and spending time with my family.  Not being “in training” when I hit one of the high stress points of the school year (which I’m currently in right now) was also incredibly helpful.  So although summer marathon training is certainly a physical challenge, it works best for my family and I.

Training during the summer also means that little man and I get to spend a lot of quality time outside together. Thank goodness he loves going for runs and walks in the stroller!

3.  Its okay to miss a workout or two.  Although I completed almost every planned run during my 18 weeks of marathon training, there were times when either because I was sick, little man was sick, or my body was physically exhausted that I decided that it was best to skip a planned run.  There were also times when my schedule during a particular week didn’t allow me to complete all of my planned cross training and/or strength training.  In the long run, missing a workout here and there didn’t have a major impact on my training overall, and sometimes things other than working out needed to take priority.  Although I always feel guilty about missing a planned run or trip to the gym, I know that listening to my body is incredibly important, as is balancing my training with the needs of my family.

4.  Don’t do things differently on race day that I haven’t been doing during training.  Looking back on race day, and the indigestion that I battled during the race itself, there were two big errors that I made.  The first one was eating a heavier breakfast before the race than I did the mornings of my long runs during training.  I was incredibly worried about not having enough energy to complete the race that I ate more than my body was used to.  I have no idea if this was part of the cause of my indigestion, but I know better than to have fueled differently on race morning than I am used to.  The second thing that I did differently was to drink Gatorade at almost every water station along the course.  Although I do drink electrolytes while training, I usually only drink them post run, and only drink water while I’m actually running.  But since I was worried about the heat on race day, and again having enough energy for all 26.2 miles, I drank a small cup of Gatorade at almost all of the 20 water stations along the course.  The next time that I train I need to try drinking some electrolytes during my long runs, which will help me to determine whether or not this was part of what contributed to my tummy issues during the race.

Receiving some much needed fruit snacks from my husband at mile 21 of the race. Fruit snacks wound up being a saving grace during the race.

5.  Running a marathon deserved to be celebrated, no matter how the race goes.  Although I was initially disappointed when I crossed the finish line because I hadn’t run the race that I had hoped to run, I pushed through the challenges that I faced and still ran a marathon.  I had pushed through and didn’t give up, and after some initial disappointment turned to focusing on celebrating my accomplishment.  After all, I ran 26.2 miles.

Celebrating at dinner the evening of the race

QOTD: What lessons have you learned from your training and/or racing?

I’m linking up for the Friday Five 2.0 linkup.  Many thanks to the wonderful ladies at Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for hosting!

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48 Responses to What I Learned from Training for and Running My First Marathon

  1. kookyrunner says:

    Totally agree with everything that you said, especially about training in the summer. It’s easy to question your sanity when you’re doing a double digit run in 100% humidity, lol.

    I also ate a little bit more on race day morning. Not sure if it added to my overall “feeling crappy” feeling, but I probably wouldn’t do that again.

  2. Chaitali says:

    This was really helpful, thanks! I was feeling a bit down because I ended up skipping a short easy run on the schedule this week, but I’m going to give myself a break on that one and just get right back on schedule. That’s a great tip about fueling and not trying new things on race day too.

  3. I love your last lesson – running a marathon, even when it doesn’t go exactly how you’d hoped, is still a huge accomplishment and should be celebrated!

  4. AJ says:

    The biggest I learned during my half marathon was to drink and eat more during the run but not to do anything different than I had during training.

  5. Rachel says:

    Definitely don’t do anything different on race day. Though I was hot and knew I needed electrolytes, I steered as far from the Gatorade as I possibly could. It wreaks havoc on my GI tract!

    You did an amazing job. 26.2 miles is no small feat. Boom!

  6. All great lessons for sure- especially nothing new on race day! Congratulations on running your first marathon! Will you do it again?

  7. Coco says:

    We all know “nothing new on race day “ but when the day comes it’s hard not to adjust to different circumstances. I had a bad reaction to unfamiliar electrolytes once – never again! I hope you are celebrating!

  8. Lesley says:

    When I was training for my first half, I was told don’t overdo the Powerade/Gatorade. All that sugar could be a bad thing in my stomach. Gatorade also has so much sugar, and I don’t use it anymore.
    You still great, and you should celebrate!

  9. Yes, I HATE summer running. Who wants to run 20 miles when it is between 90 – 100 degrees. However, having 2 months off in the summer makes it so much easier time wise for us teachers.

  10. Karen :0) says:

    I don’t know how you trained with super long runs in all that heat! Major kudos to you for that!! We all learn things from every new experience – it definitely helps us for next time for sure!

  11. Janelle @ Run With No Regrets says:

    Congratulations again on your marathon! You learned some great lessons. I think the thing I learned from my experience was that a marathon will definitely bring some surprises along the way! I had some tummy issues and pains that popped up that I never had before when I did the Philly Marathon.

    And it’s definitely okay to miss a run here or there, especially if you’re training for 4+ months!

  12. I have learned all of those lessons myself (several times, to be honest LOL). I wonder if you had alternated the Gatorade with water (only having a small amount of it at half of the stations) may have made a difference? Sometimes having too much of the electrolytes (and all of their sugar) can wreak havoc if it’s not “neutralized” with water. That said, you’re right…you did run a marathon…not everyone can say that 😉 Have another glass of champagne 😉

  13. If you ever do another marathon, I highly recommend carrying a little baggie of pretzels with you in a pocket if you can. I’ve tried drinking Gatorade during the marathon before and it always left me with a grumpy tummy because, like you, I never drank it during training, since water is usually enough for me (I get my carbs from chews). I started bring pretzels along with me during the marathon last year and it’s made a HUGE difference. They can be tough to get down in the last few miles just because they’re so dry (but if you eat them by an aid station and can have a cup of water to help you out, that solves that problem), but they do a great job of keeping my salt levels stable without upsetting my stomach – plus, it’s nice to eat something other than sweet gummy chews when you’re out there for 4-5 hours!

  14. agsignor says:

    Fully agree that a race is worth celebrating no matter what the outcome. We are human and despite our best training things may not come together perfectly on competition day. But that doesn’t mean all of that hard work and training doesn’t get acknowledged. Congrats on your marathon!

  15. You have nothing to be disappointed about. There are always take away points you can learn from but you would never know them unless they didn’t happen. I have no doubt that you will crush your next marathon. You are very strong and diligent about your training cycles!

  16. Wendy says:

    I learned something new from every marathon I ran! And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, yep, a curve ball gets thrown your way. The advice that stays consistent: nothing new on race day. Test out your fueling and don’t stray from the plan on the course. And be prepared to roll with the glitches. You did a great job pushing through. You seem to be a very calm, resilient person, so I have no doubt you’ll approach your next marathon with the same deliberate planning you do with all your races!

  17. Mary says:

    Competing as you trained is a good lesson. I’m glad you were able to run the whole race, that is a big accomplishment in itself, one I’ve never tried for!

  18. I don’t go crazy with training and I don’t get wigged out on race day. And that’s because my only goal ever is to finish. I seriously could care less about my time. A finish is a win as far as I’m concerned, but having only started running in my 50s, my perspective is very different than most.

  19. HoHo Runs says:

    You had an incredible first marathon! Don’t forget it was PR too! There are always lessons to be learned from each race we run; each finish line we cross. I’ve trained two summers for marathons and although it is extremely tough, it was so well worth the effort. Congrats!

  20. Elle says:

    Running a marathon is a HUGE accomplishment and I hope your are tremendously proud of yourself. The trainining is such a time consuming commitment and for you to do it as a fairly new Mom is an added pat on the back. BRAVA!

  21. Congrats on your first marathon! I like training in the summer too. Summer sweat brings fall PRs.

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  23. bamakrp says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I am hoping to get into the Chicago Marathon next year and it would be my first! Always helpful to hear tips from fellow runners…congratulations on your finish!

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