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And when I say “Beginner” I also mean me! I’ve only been running for two and a half years and been doing this marathon thing for about a year and a half, so I’m right there with you!
Anyway, with Marathon Weekend here and thousands of runners descending on Boston this weekend, I thought I’d put together a short list that I wish someone had handed me the first time I did a big city marathon.
- Go to the Expo – yes, everybody there is trying to sell you something, however, the expos are very often the place where you can see some of the cutting edge technology related to running before it’s available at your local running shop. If you don’t live in a runner-friendly town like Boston, this might be your only opportunity to put eyes on some really cool stuff and sample different kinds of nutrition. So don’t just pick up your number and get your schwag, do some exploring.
- Tweet-Up – or rather meet-up with runners you have only met through the various running social networks. When I went to the dailymile meet-up last year before Boston, I was afraid it was going to be an awkward, uncomfortable meal, however, it turned out to be one of the highlights of my Marathon Weekend. These meet-ups are opportunities to meet the people you’ve been following online, and talk about running without the fear of the other person mentally checking out on you – runners will listen to your running stories with fascination, unlike our non-running spouses (who, granted, have had to hear the same stories over and over and over again).
- Don’t Mess With Your Food – I made the mistake of changing my dinner and breakfast routine the day before and of New York. In addition, I changed my in-race nutrition as well. Big Mistake. BIG! Nausea hit at mile 6 followed by stomach cramps at mile 13, quad cramps at mile 20 and calf cramps at mile 23. It was a death march, due, I am convinced, to my altered food intake. Stick to what the body is used to.
- Get the Jacket – one of the few things I regret about my Boston Marathon experience last year is that I chose not to buy the official Boston Marathon jacket. After you finish the race and hang the medal up on your wall, that jacket can be a constant reminder that you did something that less than 1% of the world’s population has done. Buy the jacket, wear it with pride!
- Meet Bart Yasso – yeah, that’s right, meet Bart Yasso. The Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World magazine is almost always at the big city marathon expos. He is friendly, accessible and willing to take pictures. Take the time to go shake his hand and hope that some of his running acumen rubs off on you.
- Cab it – if you’re gonna be a tourist (whether it’s here in Boston or any big city marathon), don’t do too much walking. It may feel like nothing at the time, but you’re legs will tell you different as you try to fight your way up Heartbreak Hill.
- Enjoy the Crowd – the crowds at the Boston Marathon are like nothing you have ever seen. Before you even cross the starting mat, the people are lined up. Kids have their hands held high, waiting for a high-five from any passing marathoner. To many of these kids, YOU are just as impressive as Ryan Hall or Kara Goucher. YOU are a marathoner and the crowd at Boston appreciates and respects that. From Hopkinton to Boylston Street the streets are lined with spectators. If you were so inclined, you could run with one arm held high and high-five your way all the way to the finish.
- Don’t Jack-Rabbit – it is really tempting to fly through the first 5 miles of the Boston Marathon – it’s almost all downhill. However, your quads will be taking a pounding that you’ll pay for 12 miles later on the Newton Hills. Running 10-20 seconds slower per mile on the descent will save you 20 – 40 seconds per mile on the climb. Take your time, enjoy yourself.
- Let the Women of Wellesley Lift You – just before you reach the half-way point, you will run through the Wellesley Scream Tunnel. It’s not much of a tunnel anymore since they make the women stay on the right side of the road, but man are they loud (and offering kisses to anyone willing to stop). Obviously, if you are running for time, you don’t want to stop and kiss the girls, BUT I highly recommend running as close to them as possible to feed off of their incredible energy.
- Don’t be afraid of Heartbreak Hill. If you’ve done your training, you’ll get by it. And don’t be afraid to walk part of the hill. JUST. DON’T. STOP! If you can’t run, jog. If you can’t jog, walk. If you can’t walk, shuffle. But no matter what you do, JUST. DON’T. STOP! Once you’re over the Hill, you’re less than a 10K away! You’ve got this! You’ve been training. You can do a 10K in your sleep!
- When you make the final turn on to Boylston, feel the crowd! The crowd support is incredible throughout the entire marathon, but there is something about making that final turn on to Boylston that is almost overwhelming.
- When you cross the finish line, look up at the cameras. Don’t make the mistake I made of looking down at the ground.
- After you finish the marathon, choose where you sit down wisely. You may find that you are stuck there for a while.
- Find the massage area. The massages are free and last year they served chicken broth to those waiting in line. It was the best chicken broth I have ever tasted!
I guess that’s it…feel free to add your own to the list in the comments below. I gotta go. I’m off to the Expo and then a meal with some fellow marathoners! Hope to see you out there!