1. You will feel like quitting. There will be days during your training that you question your sanity and wonder why you ever decided to take on this endeavor anyway. Deciding to train for a marathon is a four-month commitment…at least. You're going to have good days. No. Amazing days. Days where you feel like you are a gazelle nimbly gliding from one foot to the next in beautiful sweeping motions. And, then there are the days where you'll swear you're carrying a gorilla on your back, stumbling from one foot to the next just hoping you can stay vertical. Just remember that THESE are the days that build character. THESE are the days you will think about and remember when that finisher medal is placed around your neck. THESE are the days that make a runner a runner.
2. Pack a change of clothes in your checked race bag. First timers often overlook this one. Regardless of the temperature on race day, you may begin to shiver after you cross the finish line due to the body's temporary difficulty in regulating body temperature. This means that a sweaty shirt will make you that much colder and miserable post-race. Packing a dry shirt can go a long way in fighting the shivers.
3. Wear a throw-away shirt to the start line. If race day is on the chilly side, wear an old shirt you can toss after you get warm. Most marathons collect throw-away shirts accumulated during the race and donate them to those in need. Another option is wearing an old heat sheet in the start corral to stay warm and then tossing it as you pass the start line. The bottom line is, there is no reason you should be uncomfortably cold pre-race. Goodness knows there are plenty of other discomforts beyond control to contend with!
4. Body Glide. Body Glide. Body Glide. There is no chafing like the chafing that takes place over 26.2 miles. Without Body Glide or some other anti-chafing product, you will find you chafe in places you never knew possible. Don't' know where to put it? Start with your armpits, inner thighs, where the waist band of your shorts rub your lower back, under the elastic of your sports bra, your toes if you are inclined to get blisters, and any place else you've noticed rubbing during long runs. A good motto to have is: When in doubt, put some Glide on it. Better Glide than sorry.
5. Get in the porta-potty line immediately. When you arrive at the race, you may not need to go to the bathroom. But, don't wait until you do! Marathon porta-potty lines are notoriously long and slow. You've got nothing else to do, but wait, so you might as well wait in the potty line. If you don't do this, you may run out of time before race start and have to go during the race. It won't be the end of the world, but it will be one less thing to think about if you take care of business before.
6. Don't forget to start your Garmin in the start corral. This one seems like a no-brainer, but with everything going on around you, it's easy to forget until the gun goes off. By that time, it may take longer for your Garmin to locate satellite than it does for you to reach the start line. Also, remember that if you turn it on too early, it may shut off without any action. With all the noise, the warning beeps can go unnoticed easily. If this happens and you find yourself without satellite at the start line, just pull off to the side, let it locate satellite, and then cross the start line. Otherwise, if you're like most runners, your OCD will go crazy not knowing exactly how you're faring in the race.
7. Have more than one acceptable goal. This is your first marathon. Uncharted waters. Setting a goal is great, but without knowing how your body will respond to the toll 26.2 takes, it's a good idea to leave yourself some wiggle room. You may start with a goal achievable only if the stars align and the running gods smile down upon you. There's nothing wrong with dreaming! But, make sure you have a backup goal or two in case the weather isn't cooperative or you just aren't having a good day. Remember, the ultimate goal is to finish. It's an awesome thing you've decided to do! Don't let a missed goal dampen the joy of the day. Now, get out there and make it happen!