Thursday, December 8, 2011

5 Reasons Why I Survived my First Marathon.

Just before the 14 mile mark.
Memphis, TN. ::: December 3, 2011
Photo Credit: Chris Coons

I had two goals for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon.
One, cross the finish line {no matter how long it takes}.
Two, have fun. 

How did I accomplish my goals, and run 26.2 miles joyfully? Check out my five strategies below!

1. An Outward Focus.
A little distraction can go a long way on any race day.

Giving out high fives to the wee ones, thanking volunteers while quenching my thirst at water stations, telling spectators dressed as Santa what I want for Christmas, and requesting songs from Elvis impersonators all enabled me to cross the finish line.

Keeping your focus outward and interacting with your surroundings is a fun way to help the miles pass quickly.

 My favorite crowd interaction on this course was hopping onto the the sidewalk, joining volunteer performers doing the "YMCA"{ if you're trying to PR or meet a time goal, I suggest skipping this "focusing outward" opportunity}.

I also tried to remember that races are a very emotional day for many. Throughout the course I scanned the shirts of fellow runners. When I spotted a shirt indicating a runner was racing in memory of a loved one, I'd say a silent prayer.

2. Putting the Brakes on Pushing Play.
I think I can confidently say I'll never be an elite runner. Therefore, I happily use my i-pod with a hand-picked playlist as I rack up miles.

While training, a friend suggested running without music. Curious to see how it would effect my running, I began leaving my i-pod at home on shorter runs. Eventually, I found myself running for about an hour without it.

On race day this proved to be beneficial. I delayed hitting the play button, using the first seven miles to listen to my body and be fully present to the amazing race day energy.

Listening to a song with a killer cadence never feels better than when you've logged a few miles, you're legs are warmed up, and you're ready to kick it into high gear.

3. "Eating Hills for Breakfast."
The St. Jude Memphis Marathon is considered a fairly flat course. Living in Chicago, one comes to realize NOTHING seems flat in comparison.

Despite doing some modest hill training-- using city bridges, the treadmill, and Stairmaster--I knew the rolling hills of Memphis would be taxing on my body. So what's a Chicago gal to do?

On the uphill climb I shortened my stride, slowed my pace to a modest trot, and shouted "I eat hills for breakfast". {Yes, I really shouted this phrase several times throughout the course}. As mentioned previously, I am not above shouting, grunting, and talking to myself during a difficult run. Give it a go sometime! I swear it works!

My downhill descent's did not attract as much attention. I simply let gravity take hold of my body and increased speed.

4. Race Preparation.
Beyond creating a training schedule appropriate for my skill level, I believe there were two key things in my race preparation enabling me to have a fun drama free marathon.

One, I researched the course like a crazy lady. I printed out a course map, and marked it up like I was editing a fifth grader's five paragraph essay. I noted the location of all the steep hills, all the Gu stations, every landmark I would find interesting, and where spectators typically were found along the course route. Additionally, Chris and I drove around near the course starting line the day before to ease anxiety about parking in the morning. {Parking was plentiful and easy on race day morning! Thank the Lord.}.

Two, surrounding myself with supportive people throughout my training. Thank you to everyone who told me I could do it!

5. Refuel. Refuel. Refuel.
Early and often is my motto for refueling.

Beginning at mile three I took water at every other aide station. Beginning at mile sixteen I took water at every aide station. {This marathon had an aide station at the 1.5 mile mark, and at every mile from mile 3 to 25.}

After an hour of running I ate two strawberry Cliff Shot Bloks. At mile nine I received my first Gu pack on course, and proceeded to pick them up at every station they were available {miles 15, 18, 21}. To prevent stomach issues, I consumed the Gu slowly over the course of a mile or two, while picking up water along the way to wash it down.

I only drank Gatorade on race day a few hours before the marathon and immediately afterward. I was too nervous it would make me sick if I consumed it while running. I've heard it can be beneficial to consume it during a race, and hope to experiment with it more in the future.

Want to learn more about my journey to my first marathon? Click here.
Have tips and tricks you use on race day? Would love to hear from you! Leave comments below.


  1. Congrats girl!


  2. Congrats! My ipod (and the huge pasta meal I had the night before) got me through the Eugene Marathon in Oregon. It's such a great accomplishment. So glad I found your blog. New follower :)

  3. Thank you ladies for your lovely comments! =)


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