4 Tips for First-Time Marathon Runners

A veteran marathoner shares her top tips for beginner marathon runners

One of the smartest things you can do before running your first marathon (aside from literally training for the race) is gather advice. Ask questions and learn lessons from veteran runners who have completed the distance a few times before.

Related: How to Choose Your First Marathon

While you can’t predict all of the different factors that could affect your marathon come race day (unless you’re psychic, I guess?), if you take some notes from experienced marathoners you can start to gather some kind of semblance about what to expect and at least plan for the aspects that are in your control—like your outfit and pace times.

Sandra LaFlamme has completed a handful of marathons and blogs about running at OrganicRunnerMom.com. She first and foremost recommends that first time marathoners choose a race that takes place in the fall. That way, the chances of dealing with unpredictable and inclement weather won’t be as likely, both while training and on race day.

When I spoke to her about a runner’s first time tackling the marathon distance, she also offered the following five tips.

 -4 Tips for First-Time Marathon Runners-

 1. Choose a location that you've always dreamed of running in.  
“Your first marathon will be a P.R. No matter what so you might as well choose a new location for a new adventure!”

2. Try to choose a race with a spectator-friendly course.
“The first marathon that I completed was the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco.  I did this race with Team In Training, raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  This marathon was gorgeous but definitely had some challenging hills for a beginner marathoner. This marathon was also tough for spectators. My family found that it was difficult to get around to different points on the course to see me run.  If you are depending on seeing a friendly face to keep you happy and running, well this might be difficult if you are a beginner.”

3. A flat course may be your best bet. 
“There are definitely some fantastic flat and fast courses for the first-time marathoner or the marathoner aiming to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  The Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. boasts a fast course, amazing scenery and fantastic crowd support.  I have heard the Sugarloaf Marathon in Maine is more of a rolling, downhill course with a low number of runners and a wonderful race if you are reaching for a Boston qualifying time.  The Portland Marathon in Portland Oregon is another course that offers a ‘flat’ course. I have been eying this marathon as one to add to my list of races to complete as Oregon is one of my new favorite places to travel.”

4. Trust your training.
“The most important thing that I have learned about marathons from all of my running is to trust your training and to stick to your race plan on marathon day as best as possible. I have run my best marathons when I have started the race with a specific pacing plan and have stuck to it throughout the race. It is so easy to be tempted to run faster paces than you should as you get caught up in the energy of the event.”

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