After running a few half marathons the past couple of years, I finally took the plunge and ran my first full marathon last October. Over my time of training and racing I’ve tried all sorts of gear and goods to help with running and thought I’d share my advice for any of the newer runners out there.
I tend to get really nervous before races and like to know as much as possible ahead of time so nothing unexpected happens. In the last year, I’ve had races during below freezing temps, pouring rain, and extreme heat so I’ve learned to always be prepared!
1. What to wear: monitor what clothes you like as you train so when race day comes, you know what will be comfortable. I always have a few different options laid out in case the weather ends up colder or warmer than planned. For warmer weather, I prefer shorts and a sports bra. I know there are a lot of judgers of the #sportsbrasquad out there, but I personally stay a lot cooler having my stomach exposed so the sweat can evaporate faster. For longer distances, I use compression pants or capris which minimizes how much your legs bounce and reduces fatigue. Tried and true socks and shoes are also very important. Don’t ever try anything new on race day!
Favorite compression pants: Nike Epic Lux
Favorite socks: Lulu Lemon Speed Sock
2. What if it’s cold: if the race morning looks like it’s going to be chilly, stock up on those cheap knit gloves and any clearance zip ups you can find before hand. I often start races in a sweatshirt or jacket and gloves and toss them as I warm up (that means goodbye forever). For my marathon I actually found a super nice running jacket for $5 on clearance at Eastbay.com that was so hard to part with! If it’s a really cold race, you may want to invest in nicer running gloves and a running zip up or jacket. I hate being hot when I run, so I like to have layers I can shed if necessary.
Favorite cold weather gear: Nike Pro Warm Collection
3. What if it rains: I recently ran a half marathon where it poured rain the entire race. Not just a sprinkle– pouring rain. I didn’t think of it as an excuse to quit, so I used my waterproof headphones and Apple Watch and left the phone at home. I wore a tight fitting Nike pro warm zip up and pants so they didn’t collect too much water. You really don’t want to run in anything ‘waterproof’ for a long time because it’s not breathable. My shoes got completely submerged in a puddle with 10 miles left to go so that wasn’t fun, but I survived!
4. What to eat and drink: for long races, I like Gatorade gummy chews and usually just drink water. Some types of Powerade gives me an upset stomach, especially with race day nerves so I usually avoid anything they hand out at races. I have tried all types of ways to hold a water bottle on my training runs from hydration belts to pockets. I hate feeling a bottle bounce or holding one in my hand, but I’ve found the best solution (for girls anyways) is the Lulu Lemon Pace Perfect Sports Bra. It has a pocket on the back strap that fits a little water bottle from my Nike hydration belt.
Favorite pocket sports bra: Lulu Lemon Pace Perfect Bra
5. What to do the night before: I lay out my clothes, shoes, fuel, and cold-weather options the night before a race, so that I’m sure I have everything ready. I usually make a check list to double check as I go out the door. Don’t forget your race bib and safety pins!
6. How to battle race day nerves: See as much of the course in person as you can. This is why I love local races! If the race has a course map, study it to feel more prepared. I found a mile by mile recap for my first full marathon, and it was so helpful to know when to expect thin crowds and bigger hills. Eat simple food in the morning in case you get a nervous stomach. Play your favorite music to get you in the zone. Warm up and stretch, but don’t over do it. I always see nervous racers overdoing warm ups and I just want to tell them to calm down before they hurt themselves!
7. Have your race strategy: During the race, know your goal pace and stick with it the first half of the race. Do not get caught up in feeling awesome and run too fast, because you will spend the second half walking. If you feel like you need to walk, try to just walk the water stations and get going again. Once you break and start walking, its a lot harder mentally to keep running after. I’ve gone out too fast in a few half marathons thinking I could bank a ton of time, and ended up ruining my pace on the second half because I didn’t have the energy to keep going. I ran all of my first marathon other than water stops because I kept a consistent pace the entire run. I even passed over 140 runners the last mile!
8. Not all races will be great: my first year of racing, it felt like every race was an accomplishment. Finishing a half marathon, fishing a half marathon in under 2 hours, and then finishing in 1:47 and taking 3rd place in my age group were amazing accomplishments for my second year of running and first year of racing. My second year of half marathons had bad weather and personally disappointing times. The important thing is to learn and make improvements. My takeaways from bad races this year was how important it is to pace yourself, cut yourself a break if the weather isn’t ideal, and not to drink the blue powerade ever. Those bad races prepared me to have a really good first full marathon!
The most important part is to be prepared and to relax and have fun! There can always be another race if conditions don’t work out in your favor.