5 Things You Should Know Before Your First Marathon

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Last Saturday, five Lumo team members set out for a weekend trip to Napa, California for the annual Napa Valley Marathon on Sunday. The beautiful, relatively flat course starting in Calistoga and ending in Napa was grazed only slightly with occasional showers and made out to be a relatively sunny and temperament day — perfect for a marathon!

Out of the five runners, two of us (myself included) were total newbies to the experience; everything from training to race day to recovery was completely new and uncharted territory. I spent a good amount of time over the last 16 weeks picking the brains of our marathon experts for tips, tricks and advice to help me through my first marathon.

Tried, tested and learned the hard way, here are 5 things you should know before you show up on race-day.

1. Don’t try anything new on race day

Whether it’s a new pair of shoes, shorts, food or accessory, hold off on trying anything new on the day of your race. Race day is stressful already, and you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where your new garment or snack choice is irritating your skin or stomach.

Make sure everything you wear, eat and have on you are items that you’ve trained with before on one or more of your longer runs. Especially if you’re gearing up for a full marathon, 26.2 miles is a long time to be loading your body and even the slightest rubbing or irritation will quickly become a huge handicap.

2. Visualize hitting the wall and pushing through

You may have heard the phrase “hitting the wall” which is an overwhelming sensation and feeling many runners experience often around the 20 mile mark. The feeling is exactly what is sounds where you feel like you’ve hit the wall and you feel like you can’t take another step.

It’s a tough feeling to fight off especially when mental and physical fatigue has set in at an all time high. The key here is to prepare for this feeling beforehand by doing some visualizations on what’s going to help you push through. Make sure to spend some time before your race asking yourself: What keeps you going? What are your motivations and inspirations for running this race? Internalizing your answers will help you recall them and give you the final push you need to finish the race.

3. Research the course and aid stations

It’s always good to run on familiar grounds — whether you’re a first time marathoner or you’re a seasoned racer, make sure to do a little research beforehand to know the general route of the course and what will be provided at the aid stations. The race website will usually provide a map of the course along with other useful information like elevation, parking, bathrooms, aid stations and landmarks to help you plan out your course beforehand.

4. Bandaids are your friend

This one is a tip I wish I had listened to before the Napa Valley marathon this past Sunday. One of our more experienced runners had told me to put bandaids on any potential hot spots on your feet, chest or arms to prevent chafing and blisters, but being the newbie that I was — I didn’t listen. Soon after the 18 mile mark, I began to feel a blister forming on the underside of my foot that quickly turned into a blood-filled sore the size of three quarters joined together.

Lesson learned. Even if you haven’t experienced blisters or chafing in your training runs, anticipate these by putting on a few extra bandaids with gauze to absorb friction on areas that could potentially become a problem area. Common places are: on the edge of the arch on your foot, toes, heels, and nipples (especially for men!).

5. Take an ice bath after the race

As unpleasant as an ice bath sounds, this is exactly what your muscles (especially your leg muscles) need after 26.2 long miles. Before hitting the shower, take a few minutes to sit in an ice bath to cool off your inflamed and sore muscles to help your recovery — trust us on this, your body will be thanking you in the coming days when the other marathon runners are hobbling around and you’re ready to log another workout.

For the faint hearted (like myself), even putting your feet and calves in a bucket of ice water or sitting with ice packs all around your legs will help kickstart your recovery process and cut down on the soreness later on.


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Ellie Kulick

About Ellie Kulick

Ellie specializes in all things content and communications at Lumo BodyTech. Her passions are in tech, writing and in health. She loves to create and share content that is useful and easily digested by the reader. BS in Psychology, Northeastern University. Find Ellie on Twitter.


  • Mark Mastalir
    Mark Mastalir

    Great tips, and nice job in you first marathon. Thanks Ellie!

  • smarvin

    Hey Ellie – these have all been published numerous times…what are a few things you learned on your own from your first race, aside from the band-aids? (preferably things nobody told you about in advance)

    • Ellie Kulick
      Ellie Kulick

      Hi Smarvin, really the biggest learning from my first marathon was that the most helpful part of the race were the spectators — especially my coworkers, friends and family that came out to support me. 26.2 miles is an awfully long way to run, and especially at a small race like Napa, it can get quite lonely between the mile markers. What kept me going was looking forward to seeing my friends cheer me along and taking in all of the energy of the spectators along the way.

      Another tip I have is to not blow through the first half. I felt great during the first 13 miles and ran at a faster pace than I normally do. It definitely caught up to me and the second half was a struggle. Make sure to do a few training runs (even at a shorter distance) and getting used to running at your marathon pace.

      Hope these help! Let me know if you have any specific questions. If you’re training for a marathon, good luck!

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