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Here Are 26.2 Things I Learned While Training For The NYC Marathon

If you're training for your first marathon — or even if you're not — here's what I learned while training for this very, very long race.

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Heyo, my name is Hal. Last November, I ran my first marathon. And now that my knees have recovered and I'm still alive, I'm ready to tell you about the last year's worth of training for the New York City Marathon.

Hal Rhorer / Via Instagram: @halrhorer

If you look closely, you can see that I am eating pretzels and also I am in pain.

Plot twist: Before I started training for the TCS New York Marathon, I had never run more than a few miles at a time.

Exercising, especially running, was not my friend. Ever. I have always been jealous of people who say things like, "I think I am going to go for a run this afternoon!" or, "Who wants to play a quick pickup game of soccer?"

Yeah, that's not me.

For reference, this IS me:

In this photo, you will see me and a large ice cream cone.

To me, exercising was a chore, and nobody likes doing chores. So, I just avoided it at all costs.

At this point, you have to be wondering why I decided to train for and run a marathon, which is 26.2 grueling miles long.

Well, for 2 years in a row, my roommate and I went to the marathon to watch and cheer on the runners.

Hal Rhorer / Via Instagram: @halrhorer

It's pretty dang inspiring to watch, tbh. So many people are running and accomplishing their goals and making their dreams come true.

I had never, in my entire life, accomplished any sort of physical goal. I didn't play sports, I didn't win medals, I didn't do dead lifts, and I definitely didn't run any races.


But hear me out here: Just because I finished running a marathon does not mean that I am a running expert. Far from it, actually. I made mistakes and learned some lessons along the way.

Hal Rhorer / BuzzFeed

Here I am, learning a very important lesson.

And here are the lessons that I learned while training for a marathon.

1. The toughest part is getting started.

Hal Rhorer / Via Instagram: @halrhorer

Just like committing to a relationship or to a new show on Netflix, committing to running a marathon is the most challenging part. I don't have any substantial advice for making the leap, but I will say this; Tell some people that you are running. That way, people will ask you about your training and it will keep you accountable!

2. Get good shoes early.

Paramount Pictures

I like my ankles, and I like when they work well. If you start running 10 miles a week out of nowhere, and you are running in the shoes that you still have from college, your ankles are not going to like you. Vinnie, a coach at Mile High Run Club here in New York, told me that you should change shoes after about 400-500 miles of running. He also suggested going to your local running shop and talking to an expert. Do this early in your training — you don't want to injure yourself before you even get started.


3. Do your damn research, fool.

Via, Via

If you're reading this post, you're on the internet. If you're on the internet, you have access to thousands of articles about training for a marathon. You can also do what I did: read marathon books. Two books that really helped me out during the training process are "How to Lose a Marathon" by Joel Cohen and "The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer" by David A. Whitsett.

4. Training is rewarding, but also it's a sacrifice.

Hal Rhorer / BuzzFeed

Sometimes (most of the time), waking up early in the morning to go for a long run is no fun. Sometimes you have to skip out on fun things like brunch or after-work drinks so you can get a workout in. Saying no to things that I would have usually loved to do was hard, and I didn't like to do it. But, once you run your first 5 miler or achieve a pace that feels good for your body, skipping out on a happy hour will be worth it.

5. Talk to people who have actually run a marathon.

I talked to my friend Aaron who ran the marathon two years before me. He was so helpful and calmed my nerves. He also told me that he crawled for the two days following the marathon. Aaron was helpful. Find your Aaron.

6. Podcasts are good for running.

Who? Weekly / Via, Las Culturistas / Via, Grub Street / Via, WNYC / Via

So, early in my training, I was running to music. Each time Rihanna came on, I would catch myself speeding up and getting out of breath. So, I switched to podcasts. Podcasts are much longer than songs, and they were easier listen to while trying to keep a steady pace. These are some podcasts that I loved to listen to while I ran.


7. The gym is a hellscape, go outside to run.

Hal Rhorer / Via Instagram: @halrhorer

Gyms are great if it is below 30 degrees or above 90 degrees. Gyms are also great if you want to be surrounded by people who are trying to impress each other by how loud they can grunt. So, my advice? Run outside whenever you can. It's amazing to see where your feet can take you.

I ran along waterfronts and through parks and around my neighborhood. I ran to Brooklyn and I ran over bridges and I ran down streets I had never gone down. Switch up your runs, it will keep things interesting! Also, you can take some pretty pictures while you run outside, which is always a good incentive to go for a run.

8. Running on sidewalks is different than running on the road.

I didn't learn this until it was too late. Sidewalks are flat, roads are slanted for drainage purposes, so roads put different strain on your ankles and knees. If you can, try training on a route similar to the one that you will be running on marathon day – I didn't do this, which resulted in a lot of pain during my marathon. My knees weren't ready for the slanted roads!

9. Your body is going to change, and not exactly how you think it will.

Hal Rhorer / Via Instagram: @halrhorer

So, when I decided to run a marathon, I thought my body would become chiseled and veiny and toned. That was a silly assumption. I ended up looking the same physically. But, by the halfway point, my body felt more sturdy. My legs were stronger and my core felt more stable. I felt less like a wet noodle and more like a, well, uncooked noodle. Still tall, still gangly, but stronger. I liked that.

10. Running apps are good, but also, running apps are bad.

Hal Rhorer / BuzzFeed

This is what the Nike Run app looks like, but you can also try Strava or Runkeeper.

In general, running apps are super helpful when tracking your running and workout plans. But also, apps can cause some serious stress. They track your running paths and tell you when you were slow and when you were fast and when you sucked at running and when you were good at running. By the end of my training, I was using the apps to only track mileage. Running should be for you, not for Siri, so use the apps only if you want to. (Note: I used Nike Run Club. Another Note: Nike Run Club sends you taunting push notifications, so beware)


11. You don't have to use social media, but you can!

Instagram: @robinnyc / Via Instagram: @robinnyc, Instagram: @runmeb / Via Instagram: @runmeb

Ok, so maybe the first thing I ever did, even before taking the first step during my training, was follow a bunch of running Instagram accounts. I thought I was going to become some fitness influencer. But, after running 10 miles, I really never felt like posting a sweaty picture of myself on Instagram. More power to you if you decide to do that! I was actually super encouraged by some of the people I followed, but I don't need anyone looking at my sweaty face.

Here are two accounts that I followed that I really enjoyed:

Robin Arzon

Meb Keflezighi

12. Splurge for good running socks.

Feetures / Via

For the first 6 months of my training, I was wearing cotton socks. You know what cotton socks don't do? They don't wick sweat and they don't prevent blisters. Splurge for socks, buddy. Your feet will be much happier, healthier and less disgusting.

These are the socks I splurged for! You can find them on Amazon.

13. You don't need a ton of gear to be a runner.


There are necessary items for long distance runners (shoes and socks) and then there are unnecessary items ($300 dollar running hat). When you start running long distance, you will see people decked out in every brand name imaginable. I promise, promise, promise that you don't need to spend your whole rent check on running gear! Get good shoes and socks, a good water bottle, and a sweat-wicking shirt. The basics will get you far, and you'll save some money!

14. Keep your runs interesting.

Hal Rhorer / Via Instagram: @halrhorer

There was no greater obstacle for my training than my own boredom. As soon as my mind started to get bored, I would find myself sitting on a bench watching a YouTube video. Try new routes, new running classes (like Mile High Run Club), run with friends, count how many people wearing orange you pass – be creative! Anything to keep your mind off of the fact that you're running.


15. Experiment with what food you want to eat during your race.

You should start testing which food/nutritional products you are going to use long before you run the big race. I have no technical background in nutrition, so maybe I'm not the best person to ask, but I'll tell you what foods I landed on: almonds and Twizzlers. Both were easy to carry and fun to eat.

Unfortunately, ice cream is not a food that you are encouraged to eat while running a marathon.

16. Things are gonna hurt.

Hal Rhorer / Via Instagram: @halrhorer

Your knees, your back, your toes, your arches, your arms, your shoulders, your heels, your hips, your junk, your thighs. All of it. It's going to hurt. Make sure you stretch and ice your joints. Going on walks on your rest days will keep you loose and limber. Simple tasks like walking up stairs or putting on dress shoes will make you rethink your decision to run. But, I promise, this temporary pain is worth it!

17. Tapering will make you feel like you’re slacking.

The two weeks before your big race is usually when runners do something called "the taper." This is when you seriously scale back your mileage. This results in kind of a constant restless leg syndrome. It's not fun and it makes you feel like you are missing out on precious preparation time. I can't say for sure if it helped me, but I will say that everyone says to do it. So do what feels right for you!

18. Be prepared for the pre-marathon expo – it's madness.

Hal Rhorer / BuzzFeed

The expo is the event that happens the few days before the marathon. It is a large event where you go to pick up your bib and your shirt and get any last minute questions answered. It is also where you go to feel completely overwhelmed. People are trying to sell you running gear and meal replacement bars and souvenirs and medal engraving. Learn from my mistakes. Don't freak out. Take deep breaths. Get in and get out.


19. Marathon weekend might feel a little lonely.

Hal Rhorer / BuzzFeed

Marathon weekend is actually super weird. If you are running the race alone like I did, there's not a ton of camaraderie or team spirit happening. You're mostly sitting in your apartment eating pasta while your friends hang out. But don't let yourself get down! You're about to do something great.

20. I️ swear to god, if you don’t hydrate, you’re going to be sorry. But don't overdo it either it.

While you're sitting around for the few days before the marathon, you should be drinking copious amounts of water. I peed like 20 times a day. Keep track of your water intake and be diligent. I tried to drink at least 4 big bottles of water a day. You don't want to get two miles into the race and then have to quit because you're dehydrated. But you also don't want to overdo it either. Too much water can cause hyponatremia, a potentially life-threatening health situation that has been known to make first-time marathoners extremely sick.

21. Put your name on your chest.

Hal Rhorer / BuzzFeed

The crowd is looking for ways to cheer you on. Help them out by putting your name on your chest. It really, really helps when you get to those middle miles and your legs hurt and you are having second thoughts about running your race. When you hear the crowds yelling your name, you will be reminded of all of the hard work you put into training for this marathon!

22. You don’t have to wear underwear.

Casey Neistat / Via

This was baffling to me for the longest time, and then I went on a 12-mile training run wearing cotton underwear and I suddenly understood. Chafing is real.

I wore compression shorts in place of underwear. Without getting too graphic, compression shorts keep everything in it's place, and with 26.2 miles of bounce and movement, keeping everything in it's place is a priority.


23. Having support is mandatory.

Seth Roberts / Via Instagram: @sethaustinrob

When you're 15 miles into the race and you realize that you have 11 more miles to go, your friends' and family's faces are truly all you want to see. You will also want them to bring you some necessities, like Tylenol, twizzlers and...

24. Toilet paper: bring it.

I have two goals today: 1) finish the marathon 2) don't poop my pants (If I poop my pants, I will not be finishing the marathon. Period.)

Imagine 50,000 runners racing through the 5 boroughs of New York city. Now also picture the port-a-potties being used by those runners. Don't get stuck without a way to wipe. Bring (or have your support bring) toilet paper.

25. New York is a magic city filled with magic people.

Hal Rhorer / BuzzFeed

I don't really know how to tell you this, but if you are looking for a marathon to run and you have the ability to come to New York, consider making the TCS New York Marathon the one you choose. The course, the people, the support, the views. It's really magical.

26. You’ll want to take the following Monday off work.

Hal Rhorer / BuzzFeed

The Monday after running your marathon, you will want to call in sick. People told me this but I thought I would be the exception. I was naive. The day after the marathon, I spent it in bed watching Netflix and icing my knees. Getting to the bathroom required careful planning and a lot of crawling.

Just take the day off. Do it.

26.2. You’ll want to do it again.

Hal Rhorer / BuzzFeed

With all of that said, you will want to do it again. You will want to push your limits, move faster, work out smarter, and train harder. You'll want to annoy your friends and skip out on brunches and sweat through your shirt. You want to hear the cheers and the starting cannon and the quiet pitter-patter of feet over the Queensboro Bridge. It'll be a tough goal, definitely not one for the faint of heart. But you'll finish, you'll get your medal, and your brain will immediately start thinking about when you can start training again.