back to top

29 Clever Tips That Will Actually Make You Want To Run A Marathon

It's like a 26.2-mile party!

Posted on

We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us their best tips for first-time marathoners.

BuzzFeed Health also asked Toni Carey, RRCA-certified running coach, co-founder of Black Girls RUN! and seasoned marathoner, to share her advice. Here are the tips we got:

1. Your dinner the night before should be something you know for sure will support your race performance.

Instagram: @spaghettiincidentnyc / Via

Everyone has an opinion about carbing up before a big race — "Some experts say it's not really necessary," says Carey, while many marathoners swear by a heaping plate of pasta.

The main thing to keep in mind, says Carey, is that your pre-race dinner should be foods you know work for you. It's not the time to experiment with that new hot sauce or see if dairy still bothers you or if fat will give you as much energy as starches. "You don't want any surprises," says Carey.

3. Don't rely on your phone for tracking and timing your run because you might not have consistent reception.

"Wear a watch to time yourself. I relied on my phone to track my course and time. But in Chicago there were literally hundreds of thousands of people and I lost cell phone coverage about a mile in."



7. Make sure you have a plan not just for water but for replacing the salt you're losing.

Instagram: @lee.church09 / Via


Making sure you're staying hydrated and keeping your electrolytes balanced is going to be crucial for your race. Carey recommends wearing a hydration belt and filling half the bottles with water and half with a salt- or electrolyte-containing sports drink. Have some of either one at least every 45 minutes.


8. Don't try anything new on race day, from gels, drinks, and food to clothes and accessories.

Instagram: @wsusoftball / Via

"Sometimes your body will love something, sometimes it won’t. The cute water bottle holder you bought at the race expo the day before? You just might realize it bobbles against your body and it’s terribly annoying! Worse yet, finding out a fueling product makes you sick."


9. Stop and walk at the water stops.

Instagram: @nycmarathon / Via

"The energy used trying to regulate your breathing for a few sips while stabilizing the cup full of water while your head is bobbing up and down just isn’t worth the seconds you’ll save by running (unless you’re trying to win the thing)."


10. If you want to dump water over your head at a water stop, be careful AF to miss your feet.

Peopleimages / Getty Images

"As tempting as it is to dump water all over your head at the water stops don’t get your feet wet or you will be sorry."

—Andrew Davis, Facebook

11. FYI some of those cups being passed out on the course contain beer.

"Some people will hold out cups full of liquid other than at the hydration stations. Some of these cups are filled with beer. The carbs are great, but be aware of what you are taking from randoms!"



12. Make a friend around mile 20 and help each other along.

Juanci / Getty Images

"I befriended someone at the worst part of the marathon and we’re still pumping each other up on Instagram over two years later!"


13. Marathons can be emotional; cry at will.

Logo / Via

"It’s okay to burst into tears after mile 25 (or honestly at any point) and cross the finish line sobbing into your mom’s arms, no matter your age. She recorded video of me crossing and honestly it’s one of my most cherished tokens of the whole experience."


14. Speaking of getting emotional, do expect to hit the wall at some point. And have a strategy for when all hope drains away.

Instagram: @jennmascari / Via

"Even if you followed a training plan, you completed your 20-mile run 'easily' or as expected, you might crash before mile 20 in the marathon.

Also, when you’re mentally exhausted (for me it was at mile 18), break it up into chunks. Sure you might have eight miles to go, but just keep getting yourself to the next mile. I remember I would say, 'You can run a mile. You can run a mile.' Then I was at mile 26!"


Carey says that the best way to deal with a mid-race emotional collapse is to be prepared for whenever it hits. She recommends feeding off the energy of the crowd or striking up a conversation with someone who's running at your pace. She also recommends going into the race with a mantra or quote that's gotten you through long training runs. "Repeat it over and over again," she says.

15. Start getting your sleep, diet, and hydration race-ready at least a week before the race.

Instagram: @_kristincho_ / Via

"Don't wait until the night before to start hydrating; it's too late," says Carey. Instead, plan on starting to drink extra water several days before your race.

And the same goes for getting enough rest: Start seriously prioritizing a full night's sleep at least a week before your race. And if you think you'll be one of the many people who has trouble sleeping the night before a race, make sure you have some proven sleep strategies on hand to help you. All of this goes for your diet, too. It's not just about the dinner you have the night before. Make sure you're eating a well-rounded diet of mostly whole foods the week of your event, says Carey.

You should also use the days before your race to figure out every single detail of race morning. "Go over race logistics. Run through everything you're going to do, even how you're going to get to the start," Carey says.


16. Make a plan for race day logistics and stick to it.

Instagram: @jillconnolly7 / Via

"At my last marathon I barely made my start corral after last minute deciding to take my hotel shuttle instead of the train I had planned on taking."


Carey agrees that ample prep on the morning of is the way to avoid last minute SNAFUs that could seriously mess with your start. "Set multiple alarms. Make sure you know where you’re going," she says.

17. Before race day, check out the course map or drive it if you can.

Instagram: @missmei1 / Via

"[That way you can] break it up into smaller chunks. It’s much easier to think, I only have two miles until the park, then three to the turn, than thinking, 23 miles left!"


18. During training, take rest days when your body needs them (even if your training schedule doesn't call for it).

"When you are training you are sticking to a strict schedule of running and cross training. Those trainings are great, but if you are feeling drained or very sore it's OK to skip a day.

If I don’t feel 100% before I start my workout I will skip the workout and do some light stretching and let myself rest. Sometimes you need a few more rest days to get to that marathon day."


19. Take off your rings and bracelets before your race.


"I forgot to remove my rings and my hands were so swollen at mile 21 I cried a little bit taking them off. Body glide was required. It wasn’t pretty."



20. Seriously consider running without headphones.

Instagram: @rideoutruns / Via

"On a practical level it can be a dangerous distraction for you and others...On an experimental level they can block out or lessen some of the best things about being on the course, and unless your playlist is meticulously devised, can throw your pace off. Not using headphones on the marathon of course means you also have to train, at least part of the time, without them.

If you have the option, choose an interesting course known for good spectator support. Meet and speak with those around you to pass the time."


21. Break in new sneakers well before race day.

Instagram: @marcib82 / Via

"If you’re planning on new shoes it’s best to break them in a bit. I usually bought new shoes in the last two to three weeks of training, mostly to ensure they had no hot spots."


23. If you're feeling sick or maybe hurt, ease up.

AthleticalApparel / Via

Even though you might lose a few minutes by slowing down, walking, or even sitting out off the course, it's a much better option than pushing through the pain and getting sicker or really hurting yourself. "People try to push themselves to the brink but you have to live with your body long after the race is over," says Carey.

Get this t-shirt for at Etsy for $25.


24. Try to actually have fun.

"Enjoy the journey to the distance, and use the race itself as a celebration of your achievement! It’s like a 26.2-mile party!! Both my parents are long-time marathoners... The best advice they’ve ever given me about running: have fun! My dad is notorious for dancing and singing during races, and my mom always comes away from a race with a new friend she made to help the miles go by faster.

It won’t be easy, but you’ll remember the race better (and be more motivated to do another!) if you relax, dance, sing, and give as many high-fives as you can."


25. "Hold your WHY close by."

Instagram: @alwayswithinreach / Via

"Maybe you’re running to qualify for Boston. Maybe you’re running because you love running and wanted a new challenge. Maybe you’re running because it’s on your bucket list to do 26.2.

Whatever your reason is, remember it and hold it close.

The week before my marathon I reminded myself every day why I had signed up and trained to run a marathon. For me, after a 96-pound weight loss, I trained to run my first marathon to represent my new and active life and celebrate my accomplishment. The times when it got hard, when the sun felt too hot, when I could feel my feet grow weary, when I hit 20 miles and had to fight for the last 10k, I held my WHY close by and it powered me through the rough spots."


27. Even though you'll want to, don't stop moving as soon as you cross the finish line.

New Line Cinema / Via

"As tired/sore you are immediately after you finish, it helps your recovery time IMMENSELY to walk around after your race a bit."


"Take some time to stretch even as you talk [to friends and family after you finish]. You don’t want to get stiff," says Carey. And then use a foam roller and stretch even more as soon as you can.


28. Don’t sprint to the finish. Slow down and enjoy the moment.

Steve Krull / Getty Images

"During the last hundred yards you will feel crazy adrenaline. The pain melts away, and you’ll feel like you’re flying. You only get to have that for the first time once. Don’t rush through it. Enjoy it. You’ve earned it."


29. And remember: Your marathon achievement is about way more than those 26.2 miles.

Instagram: @jodilsween / Via

"I wish I had known that the marathon is simply the culminating event that takes place after months and months of training. The journey is the preparation itself, and if you have a training partner with whom you can experience it, it will change the whole process for the better. You and your training crew will share a bond for life."


Responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Want to be featured in similar BuzzFeed posts? Follow the BuzzFeed Community on Facebook and Twitter!