Reflections on My First Marathon

Almost two weeks post-marathon, I’ve ruminated on the marathon enough that my thoughts on the race have solidified.

I’ve also been doing a lot of this:


Attempting to bake

And this:

cuddly cat

Being lazy

Back to the marathon:

I’m about 88% happy with my performance. My marathon pace, which was 9:56/mile, is just 13 seconds faster than my training pace for my 20 miler. I’ve been racking my brain for possible causes, and I think I just ran a more conservative race than I needed to. I don’t think that’s a bad thing to do as a first-timer, which is why I’m only 12% unhappy. I’m not blaming the road camber/ITB for slowing me down much if at all, because I ran nearly even splits (first half was less than 30 seconds faster than second).

About those splits. I put them in Excel. I analyzed them to death. I will spare you the details, other than to say a) I’m reasonably pleased with their consistency (over half of the miles were +/- 5 seconds of average), and b) the portapotty stop negatively impacted consistency – my splits were all over the place in the miles surrounding the stop.

I’d like to begin with a bigger base. I started training with my weekly mileage in the high 20s and a long run of 10 miles. Next time I run a marathon, I’d like to begin with a larger base of mileage so I’m better prepared for the demands of training. At the pace I run easy miles, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect 50 mile weeks except in peak marathon training. Aiming for 30-40 miles a week before beginning full-on training feels about right, but life could prove me wrong.

My conclusion about nearly every aspect of this marathon was that it was pretty good, but there was room for improvement. I can run a more aggressive race. I can strive for more consistent pacing. I can improve my nutrition/hydration plan, particularly race-day hydration. I can begin training at a higher level of preparedness. I’m astonished that I didn’t manage to screw up some aspect of the marathon, and I’m kind of excited that there is room for improvement.

Other miscellaneous post-marathon observations:

  • The major chafing culprits are sports bras and inner thighs, but I have identified a new master-chafer, and that is the arm warmer. Only half of my right armpit got deodorant for the week after the marathon. A scar is forming.
  • Additionally, if you care about this kind of thing, arm warmers aren’t that flattering. I prefer not having to worry about shedding layers or shivering while running, so it’s a matter of personal preference I guess.
  • Another thing that’s not flattering that I will never do without: spandex shorts. SIDEBAR: Runners/athletes, female or male, aren’t ornaments for your viewing pleasure, so if anyone out there is criticizing others’ apparel choices on the basis of personal preferences, just stop.
  • It’s not possible to run a marathon and have your Garmin read 26.20 at the end, so don’t even bother expecting it. (EDIT: Jesica has done the impossible, and I applaud her tangent-running-badassery.)
    • If I get to a point where I want to aim for a big time goal (sub-4?), I’m subtracting at least 5 seconds from the per-mile pace to arrive at my goal Garmin pace.
  • It’s not that hard to become self-involved at times while training for a marathon. Training is a big time commitment, and you have to take good care of yourself. Next time, I think I’m going to devise some system to remind me to reach out to a friend, or do some unprovoked act of kindness, at regular intervals throughout training. More on that once I devise it.
  • Core and hip strengthening work are magical. Do this frequently. I haven’t had lingering ITB pain from the race, and I attribute much of this to having invested time in core and hip strength. I think my body was better prepared to recover from that kind of abuse than it would have been had I neglected core and hips.
  • Running miles 25 and 26 hard will do more for your time than running mile 0.2 very hard. I did not do this in my first marathon, but I will strive to do it next time.
  • Drinking 2 large Tervis tumblers of water and 2 cups of coffee in the period of 1-2 hours before the race is too much, especially when you drink another 8 ounces just before the start. Drink less than this next time.
  • A two-week taper felt like the right amount of time. And don’t weigh yourself during the taper.
  • New non-time-related goal for marathon #2: no tears. Also, do more research on road camber and finish line logistics.
  • It’s hard to motivate myself to bathe regularly when not training/exercising regularly. Recovery is hard.
  • Consider bringing music for the last 5-10k. I could have really used the Rocky soundtrack at that point (not kidding).
  • I’M JUST GOING TO SAY IT: I’m extra pissed off that Ohio State got in the College Football Playoff over Baylor after I wore about 50 shades of non-coordinating green and gold for the marathon. It was the wrong decision either way, but adding insult to injury by rejecting my ridiculous outfit? Thanks for nothing, Playoff Committee.

This post has almost no photos, so here are some of the outtakes from my recap post:

Race photo outtakes

I’m really improving in the race-photo department, although the bar was pretty low before. I’d guess I took at least 5 mouth-open photos off of my previous race-photo PR. I wore waterproof mascara (which is justified simply because marathoning-badass and sister-in-blonde-eyelashes Shalane Flanagan rocks the race-day mascara). I also tried to smile whenever I saw a camera. Next race, I need to try looking fast – throw in a surge of speed for the camera.

Experienced marathoners – what marathoning-lessons have you learned that you’d like to share?
Aspiring marathoners – do you have any other questions/curiosities that I can answer?

Leave a comment or shoot me a tweet @racingoprah.


8 thoughts on “Reflections on My First Marathon

  1. The part of this post that resonated with me most: chafing. Sports bras were my main trouble-causer during my training! And don’t be so hard on yourself about your race photos – no one looks fabulous, but I think yours were good!


  2. Well thanks!! I never had too much trouble with chafing until the marathon, I guess I’ve been lucky to find a sports bra that fits well and doesn’t chafe me. I did have one incident with a water belt that was pretty painful!


  3. Love the list! I have to do that too because I’m already forgetting so much about race day that I shouldn’t be forgetting about. What you said about road camber is so true. I know my upcoming marathon is going to have that and I’m dreading it more than anything. I’d gladly run 30 miles instead of 26 if they could take that away from the course! And just fyi, Miami Marathon & Half and DC races are without camber, but Disney races and Sarasota Half are are not… in case you ever want to do any of those.


    • Thanks for the tip on Miami and DC races! I havent run a ton of half/full marathons to compare, but the Georgia cities I’ve run in had more than one lane open to runners, so I’ve never had problems with camber! If you haven’t already, I’d recommend hip and core work before you tackle the camber in your next marathon! I think it saved me from full ITBS after the beating my ITB took during the marathon. has some good content on this if you’re interested.


    • Thanks, and I’m so glad you found me! Which marathon are you running? I’m sure you have put in the work and will have a great experience with your first. The feeling after running your first marathon is indescribable. Let me know if you have any questions as you prepare for your race! Happy running and let me know how it goes!


  4. Pingback: A New Year Approaches: 2015 Goals & Wild Dreams | Racing Oprah

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