A friend of ours is running his first half-marathon this weekend, so his lovely wife emailed me to ask if I had any advice for him. Some of these are probably hard-lessons that he’s already learned on training runs, but just in case – I sent this list:
- Be careful how tight you tie your shoelaces. I gave myself a stress-fracture by tying mine too tight on a series of long runs.
- Trim your toenails! If they’re at all long, you risk losing them (I lost 2 after my first Half). It also helps to make sure you have a larger toe-box for your distance shoes than your short distance shoes. I wear an entire shoe size larger in my running shoes for that reason.
- Have a back-up hydration plan for race day – either carry something or have someone meet you at certain points along the course to provide water or sport drink. My first Half course kept running out of water at the hydration stops and I went for 3 critical miles needing water – which killed me.
- Watch your time/distance and make sure you are using your energy gel/gu/whatever as often as you did on your longest run in training. It’s so easy to get distracted by the crowd and get out of sync on that.
- If your name is not already printed on your bib, print it on your shirt or on masking tape on your shirt. Strangers along the course will yell out your name in encouragement and you’ll be surprised at how much of a boost that can give you.
- Don’t use any new gear (shorts, shoes, etc) that you haven’t already tested out on a training run.
- Bring flip-flops to put on immediately following the race – your feet will swell and getting out of those socks/running shoes will feel like heaven.
- Don’t look down at your watch as you cross the finish line… if you’re timing yourself, reach down to stop your watch as you cross and then check it after you’ve gotten past the finish line. Otherwise, all your finish photos will be of the top of your head.
- Try to read all the home-made signs along the course… I have literally snort-laughed at some of them and it’s a great way to take your mind off the pain and/or remaining distance.
- Have a blast and whatever your time, remember that only a small fraction of the population ever even attempts this… let alone finishes! You are a rock-freaking-star!
What do you think – did I miss any major bits of advice for a first-timer?