What I Learned From My First Marathon

Moani Wright-Van Alst
October 18, 2017

I’ve enjoyed “wogging” (walk/jogging) since high school, but never had any desire to run a marathon. Running two or three miles a few times a week made me feel good. I’d run an occasional 10K to support a good cause, but I could never run the entire course and afterwards I felt like a truck hit me.

About two years ago, I was going through a rough time in my personal life and running became my escape. I started running three to four miles regularly, which turned into five and then six miles. I decided I wanted to complete a half marathon with some light training. Light because I’m a single mom with a full-time job, so there’s never much time for me. But I completed the half marathon and almost ran the entire course. After that I said ‘marathon, smarathon!’ If I can do a half marathon, a real marathon will be cake. So I did it and it definitely wasn’t cake, but it was rewarding.

Here are my tips to help you cross the finish line at your first marathon:

Find your motivation. Running a marathon is more mental than physical, so you need to want to cross the finish line. Commit to completing the race.

Download a training plan. There are lots out there and they all vary. They all follow the same basic principles: start small and build, then taper before the big day. Don’t forget cross training.

Build a community. Running with friends or a running group makes it enjoyable. I trained with friends on shorter runs and it was fun. I was lucky to have a community of supporters who kept me motivated by cheering me on throughout the race.

Practice everything!

  • Your course. If you can run the course beforehand you’ll have a better race. You’ll know where you are and how far you have to go. The HMSA30K is a great readiness series. It builds from a 15K up to a 30K and then tapers back in time for the Honolulu Marathon. Plus the 30K runs almost the entire Honolulu Marathon route.
  • Your Food. It sounds funny, but practice the food you eat and the water you drink in the 24 hours before you run. Find what keeps your body fueled and accident-free.
  • Your clothes. Always try clothes out before you race. People chafe, enough said.
  • Your gear. Test your headphones, your water bottle, your pack…anything you plan to run with. Take it with you on a long run before the marathon.
  • Your fuel. You’ll need substance on the run. I used gel packs, but they’re not for everyone. Visit your local running store and find what works for you. Try peanut butter, bananas, or plan stops along the route to grab food.

Don’t wear new shoes (like I did). Your shoes are the one physical thing that will make or break your race. Test your shoes and break them in before race day! Be sure to take them on a long run. I changed shoes because mine weren’t comfortable on the 30K. But on marathon day I had blisters by mile three and by mile 10 the pain was unbearable. I had to stop at mile 13 to change shoes.

Take time to relish the moment after you cross that finish line. Take pictures, hydrate, take a pain reliever. Then treat yourself to something relaxing.

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