I recruited my sister (who has run 5 marathons!) to tell her best running tips that she learned after her marathon-turned-almost-30-miler race! Her story is below followed by her 7 running tips!
Race day. April 16, 2016, the day of the Garmin Marathon had finally arrived. I had been training for this marathon since November and was sure of a positive outcome. Being that this was my fifth marathon, I knew what to expect and was ready for the challenge ahead of me and ready to have some fun! I wove my way through the crowd of runners and took a place with the 4:00 pacer group. The gun went off and the race began. The first several miles were great; I started off slow and simply enjoyed the run taking in the variety of different runners and beautiful sites we passed by. Every aid station I passed I made sure to grab some water or Gatorade. I waved to my supportive cheering squad (my family) as I passed by them along the way. I had long passed the 4:00 pacer group and was now with 3:50. The miles seemed to grow longer but I tuned them out with my favorite music and focused on putting one foot in front of the other.
Suddenly, I noticed that I was only surrounded by half-marathoners. I began panicking a little and desperately searched for at least one marathoner so I would know I was on the right track. I couldn't find any. I turned a corner and there in front of me was the finish line! What?? I had only run 10 miles so far!
I blindly ran across the finish line and was nearly in tears as a half marathon medal was placed around my neck and I was handed a bottle of water and congratulated on having completed the Half-Marathon. Everything was all wrong and I felt sick. I knew I was far from being finished with the marathon and there was no way I was settling for this. I had trained for the marathon and I wasn't going to stop until I had completed a marathon!
I talked to a lady from a pacer group and she helped me figure out what had happened. I had missed the turning point; the point where the marathoners split from the half-marathoners and. I knew I had to finish running that marathon. I had put so much effort into training for this special day and I was not going to let all that time and effort go to waste. I turned around, dropped that medal into the grass, and ran. Back into the sea of exuberant runners finishing their races, running against the forward wave of exuberant, almost finished, half-marathoners.
I ran until I found the turnoff I had missed, which was about 1 and a half miles away, and finally I was back on the right track. This race was a long way from over and I was scraping the motivational barrel inside to find inspiration to continue. The thoughts kept coming. How had I missed the turn. Why hadn't I noticed sooner? After all of my training why did this have to happen to me?
The miles dragged on and I wondered if I would ever finish. If I should even try to finish. I was more than an hour off my goal pace. I literally had no motivation to keep me going except the fact that I had told my family that I was going to complete a marathon today. I kept drinking water, splashing it on my head, and filling my pockets with GU gel packs every time I ran by an aid station. Things were looking pretty bleak when my brother-in- law pulled up beside. He wasn't registered to run the race but he found me on the course (thanks to those nifty track-your-runner apps), knew that I would be struggling since I was way off my predicted pace, and decided to try and help pull me through. He ran with me until the end. There were times I had to stop and walk (in my 4 previous marathons I would never let myself walk - too psychologically deflating) because I felt as though I literally could not run one step further. My BIL helped me stay on track by encouraging me to keep going and distracted me by his funny jokes and puns that he is known for. And then, against all possibility of ever seeing that MARATHON finish line, there it was.
I sprinted as hard and fast as I could and ran past that finish line with a smile on my face. I had finally finished! A 26.2 medal was now placed around my neck. And I once again was congratulated on having finished the marathon. My time goal for this marathon was 3:45:00.
Though I finished well over an hour of when I would have liked to have finished, I was still proud of what I had accomplished. While the other marathoners had run 26.2 miles, I had run Farther; approximately 29.2 miles. And I felt better and stronger than ever.
Prepare ahead of time with these running tips for a successful race:
1. Never give up. This is the mother of all running tips when you are sitting reading this but really just keep this foremost in your mind. Remember you are a runner. Think of all the effort you put into preparing for your marathon. Don't quit.
2. As hard as it is, don't focus on how you are feeling NOW. Think about the next day. When you wake up the morning after the race how do you want to feel. I can tell you that the "No regrets" feeling is the only way that I can wake up with a smile in my heart. (Molly here: This is literally one of my best and most loved of all running tips!)
3. Having an awesome cheering squad certainly helps! Friends and/or family cheering you on along the way really makes a difference for the better. If they can't be out there along the route, have them download the "track your runner" app that most races now offer. Knowing that someone is tracking you, cheering you on from afar will mentally help. Also, a super tip: Write your name on your race bib. You will get so many people calling out your name which will keep a smile on your face.
4. Have a running buddy or find one during the race. If you are having a super tough time, tell someone. Ask if you can run with them for awhile. You don't have to say anything else. Just having that silent support will keep you running stop and to just keep running.
5. Remember to stay hydrated by drinking water or Gatorade at every aid station you pass. A lot of the reason marathoners hit the wall is because they are not giving their body enough fuel. Avoid this by preparing a solid race refuel plan.
Read this section on how to find the best energy drink to refuel with during your marathon.
6. One of the most important things to remember is to have fun. Isn't that why you run? Because you enjoy it? No matter what, you should be proud of what you accomplish if you put in. Even when your marathon goes totally wrong, it can still be a great experience and it certainly will be memorable one!
7. A final tip: learn from your mistakes. :P As humans, sometimes we have to learn the hard way. Accept it for what it is.
And let us know in the comments below what your best running tips are for saving a race day gone bad!