All Hail the Marathon Rookie!

Holding the status of marathon rookie is a golden once in a lifetime opportunity to savor as it’s only the beginning of what will likely be a long and exciting journey of future distance running. With marathons at virtually all times of the year all over the world, there are so many cities to see, courses to explore, weird, whacky, fun and very often inspiring people to meet. OH and it’s also the only time you can claim complete ignorance for your stupid mistakes :)

The fact is most marathon rookies don’t stay marathon rookies. Many folks who have yet to complete their first marathon, or are at mile 22 for the first time might not fathom coming back again for more. As most marathon veterans will attest however, there is a fundamental richness in the gratification of overcoming adversity that feeds the human spirit.

After making possibly every marathon rookie mistake in the book, I suffered duly and it’s a miracle that I didn’t do any lasting damage. Something brought me back though from what was possibly the worst first marathon run of all time. Looking back, there were many things that brought me back. The inspiring people that I had met who helped pull me through the many miles. The gratification of having started something, suffered through the challenges along the way and experiencing the joy and closure of being done. Or, maybe the renewed sense of clarity and new-found goals.

As a marathon rookie, you can read many books, articles, web sites and you’ll no doubt receive endless bits of advice from veterans on how to properly prepare and run a great marathon. Nothing however beats the experience you gain by going the distance your first time and making some of those mistakes yourself. Whatever your first marathon experience brings, there is something new to learn about yourself and perhaps the way in which you will tackle the distance differently the next time out.

That said, there are some tips down below but if you're looking for more in-depth and well written training tips along with great training plans to get as prepared mentally and physically as possible, check out my friend Dan's awesome blog at:

26.2 miles is hard enough – why make things even harder for yourself if you can avoid it? Marathon veterans really may not know why we do the stupid things we do that results in unnecessary suffering. Is it self sabotage; a lack of planning; a last minute change of plans or maybe just plain stupidity (i.e. wearing cotton?)

Sock it To Me - My Classic Marathon Rookie Mistake

I always heard that it’s important not to wear new gear for your marathon. Make sure your gear is tried, tested and true before marathon day. I just couldn’t resist the phenomenal price of those dri-fit socks at the expo, with the nifty Canadian flag on the ankles. They do look a touch small but…those will be styling and dead sexy during my run the next day! By mile 18, my shoes were squishy…is that sweat or blood in my shoe? Reduced to a hobble the last 3 miles of the run, I finally finished and slowly proceeded to the medical tent. When my feet first came out of my shoes, I could not believe that the golf ball sized blood blisters on each of my baby toes, actually fit into my shoes with my feet! The medics cleaned, lanced the blisters to relieve the pressure, and wrapped them in gauze. Now, how the hell do I continue to walk around and keep these clean? They certainly can't go into shoes like this, and sandals would not be sanitary. OK...paper towels stuffed into extra large sandwich bags taped above the ankles with duct tape would do the trick. So, there I was, sitting in a busy subway after the marine corps marathon in Washington D.C., shod with huge sandwich bags. I’m sure some folks thought I was trying to start a new fad.

What's YOUR Marathon Rookie Story?

Share YOUR marathon rookie story for the entertainment and enlightenment of others! Perhaps your memory needs a bit of jostling – check out the list of classic rookie mistakes that you yourself might have made or, feel free to add your own along with your fondly remembered tale of woe. Maybe there's hope that you can help save just one other from making the same mistakes. OH and pics are always welcome too!

Read Other Marathon Rookie Stories and Comments

Click below to see contributions from other marathon rookies to this page...

We did it for the T-Shirt! 
It was July 1999. I was 27, weighed in at 230lbs and had a hard time going up the stairs. My good friend Derek and I registered for the Massey Half Marathon. …

Dear John (Long John that is) 
My first organized race was the Peterborough Gatorade half marathon. This race takes place in February - being from Northern Ontario one tends to equate …

Click here to write your own.

Top Marathon Rookie Mistakes

  • Under train – At a bare minimum, you should have at least 1 18 mile long run under your belt before you hit the start line.
  • Pick a hot course (summer marathon) – but maybe you're an author writing about the dangers of heat stroke. After all, you should write what you know!
  • Have a time goal – it’s great to be prepared and have a plan, such as mile splits, what to drink, what to wear. It’s even a good idea to have a time range. It’s important that your main marathon goal is to finish. From this point, you’ll have the opportunity for reflection on your experience, and a clear challenging yet realistic time to beat for the next one.
  • Wear cotton – cut off jogging pants and a 10 pound sweat soaked cotton t-shirt – now that’s what I’m talking 'bout – rash city and bloody nipples all the way!
  • Wear brand new gear – 2 golf ball sized tomato blisters on each baby toe saw me wearing bags on my bare feet it the subway station after marine corps. Note to self – give the undersized sexy and styling running socks that you bought yesterday at the expo to your wife…they clearly don’t fit.
  • Wear too much gear – are you running a marathon or one of the 3 wise men’s donkeys? Ditch the waist packs and water filled back packs. That’s one of the beauties of an organized run that you paid to be at; there are aid stations!
  • Rely on a GPS – my brother in law trained for 6 months using his nifty positioning gadget with all of his walk breaks perfectly timed to the mile markers. Imagine the look on his face when his watch beeped 200 meters before the 1 mile sign. Oh that’s what calibration means!
  • Try new fuel – Uh oh, gurgly guts. I guess chocolate thunder with caffeine doesn’t agree with me. Now, to find a good place to expel amongst these hundreds of people?
  • Deviate from morning routine – get up, drink and eat exactly what you do in the mornings before your long runs - even at the biggest and most organized marathons, you’ll find there are WAY too few Johnny on the spots along the course.
  • Go out too fast, pace with John Doe, pass on the aid stations, put fast miles in the bank – every single one of these mistakes become glaringly obvious as bad ideas as you are reduced to a shuffle and feel like you’re carrying a 50 pound pack on your back at mile 21!

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