What I Learned After Running My First Marathon

I finished the Los Angeles Marathon last Sunday. It was a grueling 26.2 mile battle between me and my own body, which I can only call the most difficult challenge I have ever overcome. If you’ve been thinking about running it yourself, here are some things I’ve learned that can help you close the distance.

Come early

The Los Angeles Marathon started at about 7 am at Dodger Stadium, but my partner and I wanted to be there by 6 am so we had time to stretch and warm up. However, upon arrival, I immediately regretted that we had arrived earlier. Thousands of people had already filled the starting line, which made it impossible to advance to the section where we wanted to be based on the time per mile. This, in turn, made the first few miles of the race more frustrating than they should have been, as we got stuck in a mass of slower people.

On top of that, we had little time to prepare for the race. We had to stand in long lines to use the toilet, our stretch marks were a bit rushed and I had headphone problems that I had to fix before the race started (I don’t listen to vuvuzelas and cow bells for five hours). I would say determine when you think you should arrive at the start and then arrive at least 30 minutes early.

Don’t worry about missing out on your stride for the first few miles

Obviously you don’t want to start the 26.2 mile sprint, but the reasoning goes beyond your own stride. The first few miles of a marathon is a crowded mess where it is nearly impossible to get around other runners. It’s like swimming in a sardine school, but instead you run with people who just smell like sardines.

Don’t get overwhelmed at this stage. Even if you can get through, don’t waste energy swinging from side to side looking for holes. Use the first few miles as a chance to warm up and get into the right space. After four or five miles, the herd is thinning, and you can move forward if you feel the need to do so. Plus, now you have a chance to grasp all of this and appreciate the fact that you finally ran a marathon, because you will miss this opportunity very quickly.

Be considerate of your surroundings

You should always be mindful of your surroundings when running, but I’ve found it even more important in a race as big as this. There was something distracting everywhere I looked and it was hard to ignore the funny signs of support, sidewalk rock bands, Chinese dragon dancers, volunteers handing out beer instead of Gatorade, Kodo drummers and street preachers telling me I was going to to hell with a megaphone. Oddly enough, I did catch a glimpse of hell – it’s the 24th mile.

Remember that distraction running is dangerous , especially in a race. You’ll already be dodging other runners, stepping over thrown water bottles and avoiding banana peels like it’s a damn Mario Kart. The last thing you want to do is complicate your life by getting involved in a holiday. One mistake can end your race, and maybe someone else’s.

Plan for things to go wrong

At the seventh mark, the worst happened to me: I pinched my right knee. It has been bad since I destroyed it in high school sports, but I had no problem with it in the last few months of my training. So when pain pierced my leg at the very beginning of the race, it surprised me. I thought I screwed up.

Fortunately, just in case, I put a compression knee sleeve behind my belt. The sleeve helped a little, but I still had to run on my feet to avoid the pain. However, this put the bulk of the load on my left leg, which turned out to be a bad idea at the 14 mile mark. I straightened my left knee. Now both knees hurt me, I ran as if on stilts, and I didn’t bring anything else to help. There was a moment when I seriously thought about quitting smoking, because the pain and discomfort were so intense. In truth, I probably should have stopped. At least that’s what any healthcare professional would tell me. You don’t have to overcome this pain. But I wasn’t going to back down, even if it meant hurting myself – which, again, shouldn’t be done.

I managed to get some ibuprofen from the medical tents on the track of the racetrack, but ibuprofen does little and you will only be given a couple of pills. The bicycle medic then saved the day when he treated my knee with pain relievers. If I could go back and change something, I would have my knees taped before the race (expecting that they would need help), would pack an extra sleeve (in case one is not enough) and take painkillers with me (both pills and some over-the-counter local pain relievers).

Learning is incredibly important

Don’t even think about running a marathon without first working out. I have been preparing for this race for a whole year, and it was still not enough. By the end of the marathon, I had turned into a jaded, broken mess with fiery legs. I still feel it and will probably pay this painful price, at least for the next few days.

Building up your leg muscles is critical. At the cardio level, I’m in pretty decent shape. But my physical form was not the same as tested during the race. In fact, I almost never felt out of breath. All this was a test of endurance. It’s all about how long my legs can function before pain and exhaustion render them completely useless. Running a marathon is not so much about being a good runner as about resisting your body’s urge to stop moving. The stronger your legs are, the longer they can resist. Take training seriously and don’t skimp on strength training.

Losing money is actually a great motivator.

Running in organized races can be quite expensive. Depending on when you sign up, fees for popular marathons range from $ 150 to $ 250 per runner. And that doesn’t include all the necessary training and running gear. You will need a decent pair of sneakers to match your stride, which can cost $ 100 or more. Plus, you may need a variety of other running gear, such as straps, water bottles, workout snacks, etc. Overall, a marathon run can cost you nearly $ 500 – plus possible travel costs – if you’re starting from scratch. …

I don’t know about you, but the thought of all this money being wasted was a great motivation for me when things got tough. If I paid $ 30 or something, I would say that everything goes away when my knee starts to hurt, thinking, “I’ll try again next time.” Instead, when my body wanted to stop, I said to myself, “I didn’t spend hundreds of dollars to not get a medal.” So yes, marathons cost a lot of money, but don’t be intimidated by the price tag. It makes sense when you find yourself in the thick of things.

You won’t hurt no matter what

Make no mistake, no matter how well you exercise or what you plan, you will feel pain. It’s unavoidable. And this is not the soreness that occurs after a long training session. Your muscles will cramp and want to surrender, your bones will curse you for the force of impact after hitting hard asphalt, and your feet will step into a pool of lava 18 miles or more away. Be mentally prepared for the pain during the race and be prepared for the fact that it will last for several days in a row …

Why did I force myself to go through this

I am currently unhappy. I even write this out of bed, because going down the stairs to my desk is too difficult for me right now. So why expose yourself to such agony? Because I feel like I’m on top of the world. The marathon has been on my wishlist for a long time, but there is more to why I did it. I wanted to make the challenge so difficult that I knew it would take mind, not matter. I wanted to do something that was as much a test of mental toughness as it required physical effort.

When I crossed the finish line and received the medal, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I even cried a little. Mostly because of the pain, but also because he was proud of himself. I said I was going to do something, I worked hard on it and I did it. Achievement has never been so pleasant. And what’s great about doing the hardest thing you’ve ever done is the confidence you can take with you. Now that I face other challenges in my life, I can say to myself, “Well, I ran a marathon and survived. I can do it too. “

Bonus tip : carry your ID with you when you run. You can check in your gear so you don’t have to carry your wallet and keys with you on the run, but bring your ID first. Yes, it’s good in case of an emergency, but I also forgot mine and didn’t have time to go to the pubs at the end of the race. I was sad. Don’t make the same mistake.

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