What I learned from my first marathon

Six months ago, I registered for my first marathon. On Sunday, I laced up my running shoes, tucked a couple gels into my pocket, queued up a playlist beginning with Lizzo’s “Good as Hell” and started my race at the Melbourne Marathon festival. Four hours, 25 minutes, 49 seconds, and 42.195 kilometres later I crossed the finish line in the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Here’s what I learned in the last six months about running my first marathon:

It’s hard not to go out fast

My fourth half-marathon earlier this year was the first one I felt like I did “right.” Instead of ending up in the crush of people trying to be through the starting line as soon as the gun signaled the start of the race, I hung back, letting my gun time and chip time end up a good four minutes apart, and therefore wasn’t running in a huge crowd. I also didn’t speed straight out the gate, keeping a fairly consistent pace throughout the race. My intention was to replicate this for the full marathon, but best-laid plans and all that. A combination of perfect weather and race-day adrenaline meant that even as I reminded myself to slow down, I couldn’t help but speed up. I ran the first half in under two hours and only a few minutes off my PB. Inevitably, I couldn’t maintain the pace and my splits slowed down a lot in the second half. Better next time!

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Drink all the water

This is something I finally grasped in my last half-marathon and carried into this full course. I used to try to avoid the water stations as long as I could, not wanting to waste time slowing down and walking while I took a drink (so as not to choke by trying to drink and run like a fool). However, now I realise that if you wait until you’re thirsty, it’s too late, so I make an effort to stop at every aid station and grab a drink. I felt hydrated throughout the race, despite the warm day, and I even grabbed pieces of banana and some jellybeans on offer that replenished sugar, helped cramps, and kept me motivated to keep going. It did mean I had to stop for a quick bathroom break halfway through the course, but it was worth not feeling like crap from dehydration by the end.

Walking toward the MCG for the start of the race

Support is everything

At this point, I can run a half marathon without thinking too much about it. This isn’t a brag, it’s just practice; if someone told me to go out and run a half-marathon I could do it (not, like, now, I just ran a marathon, but in general). However, there’s no way I would’ve been able to complete a full marathon without the aid stations, the cheering crowds (especially my friends who came out to watch and offer moral support 36km in, after one of the route’s only hills), the high fives and gummies and funny signs, the thrill of running in to the MCG to finish the race. The volunteers were amazing, it’s always cool to be part of a race that closes down some of the biggest roads in a city to get to run on them, and having a crew of other runners around you is always inspiring when you feel like you can’t take another step.

After the race

Half-marathons are way more fun

After the race, the first thing everyone asked me is if I would do another. I think I will, in the future. It was a good experience and I’m super proud of the accomplishment. However, I think I’ll wait until I find a marathon course I’m really interested in, and focus on half-marathons for a while. Until last year, I had never run a sub-2 half, and now I’ve done it and then run another 21.1km on top of it, so I’m sure my 1:54 PB is far from as low as I can go. I’m curious to see what I can do in that knowledge. Plus, half-marathons just require a lot less time (both in training and on the day) and result in a lot less DOMS. I’m already eyeing up a few races in Ireland next year. But marathons definitely haven’t seen the last of me either, so I’m sure I’ll find myself at the starting line again. I just need to decide which race will be next!


2 thoughts on “What I learned from my first marathon”

  1. Thanks for your sharing. It’s really useful as I am considering joining my first full marathon soon.

    I have been running half marathons for the past two years, and have written a blog post on why I picked up running.

    Hope to learn more from you on this!

  2. Congrats on completing the marathon! I run the half marathon distance but hope to graduate to a marathon just so I can say I did it. Looking at later in 2020 or early 2021 for my first one. Well done!

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