Your First Time…


My marathon debut was in Alaska in 1999. Sure, I wanted to break 2:10 and win, but it didn’t happen. I finished in 4:39:09. This weekend, Kenenisa Bekele is going to make his marathon debut in Paris, and he will finish in a bit less than half that time.


In a recent interview, Bekele stated:

“I have a good chance to win because I prepared well. I will run to win, I cannot expect myself to lose. I can’t sit, I can’t sleep… it’s the race.”

Bekele trained up to 150 miles/week at altitude. He stated that the high-volume training was “boring” at times. LOL. Welcome to life as a marathoner!

Here is the rest of the elite men’s field and their PRs:

Abdullah Shami (ETH) 2:05:42
Mark Kiptoo (KEN) 2:06:16
Getachew Negari Terfa (ETH) 2:07:32
Limenih Getachew (ETH) 2:07:35
Gezahagn Girma (ETH) 2:07:41
Luka Kanda (KEN) 2:08:04
Gideon Kipketer (KEN) 2:08:14
Mike Kigen (KEN) 2:08:24
Simon Munyutu (FRA) 2:09:24
Gregoriy Andreyev (RUS) 2:10:25
Behailu Ketema (ETH) debut
Mule Wasihun (ETH) debut

There is no way he should lose this race – but how fast can he go?

… but this post isn’t about Bekele – it’s about this guy:


Okay, maybe not that guy exactly (by the way, today’s pictures are from Run, Fatboy, Run, which is actually rather entertaining). Today’s post is for first-time marathoners. Here are ten strands of wisdom that you can take with you on your marathon journey:

1) You will feel sick the morning of the race – eat something anyways
2) You will be nervous (about everything) – don’t drink too much sports drink/water prior to the race
3) You will hit the wall – don’t stop running
4) Something unexpected will happen (e.g. a shoe comes untied, you bump into people at an aid station, you drop a gel, etc.) – stay calm
5) Don’t go out too fast – you may be able to get away with this at some point but you won’t be able to your first time
6) Have fun. Take mental photographs. You only have one first time
7) Don’t start racing people within the race – this seems obvious, yet I see it all the time
8) Don’t do anything you haven’t already tried during training
9) Don’t let your mind wander too far – you will perform better if you stay focused
10) See #3. This is the one piece of advice I give everyone before their first. Don’t stop moving. An object at rest will stay at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion!

Where/When was your first marathon?

What advice do you have for first-timers?

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23 Responses to Your First Time…

  1. runrodrun says:

    My first time was actually in training. But during my first in a race I definitely went out too hard, had a shoelace come undone, got tackled by an over zealous marathon relay runner coming out of the gates at his exchange 28 km in. I also tweaked my left calf lunging for a water cup that a volunteer was holding up but moved away at the last second to talk with someone, hence my lunge. I hit the wall at 34 km. But yes kept going. Was on pace at the 30 km split to finish in 3:46 (see above point about going out too hard) and watched as the 4:00 pace bunny, the 4:00 walk/run pace bunny (whom I was racing, see your point 7), and eventually the 4:15 pace punny pass me before I finished in 4:15:39.

    So I agree with all of your points. I guess the other bit of advice I’d add is to wake up early and eat and hydrate well but to stop consuming any food and beverage 2 hours before start time. Then with about 15 minutes before the race, drink a 500 mL bottle of gatorade and have an energy gel. This will ensure that you don’t have to go to the bathroom in the race while also making sure you’re topped up on fluids and sugars right before the gun goes.

  2. My first (and so far only) marathon was less that a year ago! It was in Vermont at the Vermont City Marathon. I loved every minute of it. All those “rules” applied to me and even though I didn’t see those prior to my race, I took heed to them. My advise is similar. Your first marathon should be about finishing. That’s all. Just to finish. And chances are, you’re not breaking any world records…so enjoy it!! For after the marathon: don’t get back at it with a run or event too soon after. That was where I failed. I did a race too soon after, and it’s been endless injury after injury. I still feel like I haven’t recovered!

    • Jason says:

      Good advice – I’m sorry to hear you’re still having issues. Hopefully, you’ll feel recovered soon!! Are you back to racing regularly? What made you pick the Vermont race? That is one of my favorites!!

      • I’m getting there. I’ll recover from one problem area, only to have another area pop up. I’ve been doing a lot of research and combining it with my already known knowledge from personal training school to figure out what works best for me. I’m back to regular FUN racing. Just small goals, like “to finish” or something, starting with a 5K last month, a 7.77k after that, and i’ll be doing a 10k in a week. I picked vermont because I was in maine for a friends wedding. I ran a 15K in Maine the weekend before the wedding then rented a car and drove to vermont! it’s was a blast! Although, I wish I had had friends or family to meet me at the finish line. I’m pretty independent, but for my first marathon I wish I could have celebrate with a familiar face!

  3. leerunsdistances says:

    Awesome post and great words of wisdom for the first time marathoners out there!! My first 26.2 was February 2013 The National Breast Cancer Marathon aka 26.2 with Donna in Jacksonville, FL. My only adivce for the 1st time marathoner kind of goes with your #3 and #10. There is a HUGE learning curve between your first marathon and your second. Most 1st timers never hit their goal because 26.2 is a much more different animal than say debuting in a 10K or half marathon. So trust your training but also be prepared to run a little slower than what you hoped for. But either way you will still be amongst a rare, special breed once you cross the finish. I can’t believe my debut 26.2 time was faster than yours lol 🙂 I ran around a 4:30:00ish. I plan to run another marathon someday but it’s probably at least another couple years away while I focus on some shorter distances.

  4. Oh, those are great tips. I’ll know who to write for more advice when I’m training for my first marathon 🙂 xoxo

  5. Angie says:

    I remember my first marathon (Victoria, BC Canada). I hit the wall at 36km and had no idea I could hurt that bad. I had myself convinced that marathons were only 40km at that point and was quite disappointed when I still had 2.2km to go. I remember seeing a guy running a decent pace at this point and I just clung to him and let him pace me in. I have no idea who he was, but he got me through the race (and I qualified for Boston – unbelievable for a first marathon).

  6. Cat Hiles says:

    Great advice! I ran my first marathon almost year ago and can relate to everything you listed. Running my second marathon in a month, and I feel much more prepared this time! My main goal is to enjoy myself and not put too much pressure on myself to finish within a certain time 🙂

  7. My first marathon was Boston in 2003. My best advice is double tie your laces even if they never come un-done, because they will. Stop drinking anything an hour before the race and stay in the porta potty line. Tons more, but these are top of my list.

  8. My first marathon was this past March–the Phoenix Marathon 🙂
    I’d say you nailed all the major pointers lol! Especially the not going out too fast–pacing is key

  9. Aw you didn’t win your first marathon either?? My first (and only so far) marathon was the Napa Valley Marathon in 2013. I finished in 4:52, which in a field of like 1500 runners I was only a few hundred off from last place! My advice for first timers would be to make sure you are fueled and hydrated properly-this means salt too! I drank water along the course and nothing else, AND I didn’t eat anything (nerves) so I ended up so dehydrated and malnourished I lost all of the color in my skin!

    Great advice! I loved reading this 🙂

    • Jason says:

      Thanks! Any other thoughts on how you’ll approach your next one differently?

      • Yes, I’m actually running the San Francisco Marathon in July! 1. For long runs, I make sure to fuel every few miles (usually dried fruit) AND I drink Gatorade or coconut water before and after. 2. I’ve built a much stronger running base. 3. I started taking yoga and it has made me a much stronger runner!

      • Jason says:

        Excellent, I’m a huge fan of coconut water too! I can’t wait to hear more about the race!

  10. piratebobcat says:

    Haha, nice stuff! I actually wrote a post on a guest blog about everything I learned my first time. I should repost it on my own. My first was the 15th anniversary Disney Marathon. It was a rough experience. BTW, I met Simon Pegg a few years ago and got a photo. As a TV dude, I count him as one of my idols!

  11. Brittany says:

    I’ll have to remember this post when I finally bite the bullet for my first marathon!! GREAT tips.

  12. runwright says:

    Great post. I am planning my first marathon this fall in NYC so thanks for the tips. Love the movie too. I always think about his disastrous race training when I have my own setbacks.

  13. I have no dreams of a full – but have really enjoyed the 5 half marathons I have done. My husband stepped on a piece of glass during his first marathon, and ran most of the race (25.5 miles roughly) with it cutting into his shoe and then further and further up into his foot! I’m sure the next one will be much less eventful!

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