14 things you should do to prepare for your first marathon

When I signed up to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, my first try at running 26.2 miles, I knew it would be hard. I had previously never considered myself a runner and the longest race I’d ever completed was a 5K. But as my training ramped up to 13, 16, 18 and finally 20 miles over the 18 weeks leading up to the race, I felt confident. I signed up last-minute for a half marathon just as practice and finished strong, even sprinting to the finish line and leaving with enough energy to meet my friends after for boozy brunch. 

However, on my way to the marathon starting line, my confidence totally sunk. This was actually a distance that I had never run before. Not to mention, it was raining (raining really hard actually). My shoes and socks were soggy before I even got to my corral. 

I tried to remind myself that all I had to do was finish and to think about all the miles I had run up to this point—26.2 miles paled in comparison! I had put in the work and I was well-prepared, or so I thought. During the wet and soggy course, there were a few things I was glad I had with me and a few I wish I would have packed in my running belt.

Here’s everything you’ll be glad you prepared while running your first marathon:

1. Wear the right shoes for you

The right running shoes are the ones that you feel most comfortable in. For me, that’s Brooks Ghost 12. They're a neutral shoe but provide just enough support and cushion, so my feet felt just as good at the finish line as they did at the starting line. One tip, however, is that if it is raining on race day, you should wait to put your shoes and socks on as close to the starting time as possible. 

SHOP: Brooks Running Ghost 12, $130

2. Wear the right socks

It might not seem like it, but socks are a huge deal. Get a pair that doesn't slip into your shoes and that will wick away moisture. The best are those that are made with nylon, spandex and polyester. 

SHOP: Brooks Launch Lightweight Tab Running Socks, $12


3. Use Body Glide or something similar

Body Glide or plain old Vaseline isn’t just for leg chafing. You can use it under your arms, under the clasp of your sports bra or around an annoying seam. One runner on the MCM course shared he wish he would have put it between his toes, because apparently toe-chafing in the rain is very real.

SHOP: Body Glide Original Anti-Chafe Balm, $9.99

4. Make a good playlist and download it

If you like to listen to music while you run, make a good playlist and make sure you download it. If you’re traveling to your race, you might not have great cell service and downloading your songs will be crucial for solid listening. 

5. Pack extra headphones or a charger

Your headphones might (probably will) die during the race, so pack an extra set in your running belt, or if you’re using AirPods, the charging case. However, if you can, try running with just one ear bud in so you can take in the cheering of the crowd—there’s nothing like it.

SHOP: New adidas Fwd-01 Bluetooth in-Ear Headphones, $149.99

6. Wear a bright color

I love an all black ensemble as much as the next New Yorker, but during a race, it can make it hard for your friends and family to find you (just ask my mom). Try a bright colored shirt, hat, shoes or even wristband to stand out. If you need the extra push, putting your name on the back of your shirt will most definitely have fans along the course cheering you on by name.

SHOP: Break New Ground Tight 28" lululemon x Roksanda, $168

7. Ask your “fans” to wear something bright or memorable if you want to see them

As you’re running, fans and signs start to look, well, a bit the same. I ran past my family two to three times, even after texting them begging for a banana. It’s always heartwarming to know they’re there, but even better when you see them along the course with a beacon of hope (again, for me, that's a banana).

8. Practice your nutrition beforehand

Don’t try eating new gels or gummies on race day. To fuel your body best, you need to know what works for you. (Unless, of course, you’re hitting a wall and need some of the fuel passed out on the course.) Pack a few of your go-to products in your pockets or running belt, or even give some to friends and family who are there to cheer you on.

SHOP: SKRATCH LABS Sport Energy Chews, Matcha Green Tea and Lemon (10 pack), $24.50


9. Eat right not just the day of, but the week of

Leading up to the race, you’ll want to make sure you’re eating healthy and a few days before, that you’re getting a majority of your calories from carbs. The morning of the race, wake up early enough to give yourself enough time to eat and use the bathroom—you will never regret doing this. 

While you're at it, you might want to take Imodium beforehand or pack it in your running belt (especially if you have a sensitive stomach or are prone to runners’ colitis). Again, you will not regret this. 

10. Check out the course ahead of time

During your training, it will be good to know whether or not your race involves tons of hills or in my case, one gnarly bridge at the end. Practice accordingly, and if you’re the need-to-know-type, make a mental note of where major mile markers will be.

Pro tip: Download your race’s app (if there is one) to find all the information you need.

11. Practice running in all weather conditions

Whether it’s too hot or too rainy outside during your training, try to avoid the treadmill and hit the pavement. You don’t know what the weather will be on race day, and you’ll be glad you tested not only your skills, but your outfit and gear for all conditions.

SHOP: Arc'teryx Cita SL Jacket, $129

12. Remember why you signed up

For me, I love having a new goal to crush, so as daunting as it was, signing up for my first marathon felt like an accomplishment I needed to hold the bragging rights to. However, you could be running for a charity or a family member or another personal reason. Remind yourself of your motivation on the course and if you have to, write yourself a note in your phone as a reminder to look at periodically as you crush those miles.

13. Give yourself time to recover

You might have plans to celebrate with friends after the race, but give yourself ample time to stretch, foam roll, shower and relax a bit. If you traveled for it, see if you can postpone your return home to the next day so you’re not immediately sedentary (which won’t help with your soreness). 

SHOP: Theragun G3PRO Percussive Therapy Device, $599 ($700)



14. Relax! Have fun!

Running 26.2 miles is intense, but try to stay relaxed. As Shadrack Biwott, a professional marathon runner with Brooks Running told me: “Don’t be scared, it’s just running.” 

And, have fun! You wouldn’t be running for this long if you didn’t enjoy it, so take it all in and be proud of your accomplishment. 

17 PHOTOS
Scenes from the 2019 Boston Marathon
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Scenes from the 2019 Boston Marathon
Men's winner Lawrence Cherono of Kenya crosses the finish line ahead of Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia during the 123rd running of the Boston Marathon on the sixth anniversary of the 2013 Boston marathon bombings in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. April 15th, 2019. REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Kenyan Lawrence Cherono edges Ethopian Lelisa Desisa for first place for the Men's Elite race, at the 123rd Boston Marathon on April 15, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. - Kenya's Lawrence Cherono sprinted to victory in the Boston Marathon on Monday, overhauling Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa in the final few metres of the gruelling race to claim a thrilling win. In damp, chilly conditions, Cherono, Desisa and Kenya's Kenneth Kipkemoi broke away from the field over the final few miles as the world's oldest major marathon reached a dramatic conclusion. Desisa, the 2013 World Champion and two-time Boston Marathon champion, looked to be on course for victory as he kicked for home in the final 200m.But with the crowds at Boston's famous Boylston Street finish line roaring them on, it was Cherono who timed his finish to perfection, overhauling the grimacing Desisa just a few metres from the tape to claim a magnificent win in 2hr 7min 57 sec. (Photo by RYAN MCBRIDE / AFP) (Photo credit should read RYAN MCBRIDE/AFP/Getty Images)
Worknesh Degefa, of Ethiopia, kisses the ground after winning the women's division of the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Worknesh Degefa, of Ethiopia, holds the trophy after winning the women's division of the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Worknesh Degefa, left, of Ethiopia, winner of the women's division, and Lawrence Cherono, right, of Kenya, winner of the men's division of the 123rd Boston Marathon, hold the trophy at the finish line on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
A runner tries to keep dry before the 123rd running of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Kenneth Kipkemoi, left, of Kenya, Lelisa Desisa, center, of Ethiopia, and Lawrence Cherono, right, of Kenya, compete in the final mile of the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, of Charlotte, N.C., finishes the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, left, of Charlotte, shakes hands with grand marshall Meb Keflezighi, of San Diego, after finishing the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Fans cheer on the third wave of runners at the start of the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Hopkinton, Mass. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)
Lawrence Cherono, left, of Kenya, runs to the finish line to win the 123rd Boston Marathon in front of Lelisa Desisa, of Ethiopia, right, on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
A Boston police officer stands with others near a memorial to the 2013 bombing near the finish line, during a moment of silence at the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Richard Reinhardt, left, of Columbia, Md., Nicholas Haddow, second from left, of Calgary, Canada, and Brian Prendergast, right, of Brick, N.J., help Matthew Harpin, of Marietta, Ga., as they approach the finish line in the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Runners race to the finish line in the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Boston Athletic Association Chief Executive Officer Tom Grilk, left, embraces Joan Benoit Samuelson, first women's Olympics marathon winner, after finishing the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Judd Lorson, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., carries his 10-month-old son Logan across the finish line in the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Hiroto Inoue, left, of Japan, and Elkanah Kibet, of Fountain, Colo., head to the finish line in the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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