Last year's marathon rookies give advice to this year's first-timers
Pam LeBlanc, Fit City
If you've never run a marathon, it's hard to know exactly what to expect.
How will your legs feel at Mile 20? Will everyone else dash past, leaving you to inhale the dust kicked up by their speeding sneakers?
If you do cross that finish line, how much time will have passed? Will you ever walk again, pain free?
Actual marathon finishers seem to belong to their own secret club, a club with insider knowledge of what to do and how to act on race day.
Rookie marathoners, we're here to help.
In advance of Sunday's LiveStrong Austin Marathon, we consulted runners who ran their first marathon last year and asked them to share their best advice for this year's first-timers.
Laura Reichel, 25
First marathon: 2011 LiveStrong Austin Marathon
Reichel's father was a marathoner, and he used to take her to the track with him when she was little. It rubbed off. Reichel started running competitively in seventh grade, and ran at Campbell University in North Carolina. Until last year, though, she never ran long.
On marathon day, the Whole Foods Market employee says, don't try anything new.
Which, really, Reichel already knew before her first marathon. But when she started tiring toward the end of her race, she realized she needed to put more fuel into her body.
"I was grasping at straws," she said. She got an energy gel from one of the aid stations on the course — one she'd never tried before. "It didn't work out so well."
She finished her first 26.2-miler battling an upset stomach.
The marathon, she says, is "kind of like the ocean. You don't want to mess with it and you have to respect it."
Will McKenna, 36
First marathon:2011 LiveStrong Austin Marathon
McKenna started running seriously two or three years ago, building his way up from walking on a treadmill to a slow yet steady 5K, then a half marathon and finally, last year, his first full marathon. He dropped 100 pounds in the process.
His tip? Don't set a time goal.
"Most people who run marathons tend to be Type A and goal-oriented, so it's hard to do, but I think it's good advice. You're doing something so far outside your experience that if you try and set some specific goal you have no idea if you're going to meet it. That sets you up for being frustrated or angry, when you just ran 26.2 miles."
Better, he says, to bask in the accomplishment of just finishing, no matter how long it takes.
Erin Abrahamson, 27
First marathon:2011 San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Marathon
After running a few half marathons, this account executive for a dining and marketing company decided she might as well go for a full. Race day arrived humid and sunny — far from ideal conditions. When she finished, her sunburn hurt even worse than her legs. But her red legs didn't outshine her outfit.
Her advice? Dress to impress.
For her, it started with a pair of fuchsia running shoes. They made Abraham feel good, especially when she found some matching socks, shorts and shirts.
"It became this whole thing. I felt if didn't have a color-coordinated outfit, I wouldn't run as well," she says. She even ran the 3M Half Marathon Relay wearing a tutu.
For her first marathon, she paired her fuchsia shoes with a white Lululemon running skirt, a lime green, easy-to-spot singlet, and a sparkly, matching headband she made herself. She was easy to spot, so family and friends could cheer her on.
"If you're dressed in something that makes you feel good and it's fashionable, you exert a level of confidence," she says. "I don't think you definitely have to wear a running skirt to be successful in a run, but for me, I'm not the fastest, and I might as well look good doing it."
Penny Lane, 48
First marathon: 2011 LiveStrong Austin Marathon
Lane is a longtime runner who never ran long until a few years ago. She trained for her first marathon with a friend — and no guidance from a running group. This year she's running with Al's Ship of Fools, one of the Austin Runners Club training groups.
Like a lot of first-time marathon racers, Lane says she's prone to pre-race jitters. To soothe those jangled nerves, she recommends making a race morning to-do list.
"I put everything on it that I always forget — make coffee the night before, don't forget gloves or throwaway shirt, put Glide on feet, don't forget SPI belt, tissue or Shot Bloks, memorize where Porta-Potties are, don't forget bib number and chip, don't forget arm sleeves ..."
The LiveStrong Austin Marathon and Half Marathon starts at 7 a.m. Sunday at 16th Street and Congress Avenue, just north of the Capitol. Expect road closures and delays along the route, which covers portions of South Congress Avenue, South First Street, Cesar Chavez Street, Exposition Boulevard, Great Northern Boulevard, Woodrow Boulevard, Duval Street, 15th Street and San Jacinto Boulevard. The race ends just south of the Capitol, at 10th Street and Congress Avenue. For more information and a course map, go to www.youraustinmarathon.com.