Everything You Wanted to Know About Running a Marathon (But Were Too Afraid to Ask)

Posted by Cariset on

Marathon Edition: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Boston Marathon Runner

Monday marked the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon, where Desiree Linden became the first American woman to win since 1985. (If you haven't already, read Desiree's story about how she almost dropped out, helped her teammate along the way, and ultimately came from behind to win. I'm not crying, you're crying!)

Boston is a race that's close to my heart; I grew up less than a mile from the starting line, where Marathon Monday is a more revered holiday than Christmas. So in honor of Desiree and all the other badass ladies who ran 26.2, I figured I'd answer the most common questions I get about my experience running Boston a few years back -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

- Cara

everything you wanted to know
running a marathon
but were too afraid to ask

How do you train to run 26.2 miles?
I was in reasonable running shape by the time I decided I wanted to tackle a full marathon (I'd run a few 10-mile races in past years, and probably ran 15 miles a week on average), so my friend and I followed a 16-week training plan that included cross-training, yoga, and shorter runs during the week, then one long run each weekend. The longest run we ever did was 21 miles about three weeks before the marathon. For those newer to running, most professionals recommend a 26-week training plan. It's a time suck! I couldn't have done it alone.

How much weight did you lose? 
Next to none. Exercising so much left me constantly hungry. I couldn't eat enough!

What did you eat before/during/after the marathon?
The night before, I stuck to what I typically ate the night before long runs -- some mix of protein, complex carbs, and veggies. The morning of, I had oatmeal with a little peanut butter and a side of egg whites; super weird combo, I know, but it worked for me throughout training!

During the race, I'd planned to eat some energy jelly beans for electrolytes, which had worked well for me on long runs (versus the popular GU energy gel which wreaked HAVOC on my stomach). But on race day, I was so worried about having to pee that I didn't drink enough water, which in turn made sweet jelly beans sound horribly unappealing. So I didn't eat anything, except for some Advil at mile 19. Rookie mistake! After the race, I was super dehydrated (shocker) and couldn't stomach much. But then I was ravenous for the next two days straight and ate everything in sight! 

What's the real deal with the bathroom situation?
I know you want to hear some colorful story like this one, but to be honest, my stomach was fine on race day. If you're not so lucky, there are a million portable toilets at your disposal along the route. And let's be honest -- it's not like you're going to WIN the marathon. Don't be a hero. Pull over and do what you gotta do.

Did your toenails fall off?
No, but a lot of people's do. My toes just had huge blisters around each toenail. I distinctly remember thinking my toes looked like alien heads. Sick.

Was it worth it? 
YES. It was an endorphin high like no other (seriously, better than skydiving), and gave me such a sense of accomplishment and pride. The best surprise: How amazing it felt to be cheered on by countless strangers every step of the way (pro tip: write your name on your shirt/legs/everywhere so people can cheer for you by name!). 


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