Tips for Having Your Best Race Ever


I ran the NYC Marathon last week with 51,000+ of my nearest and dearest running friends and methinks I had the most fun I have EVER had in a marathon. Thought I’d share my secrets. If you’re looking to PR, these tips are not – I repeat, NOT – for you.  If you are Mr. Hanson, Higdon, Pfitzinger? Please look away.

Can’t exactly market the below as keys to “success,” but if you are looking to have The Best Time Ever During a Race, give them a try.

1. Choose a race that is a 26.2 mile party. NYC, Chicago, Marine Corps, Boston all have awesome crowds and crazy-good energy. I imagine the marathon through wine country in France would qualify. I’m sure there are many, many more. Avoid anything that is only for “serious runners” or has a boring course.

2. Put your name in the lottery sign-up, then promptly forget that you signed up. Make bold statements that you are NEVER running a fall marathon again even though you just threw your name into the lottery for one. Your name never comes up anyway.

3. Genuinely be surprised when you find out in March that you got a bib. Temper your excitement with the realization that you will now need to train through another hot summer and insanely busy September. Tuck that way back in the recesses of your mind and carry on with a fun spring. It all seems pretty far away, anyway.

4. Don’t train too hard. Not because you don’t want to (well, there is a part of you that doesn’t want to), but because you simply do not have the time. When did life get so busy?

5. Get your long runs in, even if some weeks that is – gulp –your only run of the week (it pains me to admit this, even now). They are key because they remind you that long runs are generally your favorite runs, and what is a marathon but a really long run? You can do this. Slowly, perhaps, but you can do it.

6. Do not – I repeat – do NOT keep a log of your “training.” It will only make you sad. And nervous. Maybe even a little horrified.

7. Step away from the internet. You don’t have time for that anyway (see #4). Do not keep up to date on the newest training plans and how fellow runners are doing with them. It will only scare you. Wish them the best, cheer them from afar and retreat into your bubble. (Do keep up with your Bestie’s training, because that is different and you love her. She is your bubble.)

8. Make sure your Bestie comes in with you for the marathon weekend. This is key. Maybe Tip #1.

9. Make fun plans after the race. It will give you something to focus on other than the race itself. A party hosted by one of your favorite people with an awesome group of friends, old and new, is ideal. All that separates you from it is a long run!

10. Order up great weather. 50’s and mostly sunny works.

11. Mill around athlete’s village and take it all in. It’s the biggest race on planet and a veritable melting pot. It’s awesome. Take mental notes and pictures. you don’t want to forget any of it.

12. Look around the start at your fellow runners, look over the bridge, look at the amazing skyline ahead and immediately decide to take off your Garmin. Put her in your pocket – you don’t need her today. Today is not going to be about PRs, fast miles or negative splits, whether you wear the Garmin or not. So let her go and just focus on the experience.

13. Enjoy every second. Thank every volunteer you can. Slap kids’ hands, laugh at the signs. Tear up at the many “Team Achilles” runners you see. Take in the different neighborhoods you pass through on your 5-borough run. Reminisce and feel a little emotional as you run through your old stomping grounds on First Avenue. Wow, you were young.

14. Catch sight of your Bestie – your biggest cheerleader – a moment before she yells “T-BONE” as you pass her less than ½ a mile from the finish. Her smile and energy makes you feel like you are running on air.

15. Feel exhilarated when you cross the finish. You did it. Not the way you usually do it, but that’s ok.

It’s more than okYou stepped waaaaay out of your comfort zone on this one.

And you are beaming.

What was your Best Race Ever? Was it a PR Race? Or just a great experience? Maybe you have one of each?

12 thoughts on “Tips for Having Your Best Race Ever

    • Thanks so much – also – if you are thinking about doing a marathon, then you are not too old! If you want to do it, you can. Trust me. That said, many happy and terrific runners choose never to run a marathon and that’s great, too. only you know what is best for you, but if “age” is all that is holding you back, Go For It!

  1. Awwww, I LOVE this so much!!! I agree with everything and even though I had a PR in NYC and the time of my life, I do kinda, sorta wish I hadn’t chosen that race as THE race. I would’ve loved to have done ALL of the things on your list 😀

    Congrats on having a great run!! ❤

    • Different. Much bigger and you can feel it. Runners from literally everywhere, and you do not need to qualify, so more types of runners. When I ran Boston in 2015, the weather was awful, which made the running part less enjoyable, though being part of the race was still amazing. For me, NOTHING will feel like Boston, but i’m a little biased, as it is my hometown. One thing both races have in common is that each city really does turn itself over to the race. You can feel the whole city come together for the race and it is an incredible thing to be a part of.

  2. My best marathon was also my slowest one–by far. Training was derailed in the end because of illness, but I ran it anyway–with my best friend–and had the best time ever. We took lots of pics during the race, and even facetimed a good friend at mile 23. I would by far choose a slow marathon with a bestie over gutting out a fast marathon all alone.

  3. I love your list! It made me laugh a lot. 🙂 My first marathon was the NYC marathon this year and I had a blast. Even though it was the longest distance I had ever raced, it was also the most fun because of some of the reasons you listed.

  4. Pingback: Friday Finds – Scavenger Hunts, Ornament Exchanges, and Tips on Having the Best Race Ever! – A Girl on a Search for Adventure

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