Monday, August 11, 2014

Relief in the Run

Today I ran for the first time since Friday morning. Nothing to write home about, except that the four miles ran this evening were the first four miles I've run in Virginia since June 20th. I had many great runs in Easton, PA. I ran up and down the Lehigh Valley, winding around campus, seeking escape, peace, and quiet, albeit briefly. But always tethered to me was my phone, and not just for safety reasons or to listen to something. In my job as site director, I was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and was the end of the line on site in terms of the final say in a key decision. Yes, there were fantastic deans, a counselor, health staff, residential staff, instructional staff, office staff, campus safety, all involved as well. But this was my site to lead and to run, and I took that responsibility very seriously. 280 families each session trusted us to take care of their children, and while I don't have children myself, I know that they are the most precious cargo. And knowing that made me extra sensitive to the ding of a text, the ringing of the phone. So in going to sleep, the phone was always next to my ear, and in running, the headset was in so I could take a call while running and turnaround if need be.

All in all, we had a good, fun, and most importantly safe summer. There were some bumps along the way, but all in all, both the staff and students grew and developed through this process. Some may have went home with bumps and bruises, but everyone went home in one piece. When I woke up on Saturday, the day after the kids were gone, I was still on site, and my staff was too, and there was a sigh of relief. We did it, the kids are alright. And then we packed everything up, and I headed home that night. What a happy reunion I had with my husband and my dog - such a wonderful reception! And I went to bed that night with another sense of relief and weight off my shoulders -- we all made it.
Since I've been home, I've worked on catching up on sleep, as it's mainly been 6 hours (or less) per night for seven weeks. There have been some naps of sweet surrender, finally just letting my body relax again, after tense shoulders and nights sleeping lightly.

And today, I laced up for the first time since getting home. Just four miles right around eight minute pace in the light rain. While I still brought the phone with me, there wasn't that concern of the ringing or wondering, worrying what was going on while I was on the road. My head was clear, my feet felt light, and the open road lay before me. There was only relief in this run, relief to be done, relief to think about the road ahead of me.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

How many wagons can you be on? Falling off and down, and getting back on and up

It's been almost two months since my last blog, and since I started blogging back in 2008, I have never missed a month of blogging. So, with July almost gone, the quick and dirty of the last seven or so weeks:

  • I spent the first 5 weeks of married life teaching my "Middle Ages at the Movies" history class, which was a good first experience teaching a new course. I got to develop some new lectures and come up with some new writing assignments. We also enjoyed catching up with some friends a bit, once we were done with all of the wedding stuff. 
  • On June 22, I packed up and headed off to Easton, PA to return to my summer job in a program for gifted children at Lafayette College. While it was my ninth summer with the program, I was headed to a new site as the director of the program. In layman's terms, I am the equivalent of a principal or headmaster of a program for almost 300 students, working with 80 staff members. Needless to say, there were many butterflies about such an undertaking. Yes, I had lots of experience with the program, but the promotion brought on new levels of responsibility. 
  • Because of this, I've had to be honest with myself and put running on the back burner. I did manage to get in two weeks of 40 miles per week, but really, I've been floating around the 30 mpw mark. It's the least amount of training I've put in since I got into this whole running thing nearly six years ago. I'm trying to remind myself that something has to give in order for me to find some sort of balance. And it's not that the running has fallen completely by the wayside, but there has been no speedwork or true consistency since early May. I wouldn't say I'm out of shape, but I'm not at the level I have grown accustomed to. I also am trying to reassure myself that I haven't completely blown off 2014 as a running year. I do hope to do some races in the fall, but it is very possible that this is the first year that I don't set any PRs - I just need to get back in the groove and then things will eventually fall back into place.  I may just need to wait until 2015 to really hammer out some races.
  • With all of this, I arrived in Easton, PA in June and set up shop. We have already completed one session so far, with nearly 300 children completing the program, and are halfway through our second session, with another group of 280 students. It's been a lot of work, but very rewarding too. I definitely am behind on sleep and schoolwork, but just throwing myself entirely into work here. I've never had a job I've loved as much as this one, and I hope that after I complete my Ph.D. I can find a job like this that I can do year round.
  • So with this job, I haven't had as much time to get in regular running, which has been fine. I set out Tuesday morning for an easy 6 mile run, and 5 miles in, SPLAT. Totally wiped out: banged my both my knees, my hand, my head and nose - lots of blood. Boo to the car that drove by around me and didn't stop to check to see if I was okay. I had a mile walk back to campus, which was just very uncomfortable, and the blood was going down my legs. Shuffling back like a zombie at 7AM, head hung in embarrassment. I have no idea what happened - I was fine one second, then on the ground the next. Thankfully, we have a nurse on site 24 hours a day, so she got me all cleaned up. I was really sore for the rest of the day, shuffling around campus like I ran a marathon, but with a lot more wincing. I'm feeling a lot better, and hope to do a small run tomorrow.
  • All of this is to say, sometimes you fall off the (running/writing) wagon, and sometimes you just fall down. But, regardless of the scars, blood, bruises, and bumps, you just get back up and on the wagon again. Looking forward to riding the wagon to the end of a successful summer!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Life as Mrs. Medievalist

Status update: Newlywed bliss is awesome. Thank you for all of the well-wishes in my previous post. A few of you wondered if I was blogging on my honeymoon. Nope! I was offered to teach a new class this summer.  A few days after the wedding, I started teaching "The Middle Ages at the Movies" - a new course that I designed. I'm lecturing on the historical background that inspired movies such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Lion in Winter, Braveheart, and Kingdom of Heaven, and my students are reading the primary sources affiliated with the time period of each film.
It's been a great experience so far (3 weeks in), and I'm very grateful both to my department for offering me the opportunity to design my own class, and for my husband (love saying that!) to patiently delay our honeymoon. After the course is over (it's a five-week course), I'll be returning to my program for gifted children. The past three years, I've been in beautiful Santa Cruz, CA as Academic Dean. This year, I was very pleased to be promoted to Site Director at a different site in Easton, PA. It is a great opportunity career-wise, and I look forward to getting to experience a new state to live in (for seven weeks).
Needless to say, the first twelve weeks of marriage are quite jam-packed. After that, we are looking forward to taking our honeymoon - a week-long cruise to the Bahamas! Neither of us have been on a cruise, so it is going to be a lot of fun.
On the running-front, there isn't much to report. I haven't had a lot of time/interest to train specifically for anything. I've run 40 miles per week for the first two weeks of married life, and I'm hoping to consistently hover around that number until later in the summer, when I'll pick things up again. I have no idea of goal races for the fall - there's too many (exciting) things happening this summer!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The best day yet

Regardless if you run, dance, sing, play sports, whatever you do for fun - there's a moment of anticipation before "the big dance." The curtain is about to go up, the starting gun is about to go off, and there's that final moment to catch your breath, look around, take in the moment, and realize the magnitude of what's about to happen. You know things will be different thereafter, that this is a game changer.
That's what it felt like before my first marathon, and before I walked into my oral exams for my doctoral program. And that's what it felt like when I stood in front of my childhood home on the morning of my wedding. Everything was planned out - I could visualize a lot: the church, the dancing, the dress, my friends and family there, seeing the man who will be my husband, but the anticipation was tremendous.
Seventy of our dearest family and friends were going to be there for the big day, and I knew in order to have a clear head, I would need to go for a short run. Running has seen me through some of my other big days and put me on the right foot (pun intended), so why wouldn't it kick off my big day? It was one of the best runs of my life. 4 miles just under eight minute pace on a beautiful sunny morning. All of my favorite songs were playing, my heart was racing as I ran through the streets of my childhood. I felt like I should've been clanging a bell and shouting "It's my wedding day!" I had a big smile on my face and was bopping around as I was running, I may have looked ridiculous - or just in love! (Cue either "aww" or Liz Lemon eye roll). 
Me with my family
It's hard to sum up my wedding day - even the pictures and video won't do justice. But things I'll never forget:

  • That first rush of butterflies when I woke up on my wedding morning.
  • Quiet time with my mom before the day really began.
  • Getting my hair done with my fabulous bridesmaids.
  • Listening to music and sitting on my childhood bed with my bridesmaids as we got ready
  • Finally getting into the dress and having it fit perfectly
  • That second rush of adrenaline when the limo pulled up to the house and it was time to go to the church
  • The moment of the doors opening and seeing my soon-to-be husband for the first time
  • The joy of walking down the aisle with my dad and seeing all of my family and friends there
  • Greeting Pat at the front of the altar in the company of a friend of mine (our celebrant was a friend of mine from grad school)
  • The joy of standing on the altar and facing everyone, and all of the other special moments in mass
  • My brother beautifully doing one of the readings
  • Stepping down for the sign of peace with our families
  • Being introduced as Mr. and Mrs. for the first time
  • Taking pictures around my hometown, even stopping traffic for a dip in the middle of our main street
  • Greeting everyone at the reception, including family and friends I hadn't seen in years
  • Our first dance (song: You are the Best Thing - Ray Lamontagne)
  • Dancing with my dad
  • Really, all of the dances - my grandma even danced to the Cupid Shuffle!
  • The beautiful toasts from our families
  • Our delicious gluten free cake
Me and my best friend and maid of honor
Dipping in the streets of Spencerport
  • The joy of having nearly all of our favorite people in the same room
    You may kiss the bride!
    Delicious cake!
It really can't be articulated. All of those marathons and PRs had given me a sense of joy and satisfaction, but it was nothing like this. My marathons were all solo adventures. Yes, I had the support of family and friends, but this was the starting line at the newest race - our marathon life together. And for part of the day, I was thinking this was the best day ever, which I told my husband. But he said "Do you really want this to be it? We still have a lot of living to do. How about 'best day yet'?" And I liked that so much more. 
I'm just over a week into life as a Mrs., and it's pretty sweet. Marital bliss in the early miles of our marriage - looking forward to all of the other mile markers ahead.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Thrice run: Pike's Peek 10k 2014

Since I started running here in DC in 2008, I've been able to sample many of the great races that this area has to offer. One of my favorite races is the Pike's Peek 10k in Rockville, MD, which is run on the Rockville Pike. You make one turn out of a parking lot, and then it's six miles of straight rolling hills. I ran it 2012 (40:55) and 2013 (39:28), both netted PRs. Last year's race was particularly meaningful because it was right after the Boston Marathon bombing, and so there were a lot of tributes at it. It's now one of my favorites - it's a sign of spring, it's a fast course, and the festival after is a lot of fun.This spring my training has been pretty good. I've missed some workouts, but I've also had a lot of good ones as well, and when I've been able to get all of my miles in, hitting about 45 miles per week. I told Sarah a month ago that my A goal was to get close to my April of 39:28, and my B goal was to go sub 40, which she thought was attainable. After all, I wasn't prioritizing running this spring, so my expectations weren't too high. I had also caught a cold last week (only made better by these beautiful tulips...and rest too), so there wasn't really a chance for a race week workout to put some spring in my step.Easy 5, 4, and 3 miles were it. Strangely, I woke up on Saturday with the tightest calves ever, and no explanation as to why? Any thoughts? It definitely freaked me out.I had a good warm up this morning along the course, and even though my legs felt tight, they felt better than when I first woke up. I saw my friend Ken for a minute, but I was rushing around, so we didn't really have a chance to chat. I got into the first corral (this is one of the greatest things about the race, is that they do wave starts, so it doesn't get that congested). Ths year, they even had pacemakers, even one for 40:00. I figured I would keep an eye on this guy, and just try to stay a few paces ahead of him. We were off and I was going fast - too fast - through the first mile in 6:15. It didn't freak me out though, it just meant I could ease off the gas, and averaged the second mile at 6:25 pace. Things had spread out a bit, and then I was falling into step with the pacer. This gave me a push to pick it up a little, and try to get ahead. I went through the 5k mark in 19:52, which had me right on track for today's goal. Sometimes it felt like it was getting hot, but a few times we hit a great breeze that felt heavenly. I like to pick up the pace at mile 4, and I feel like it is the 10k that I have the best handle on pacing. I was running between 6:20 and 6:24 pace pretty consistently and feeling strong. I was holding off on the bigger pushes until mile 5, when I finally started to get closer to some of the people I was chasing. This is a rolling course, so once you finish climbing a hill, you go back down. I knew that towards the end, it's all downhill, but I couldn't remember exactly when. I just kept waiting for that point where someone is yelling "It's all downhill from here!" That would be the time for the all out kick. And finally, I created the last hill, and was using gravity to propel myself for the finish. I told myself I wouldn't check my watch anymore, just run hard until the finish. I was happy as I saw the clock ticking, because I knew I had made this race a good one.39:336:22 paceOnly 5 seconds off of my PR121/2370 overall16/1241 women7/127 in age groupWhat's crazy is that I got beat by 2 50 year olds!It was a great race - not perfect, but pretty close. It means I've retained my fitness, and with more work, will be able to nab a PR, whenever that happens. Yes, I haven't set any PRs since last October, but Sarah says at this point, it's more about consistency. I'm not at a plateau - it just means PRs don't come as easily. I was happy to have more time to catch up with my buddy Ken afterwards (who scored a great PR), and I found out later from facebook that there some other friends of mine there - this wasn't one to miss! Although the Nike Women's DC Half Marathon was that day too, which meant 15,000 women were at that. I compared my results from PP last year, and I had placed 32 among women, and having run nearly the same time this year leads me to believe that a lot of the competition was running downtown that day. Regardless, it was a great race - my last race as a Taylor before I come a married lady - 18 days to go! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rejoice, we have conquered! Boston 2014

I generally don't reference my age, but I was born in 1986. Since I have been alive, no American, male or female, has won the historic, beloved Boston Marathon. The last American man to win was Greg Meyer in 1983. The last American woman to win was in 1985. I haven't followed Boston my entire life, but since I got into running and marathoning, I have (along with many) been hoping for an American to pull out the big win. There have been some close ones - Desi Davila even came in second when I ran in 2011. But if there was ever a day where an American needed to win, it was today. It was to show the bomber, and the world that what American do is overcome and conquer, even in the face of adversity.
I watched the first hour of the race at home in Rochester, then headed to the airport to fly back to DC. I was checking the 5k splits, anxiously watching Shalane hold onto her lead, hitting the half marathon point at course record, and whoopnng with surprise when Meb took the lead in the men's race. But really? A 38 (soon to be 39 in 2 weeks) year-old man, who was ranked 15th going into the race, leading? Could he win?
I was wearing my 2011 yellow Boston Marathon shirt while I was at the airport, and at security, a man with a 2013 Boston Marathon jacket came up to me and said "Boston Strong." His name was Mark, and we ended up on the same flight, which was delayed. Mark and I sat and chatted, as if old friends swapping stories, instead of perfect strangers. Because when you've run over the hallowed ground of Boston, you know the 26.2 mile course and the beauty of this magical event, which made us kindred spirits. And while we can't watch it live, we were tracking Facebook (I'm glad my friends were posting so much) and tracking the splits, we let out a woop when we heard that Meb won the race.
This was a big deal for so many reasons. Increasingly, there has been frustration - the Americans keep coming close, nabbing 4th, 3rd, even 2nd place, but still no win. So Meb's victory ended the drought. But his own story is one of persistence and dedication. He had a silver medal from Athens almost 10 years ago. He won the NYC Marathon in 2009 - when I hadn't heard of him yet. Meb could have been com placement - he went to the Olympics 3 times, was one of the fastest American marathoners, has a wife and three girls, and could have rested on his laurels. But his story is also one of overcoming - an immigrant from war-torn Eritreaa, suffered a devastating stress fracture and lost one of his friends due to cardiac arrest at the 2008 Marathon Trials, and a number of other injuries and challenges. He finished 23rd at NYC last yaer - his worst performance of his career, but he finished to show that NYC could overcome after Superstorm Sandy. Likewise, he signed up for Boston again to show that Boston Strong is real, and that the city and marathon would overcome last year's tragedy. Meb even had the names of last year's victims on his bib - he took this personal and wanted to honor the victims.
This wasn't just a superficial act - he took this personally, and ran with huge heart, and tremendous tenacity.
I was very weepy watching the recap video and Meb listening to the Star Spangled Banner - it was just a perfect moment. And the joy in the air was palpable - online, everyone is abuzz with it - this was a big deal and offered hope and joy. You don't need to be a marathon runner to appreciate it - the event is generally-recognized as one of the greatest physical tasks one can do.. To think that it's been three decades since an American was the first to complete the 26.2 mile journey. Meb changed the game and wiped the slate clean.
Look at this picture - his excitement and joy was electric.
The first man who ran a marathon, Pheidippides, may have died when he completed his journey from Athens to Marathon, but his words are immortal, "Rejoice, we have conquered!" They still ring true today.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Brave, Roar, and Let It Go: Power Songs, Mantras, or Both?

We all have power songs: those that get us going in the morning or motivate us during hard moments. For me, a lot of songs remind me of certain moments in my life: good, bad, ugly/challenging. Some ultimate become too painful to listen to or bring bad too much. Others are a reminder of celebrations or milestones or overcoming significant obstacles.
The Killers "All These Things I've Done" (and a montage of Joan Benoit Samuelson winning the 1984 Olympic marathon, which is no longer on YouTube) was what I listened to before my first BQ at the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon.
The Black Eyed Peas "I've got a feeling" was my go-to song before my first Boston Marathon.
"The Story" by Brandi Carlisle was before my pr of 3:27 at the best Boston ever - 2011.
But other songs represent life PRs too. In 2012, I was really struggling with my dissertation proposal, and I remember listening to "Let me be your star" from the TV show Smash. There was a lyric about remembering the difficult moments, and I remember telling myself that someday that that pain and self doubt would be erased when it passed, and it did the following year. 
Lately, there isn't a lot to write about in regards to running. I'm just trying to stay in decent shape, and in the fall I'll get back to more frequent racing and chasing PRs. I am just trying to chase good dissertation writing. I was pleased to find out that I earned a small grant to travel to conduct some research at the international Marian research institute. This was the first one I've ever won, and I cried when I found out. 
I don't know what it is or how to explain it, but I can often be crippled with self-doubt. I have questioned my abilities at every stage of my graduate career. Every stage. Not self-effacing doubt or just trying to be humble, but truly questioning my ability to reach the next level. There is always a period of painful questions and "negative chatter" in my head. I can vividly recall these, and in moments of victory, I remember these moments too. Perhaps it is so I never attempt to cruise or slide to the next benchmark. I'm at a middle point right now - far into my project, but the finish line (the Ph.D.) is still probably 2 years away. What are my 3 go-to songs right now?
Brave by Sara Bareilles
Roar by Katy Perry
Let it go by Idina Menzel from Frozen
You don't need to be a shrink to see what I'm craving - strong motivational songs to keep going about my power, strength, capabilities. 
They'll remind me to keep my head down and plug away. I can't wait to be at this finish line and have this all be a distant memory.
Last week, I was listening to a podcast interview with Dave McGivalry, the race director of the Boston Marathon. He had a lot of sage advice to give on perseverance and dedication, but one quote really stuck with me (and a quick google search confirmed that this is one of his major go-tos): "the walls of intimidation are crumbling." He was saying that people are increasingly gaining confidence and not letting others' opinions or their own get in the way. So, a big part of this process of writing the dissertation is crumbling, or really smashing my own wall of intimidation. Because it's not just about getting to the finish line, but recognizing the progress made along the way and standing on the rubble of doubts and losses and recognizing the victories.
Let it go, be brave, and ROAR!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My heart is in Boston today

It goes without saying that my heart is in Boston today. A year ago today, the Boston Marathon went from a celebration to the worst case scenario in the blink of an eye. And while I was hundreds of miles away, as I am again today, my love for that beautiful city and beautiful marathon transplanted me to Boylston Street.
I cannot believe it's been a year. I remember walking home at the end of the day, on that day, crying. I didn't believe it could happen on such sacred ground, on a day that is supposed to be special. And since then, it's been moving to see the outpouring of responses, from fundraising, to those who ran into the danger, to those comforting the victims and their families.
It's hard to look at pictures from my own Boston experiences. Those were days of such joy. I've always said they were some of the happiest of my life. So how can I look at the beautiful finish line from 2011 and not see the pain and sadness that was there in 2013?
It's a lot to process, and I'm still trying to understand it all. Today I choose to mourn and remember what was lost. It was pouring today on my 8 mile run, and in one way, it mirrored my mood. It seemed the clouds were doing the crying for me. But as the 22 mph winds blew and the rain fell, it was a reminder to do what Boston does - persevere during the storm. That city didn't hide - it came out stronger. The world didn't just embrace Boston Strong because it's catchy, but because it represent the indomitable spirit of that city.
I am also filled with hope and anticipation as I think of Monday April 21st - the 118th running of the Boston Marathon. It will be the best marathon ever - it will be a day of honoring and celebrating. I won't be there, but will be watching from home -- rooting for the Americans (go Shalane and Desi!!) and everyone taking part.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Johnny's Running of the Green 2014

Holiday runs are a lot of fun: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Fourth of July - all are a blast. They involve a lot more festivities, costumes, drinking (yes, a blood mary always goes down the best after a race), and fun! Now, I do love all races, but some extra Irish music always amps up the race by a few points, and just the extra sense of spirit/fun. But before I got to Rochester for my St. Patrick's Day race, it was a different world in DC.
DC was finally getting a burst of spring, including sun and the temperatures getting in the 60s. I was excited to ditch the tights and wear shorts instead, and get in a warmer workout. Tuesday's track workout wasn't a race-week workout. It was 4 x1 mile, starting at 6:45 pace and getting faster. It went well: 6:44, 6:35, 6:26, 6:20. Woo! My legs were moving (and not on a treadmill) and it just went well. Even though I didn't have a good night's sleep before, this was the moment that I was doing well. All of my little stresses of the day that had been building up were gone, like someone had loosened up the pressure valve.
Meanwhile, a storm was brewing in Rochester, literally. My flight out to Rochester got cancelled on Wednesday, so I didn't get home until Thursday. Welcome back to winter - 10 degrees! With the windchill, it was about 0, so my last run on Thursday was a cold one for sure. And we had lots of wedding planning to do (2 months to go!), so Saturday morning was here before we knew it.
Johnny's Running of the Green 5 mile race is Rochester's Rite of Spring - although the weather begged to differ. It was about 30 degrees, gray, with 15mph winds. Not perfect conditions for a race, but this isn't a season for goal races, just to go out and have a good time. It was my goal to go under 33 minutes, but knew that wasn't a firm goal. My mom and I were doing it, and we would be joined by many friends and Rochester runners looking forward to this annual event.
Running into the wind, I went through the first mile in 6:30, and I felt like I was flying - too fast for today. My legs were just tired - was it the flight? The workout? Who knows - I just knew it wasn't my best day. Rather than getting caught up on time, I was just going to try and place high and not fall off the pace too much, even though I went through the second mile at 13:10 - 6:40 pace. I was really happy to hit the turnaround (2.5 miles) and see my friends and mom running by - that was a brief boost. By mile 3, I was starting to feel like I could push the pace more - at least in terms of effort. I was starting to both pass people, but have a couple of girls blow by me too. But at least I was feeling like I was making progress, and with a mile to go, hovering around that 33 minute goal time.
No chance at beating the girl in green

With half a mile to go - CRAMP! Oh my gosh, big big side stitch/cramp that totally slowed me down. I actually had this happen in another 5 mile race in September - what a bizarre coincidence. Anyways, it reduced me to a shuffle, and with 100 yards to go, this girl in green blew by me: I couldn't respond: I finished in 33:11 - not a PR at all, nor did I hit my A or B goals. Still, it was good enough for third place in my age group - which was rewarded with a bottle of wine! Not too shabby. My mom did well too: 46:38.
It was great to be home and great to do another race with my mom. Not my best, admittedly, but we don't always get the A goals/results. Time to go back to the drawing board...aka the road!
Me, my mom, and my booze prize

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Top 10 Tips for your first marathon

I have a few friends making their marathon debut this weekend. I made mine almost exactly five years ago (March 21, 2009) at the National Marathon (now the Rock and Roll USA Marathon) – and had a race beyond my wildest dreams.  One friend asked me for some last minute tips, and while I was writing back to her, I realized that I’ve been giving these tips more or less pretty much since I did run that first marathon. I’ve learned more along the way, and it is my hope that you can use this list as you prepare for your first half marathon or marathon. None of it is rocket science – just things that work. I wish you the best as you get ready for this big day.
    1)   Go to the expo early. You don’t want to spend too much time on your feet. Yes, there are great deals on shoes and clothes, but give yourself an hour (max two hours if you are going to a clinic/seminar/meeting an elite athlete) to walk around. If you do take advantage of those sales, don’t wear the new shoes/clothes for your marathon. Those hot shorts may be awesome, but if they happen to cause chaffing, you don’t want to find out on marathon morning.   
2)   Drink a lot of water in the days leading up to your race. You already carbo-load – why not hydro-load? This is you filling the tank. Don’t drink so much that you wake up in the middle of the night (which still may happen), but you want to be well-hydrated. At dinner, I have a bottle of Gatorade the night before. That morning, I just drink a cup of tea with my breakfast. I have carried Gatorade with me, but you can also just take in the water/Gatorade at the aid stations.
3)   Use the energy gels (GU, Jelly Beans, etc) that you’ve been using – don’t try anything new that they have samples of at the expo. Again, you don’t want to discover in sampling (or marathon morning) the new chews that it bothers your stomach.
4)   Leave early for the start, particularly for big city races. Yes, you have to get up earlier, but it is better to be chilling at the start than worry while you’re en route whether you’re going to make it or not.
5)   Bring a clean trash bag. After you’ve checked your warm-up clothes (pants, jacket, etc), you may still have some lag time before the start, and it can be chilly. This may seem weird, but you’ll actually see a lot of people do this. Cut a hole for your head, and your arms, and this will be your outer layer until the start. It blocks the wind, it’ll keep you warm, and then you can throw it out before you start.
6)   Go to the bathroom as soon as you get there. Particularly with races like Boston, where there are hundreds of porta-potties, there are long lines, so jump in one immediately. And then go again if you can – you spent all of that time filling the tank – just make sure you’re clear and ready to go.
7)   Go out SLOW. It will be crowded, but do not jockey around for a better spot once the gun goes off. It is a waste of energy – you will see people do this and it is not worth it. The excitement at the start is incredible and you will want to go out fast. Don’t. In my first marathon, I ran the first half in 1:52, and the second in 2:00. This is not advisable – I was too excited.
8)   Have a few goals (A, B, C) in mind – one of them should be to finish! This will allow you to not have an all-or-nothing approach, and will take into account numerous factors (GI issues, bonking, etc) and still will ensure that mentally you are working to reach those goals.
9)   Don’t think of 13.1 as the halfway point – mile 20 is halfway. Yes, the last 6.2 is hard, so start thinking of strategies to get through it. Maybe it’s thinking of someone you love for each mile. That’s what I did for all 26. And with each mile, I thought about them, and it helped me focus. I told each person in advance and I didn’t want to let them don’t on “their mile.”

10)                   Lastly, and most importantly, take it all in. Whether you decide to do another one or you are one-and-done, your first one is an amazing experience and it is a life-changing moment. It sill ranks as one of the best days of my life. Take in EVERYTHING. No matter how it goes, it will be amazing.