Must-Read Advice for Running Your First Marathon

Marathon newbies can make the most of race day with these tips from our running experts.

Are you getting ready to run your first marathon? Our Run Ambassadors are here with their top tips to help you prep for the big day. DICK’S Sporting Goods Run Ambassadors are ready in-store with in-depth expertise to help you stride toward progress. From gait analysis, to product recommendations and more, we’re geared to get you started on the right path at America’s #1 Running Destination.


On the marathon course, your footwear is your ultimate tool. So do your homework—DICK’S Sporting Goods offers a variety of running shoes for specific gait types. Consult our guide to buying running shoes to find the pair that’s right for you.

You can also have a specialized gait analysis performed at DICK’S Sporting Goods stores. There, they’ll determine the specifics of your gait and arch type and match it to the right kind of footwear. Keep in mind, runners should always try on several pairs of running shoes before committing to a purchase. You can also try buying two pairs and alternating between them when you train. This allows time for your shoes’ mid-sole and cushion to decompress after a run.

No running article would be complete without this sentence: Hydration is essential for all runners.

Drink something with electrolytes 30 to 45 minutes before heading out on a longer run (say 6 to 20 miles or more). Then be sure to drink water while you run. And don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink—take in an ounce or so of water sporadically as you stride to keep muscles hydrated. Best of all, there are plenty of hydration systems, belts and water bottles available to make the task of hydrating a little bit easier.

It might not sound pleasant, but any run that’s 12 miles or longer should ideally be followed by an ice bath. The cooling power of ice reduces post-run muscle fatigue and soreness for a speedier recovery.

Try this: Fill your bathtub with cool, not cold, water. Sit in the water wearing your running shorts and a long-sleeve shirt. Pour two or three large pitchers of ice into the water, particularly over the legs and thighs. Sit for about 15 minutes.  Try reading a magazine or having a cup of tea while the time passes. When you’re done, take a warm shower.

Can’t take an ice bath? Try jumping into a cool pool, lake or river.

If you feel tired or sick to your stomach after long runs, it may be a sign that you need to eat more to maintain critical blood-sugar levels. Peanut butter pretzels make for a great runner’s snack. The combination of simple carbs, salt and protein might be just what you need.

Many runners also add energy supplements and B-vitamins to their diet. Running long distances over a period of several weeks can place exceptional stress on the body, and even if you’re eating and sleeping well, you’ll likely need extra nutrients to feel your best.

Always take time during your training to download your course map — and get familiar with it. Of course, you’ll be following hoards of other runners that day, so it’s not about memorizing the course. But reviewing the map gives you a chance to familiarize yourself with any challenges you may face along the way. It also provides a visual picture of start and finish locations. Plus, every runner should know where aid stations are located.

Look at the longest run on your schedule and highlight it. This is your dress-rehearsal marathon.

During this practice, work to prepare your body and mind for the big day. Wear the same clothing and footwear that you plan to sport on marathon day. Pack the same hydration and energy gear.

Make a list two or three weeks before race day, and write down all the items you’ll need for the event.  The night before, you should lay out your bib and/or racing chip, clothes, shoes and any gear you’ll need. Don’t forget medical necessities, like Neosporin or anti-chafing stick. Arch-supported flip flops are also good to have on hand.

The key to mastering your pre-race routine is just that — routine. Don’t try anything new. No new clothes, shoes, fuel or food. Stick to what you practiced with, and what you know works.


Race day isn’t the time for experimentation — do what you know on the course. Wear what you’ve been wearing all season and stick to what your body is comfortable with.

You’ll also want to avoid any unnecessary stresses on the big day, so arrive about an hour before the start of the race. Find gear check and use the restroom. There’s nothing worse than a runner sprinting to the starting line at the last minute.

At the starting line, take a minute to focus in on your breath. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Close your eyes and focus on nothing but the course and your mental game plan.

New runners often wonder what pace they should run during their first marathon.

The answer is simple — run at the pace you’re able to that day. The best way to finish strong is to pace from within, using your own breath and your own body cues.

Tap into your inner GPS. Tune into your breathing, heart rate and general feeling on the course. For the first 14 miles run at an easy, conversational pace (experienced runners call this the “yellow” or “happy zone”).  If you’re unable to talk while running, you’re going too fast.

From miles 15 to 24, dial up the effort. Experienced runners may call this the “orange zone,” a level more moderate than yellow. At this pace, you should be able to talk, but only in one to three-word responses, not full sentences.

For the final 2.2 miles, you should have enough energy reserved to run in the “red zone,” pushing yourself harder as you near the finish line. The biggest rookie runner mistake might be expelling too much energy early on the race. Remember, you want to be the tortoise, not the hare.

Be mindful of pace groups along the run. These pacers keep a steady speed to help ensure a particular finish time. They can be helpful to keep you on track, but make sure you’re with a pace group that has a realistic time target. Of course, they are there as a guide so feel free to stick with them, pull past them or fall behind if necessary.

Need a little inspiration? When you’re on the course, cast an invisible fishing line and hook to a runner ahead of you. Reel them in slowly while you’re in the orange zone. There’s nothing more empowering than passing people — nicely — in the second half of the race.

Find all your race day essentials with the full collection of running gear at DICK’S Sporting Goods.