I Wish I Would Have Known…

Friday! It’s here!

Thank God.

I’d love to say I’m looking forward to a low key, relaxing weekend, but that’s hardly the case.

I’m running the Brooklyn Half Marathon tomorrow! I’ve never done this race before and I’m excited to run in another borough for the first time. I’m also looking forward to running my butt out to Coney Island. I’ve never been there and I can’t wait to run along the boardwalk to finish up the 13.1 mile adventure.

I don’t necessarily feel super confident going into this race, mostly because my stomach has really been upsetting me this week. I’m hoping it’s just stress-induced and it’ll pass by the end of this sure-to-be-hectic workday, but we’ll see.

I’m not looking to PR tomorrow. I’m still pretty satisfied with my National Half Marathon numbers and — for the first time in my racing “career” — I don’t feel compelled to beat my previous time. I want to enjoy the course, I want to meet people at the start and finish, and I want to smile a lot. Those are my goals.

I picked up all my race goodies last night, which mostly just includes a shiny new (orange!) technical T-shirt, which I love, and my race number.

Pickup took roughly 4 seconds. I commend the New York Road Runners for being wonderfully organized, as always.

And I love the shirt!

To stay in half marathon-mode, my next task last night was creating my official Brooklyn Half Marathon Playlist.

It’s got some current stuff I’m obsessed with (“The Edge of Glory” and “Best Love Song”), some old favorites (“Womanizer”), some angry music (“Shipping Up To Boston”) and some Broadway tunes (“So Much Better” and “96,000”).

Without further ado:

This playlist is roughly 4 hours long. I don’t plan to be running for that long. But I do have song ADD and I rarely listen to a song the entire way through. I’ll also set the playlist to shuffle so I can be surprised by each song that comes through the rotation.

OK, so you may be wondering, what’s “I Wish I Would Have Known?”

I’m glad you asked.

If you didn’t ask, but are still reading anyway, I’m glad you’re here. Thanks for stopping by.

When I was an Orientation Leader in college (overachiever/nerd alert), the senior OLs always put together a video for the freshmen about things they wish they had known before starting college.

Years later, when I was a mentor with Team Challenge leading up to the Las Vegas Half Marathon, I put together something similar for the new runners. All the mentors came up with our best pre-race advice.

I’ve learned a lot more since then, but here are some things we wish we would have known before running our first half marathons:

  • Hydrate all weekend. Not just race morning. In fact, barely hydrate on race morning or else you will have to pee at the first port-a-potty, and trust me, that line is long.
  • Wait until longer into the course to pee. The lines for the port-a-potties won’t be as long then.
  • Make a wake-up call chain. 4 am is early, and you must be ready to go at 5 am. It’s not worth scrambling to get ready, so team up with some people and help each other WAKE UP!
  • If you’re traveling for the race, have race day clothes and back-up race day clothes. You may think you want to run in tights, but maybe you get to wherever your race is and wish you had your __________. Anticipate that wish and pack your ____________ so you can be ready for anything.
  • Bring flip flops so you can give your post-race sneaker feet a break! 
  • Bring Ben-Gay for your muscles. And Advil. Bring that, too.
  • NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS ON THE COURSE, be proud of where you are and what you have accomplished. 
  • It’s better to be too warm at the starting line than not warm enough. Bring an old sweatshirt to throw off once the race begins.
  • Stretch. You’ll probably be really excited after you finish and you’ll want to find your friends and family and show them your medal or something. But stretch when you finish. Stretch an hour later. Stretch when you’re drunk on Saturday night (OK, let’s be honest, you’ll be drunk Saturday morning within an hour of finishing the race). Stretch before you go to bed. Stretch in the morning.
  • Over hydrating is not a good idea. You will be up all night peeing and you will fight the urge to pee your pants during the run. (Or you WILL pee your pants during the run. Totally acceptable. Not that I’d know, just saying.)
  • Make yourself visible when you’re crossing the finish line. Don’t necessarily slow your pace, but distance yourself from the runners around you, throw your arms up and get that quality photo. You’ll want to remember the moment.
  • You don’t have to carbo-load with pasta. Yeah, a lot of people swear by it. But a lot of people also don’t swear by it. That’s fine.
  • Get plenty of sleep leading up to race day. You may think that because the flight to Vegas is early you can pull an all-nighter the night before and sleep on the plane. But no, that means you are stupid. Get sleep.
  • It’s OK to make friends in your corral. You might be waiting in there for a while depending on how big the race is. If you’re nervous, chatting with a fellow runner will temporarily distract you and may help calm your nerves. Runners are pretty cool people. Get to know one or two.
  • Turn off your headphones at the start and finish. If you run with music that’s obviously fine. But there’s usually a rush of emotion and excitement when you cross these two lines. Don’t zone out — tune in. Listen to the crowd cheering and let it fuel you for the rest of the race.
  • Dress the part. I wish I’d had on a really cute outfit as the photos of me from the race look like I was a homeless person. (This one came from one of our male mentors and it makes me laugh.)
  • Smile. In the photos taken of me during the race, I look like I was a) having a heart attack or b) crapping my pants. (Same guy.)
  • Make Body Glide your best friend. It may seem “icky” and “gross” and “weird” but it’s a lifesaver so you don’t chafe all over.
  • Trust your training. Seriously, it’s done at this point. You’re ready. And if you’re not ready, just enjoy the experience and try not to die.
  • Go easy on your body the day before the race. You may want to do a very short run to keep your legs feeling loose, but stay on your butt. Make a dent in your couch. Relax. Wear an “I [Heart] Guacamole” T-shirt. Whatever.

ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD? What do you wish you had known before running your first race? I love hearing peoples’ race advice, so please share yours!



0 Responses

  1. thanks for posting the playlist !!! i have been dying to see in the heights but haven’t had a chance to yet — i hasn’t been playing in chicago ! good to see there is someone else out there who enjoys a good showtune 🙂 will definitely be downloading some more of these to add to my running playlist !
    good luck today (slash, right now!) you are going to be AWESOME !

  2. Great advice. So much luck tomorrow. Can’t wait to hear what you think.

    Making sure my playlist is bangin’ is my best advice. Although not everyone runs to music. A like to relax to a slower song in the corrals and then go upbeat when the race starts. My latest favorite is More by Usher.

  3. So funny. I just picked up my # and shirt at lunch. The orange is just too bright for me. Last year, we got a nice gray one. But, that said, always better to have a technical than another tshirt and hey, its good for night running. (The cars will definitely see you coming.) Good luck and have fun. Brooklyn is a great borough to run in (read: i’m from Brooklyn) 🙂 hopefully I’ll see y0u there!

  4. I know everyone’s different, but my stomach can’t handle Gatorade mid-run. Thankfully I’d figured this out before the NYC Marathon last year: fuel up with lots of Gatorade both before and after the race, and stick to straight water on the course!

    What I’d like to figure out before NYC 2011: Marathoners, where the heck do you store gels and chews that you’re saving for Mile 20 or so? Most shorts don’t have big enough pockets, and I refuse to wear a fuel belt!

    1. I use a SpiBelt and am very happy with it! My wrap-around-hand water bottle thing also has a pocket for things like that.

  5. Great post!! And I’m so jealous of the shirt – wish I had signed up before registration closed! I would add:

    Wear your race number on the front, not the back
    Save the cotton t-shirts for after the race (tech fabrics are our friend!)

    Completely wish I would have worn my “I love avocados” t shirt today 🙂

  6. Great tips! I think one of the things I wish I would have known was to pace myself. The whole it’s a “marathon not a sprint” mentality is really helpful in ensuring you don’t burn out too early. Also: Visualize you you’ll feel at the finish and whenever you’re feeling low, revert back to that vision. Happy Friday! Your outfit is cute 😉

  7. I’m 25 and Hoedown Throwdown is my running song! When I am struggling I put it on replay. Boom Boom Clap!

  8. Great list, my couple additions:

    Don’t wear a brand new outfit or shoes for the race you don’t want strange issues to pop up during the race thanks to oddly fitting shoes/clothes.

    Wear sunscreen! Sunburns are no joke

    Have fun tomorrow!

  9. I’d like to add:

    Wearing your medal around all day is completely acceptable, and in fact, encouraged.

    This is the first time I’m not running the Brooklyn Half in three years! I’m sad to miss it but I think you will have a fantastic time running it. It’s so fun, and such a fast course. Make sure you have a beer (yes, at 9am) at the end! 😉

    Best of luck to you and anyone else running it!

  10. I rarely listen to a complete song either… Good song choices though!
    All the half’s/ and other runs are really going to improve your running even more! You’re an inspiration all the running/ and races you do… I bet your stomach is acting up from the stress and your new adventure!


  11. GOOD LUCK! Thanks for the tips and the music. My advice stake out the course before hand and make sure you coordinate with your crew (family support) where they are standing and where they can find you on race day. Have them keep your water/GU etc to hand to you. And if you are lucky, have one jump in with you!

  12. Stick to your long run morning routine.
    Bring the gels/gu/fuel you used during training. You dont want what they give you on the course to upset your stomach. (ahem, cytomax).
    Get up early race morning and take a bath. It warms the muscles and calms the nerves.
    Even if you dont think you have to go to the bathroom before a race, try anyway.

    I love your shirt! I dont think you look like a 12 year old at all. But this is coming from a girl who has worn a Harry Potter t-shirt with a blazer over it to work on casual Friday! Keepin it classy 🙂

  13. This is my favorite in your list (aside from the peeing pants part…totally did that at the end of my half last year, not gonna lie): NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS ON THE COURSE, be proud of where you are and what you have accomplished.

    SO TRUE!

    Enjoy the race tomorrow, I hope your tummy is ok for it, too.

  14. Shipping Up To Boston is one of my favorite workout songs! Good luck tomorrow, you will do great! Also, love your shirt haha, guac is my favorite.

  15. So with you on not over-hydrating. At my first half I had to stop 3 times and used about 10 extra minutes! Not cool.
    Glad you like the orange shirt, but it’s not so cute on me (redhead). Oh well. Good luck tomorrow!

  16. Loved this post! My favorite advice is turning off the headphones at the start and finish – I totally agree! Some additional advice – I always bring some paper towels to the start (to wipe off any excess vaseline / body glide) as well as a mini hand sanitizer for when you get out of the porta potty (throw it away obviously before the start)! Good luck this weekend & have fun!

  17. I LOVE that shirt! I’m bummed I’m not running… but I think the weekend will be good on my end, too! 😉
    Ali, GOOD LUCK and HAVE FUN! You’re gonna love it! 🙂

  18. Great list!

    I love the Brooklyn tech tee! If my hip feels OK in a few weeks I will probably sign up for Queens, so hopefully it will be equally cute (and I can represent my hood).

    More advice:

    If there is no line at the porta potty before the race and you think you don’t have to go, take that no-line opportunity and try. The more you get out before, the less of a chance you will suffer during.

    Take a very warm shower the morning of the race. It will loosen up your muscles.

    I like to take a gentle yoga class the day before the race.

    Dynamic stretching the morning of the race (think walking lunges). They’ll warm you up and loosen you up.

    If you are in the type of race with your name on your bib, make it a point to turn off your music if you want to hear people shouting your name! (SO wish I knew this at my 13.1 Marathon NY)

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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