6. I Dressed all Wrong
My long, reddish curls can take on a life of their own, so I take headwear seriously. On one unfortunate marathon morning, my beloved purple bandana went missing, forcing me to wear a hot, black, cotton baseball cap. By mile eight it was saturated with sweat, but because it was adorned with pins from previous races, I couldn't bear to chuck it. With my hat in one hand and a water bottle in the other, I ran the rest of the race squinting, my sunglasses on my head in a failed attempt to keep my humidity-crazed locks out of my face. I had to pull over twice to tighten the shirt and the jacket tied around my waist—a product of race-morning indecision and refusal to part with expensive garments.
Lesson Learned: Bring Layers.
Before you travel, make a list of everything you plan to bring, down to extra shoelaces if that's the minutiae you're into—and cross it off as you stow it. "I pack three different outfits: my hotter-than-blazes outfit, my where-did-this-cold-front-come-from?' outfit, and a pair of capris and a lightweight long-sleeve shirt for something in the middle," says Blackford. Bring a visor for a hot day, a brimmed cap for a sunny but temperate day, and a light tech-fabric beanie for a cold one. Worried about temperature fluctuations over the course? Consider arm warmers or one lightweight long-sleeve top you can tie around your waist.
Aside from your base layer, do not wear expensive clothes or things with sentimental value. It's better to be too cold than too hot. "Ten minutes of moving and you're going to wonder why you're wearing all this stuff," says Guzman.
7. I Got Cold and wet
After a few days of rain or even a crisp morning dew, the soft grasses that surround the race starting line or athletes' village can be transformed into a muddy sea of goo. At races that have required me to arrive at the start hours before the gun went off, I have looked longingly at runners sprawled out stretching and meditating on trash bags they had brought. I once waited for a group to have their wave called and poached their make-shift tarp from the garbage—along with a trashy tabloid to keep my mind off what lay ahead.
Lesson Learned: Bring a survival kit.
Big Sur, New York, and Boston all have notoriously long morning waits. And if you're smart, you'll arrive early no matter where you're running. Bring a plastic trash bag to sit on, a newspaper or magazine to read, and some throwaway sweats to keep warm— most big races now collect clothes for homeless shelters.
8. I Went out too Fast
I admit it. This is, and has always been, my tragic downfall. Whether it's a massive metropolitan race with 25,000 fellow runners or a quaint mountain run with 250, the frenetic energy at the start is irresistible. Throw in an elevation drop at the start, and I am doomed. At one recent mountain marathon, I burst out of the gate with a joyful surge and didn't realize until around mile three that I was two minutes ahead of where I should have been. Yes, I should have been alarmed. But for a proud instant, I thought, cool?! By mile six, I longed for a nap.Lesson Learned: Hold back. Settle in. Finish strong.
Many runners have a tendency to want to "bank time" at the beginning. "That is the absolute worst way to run a race," says Manthey, "because you burn through your glycogen stores early on." Instead, think of the first few miles as an extended warm-up, and run them slightly slower than goal pace. If you reach mile one significantly slower than goal pace, don't panic, says Suzanne Walmsley, a coach with the Boston Athletic Association Running Club. "You have plenty of miles to make up that time."