10 Mistakes to Avoid at Your Next Marathon

9. I Hyped the Finish

On a rare occasion when my husband got to travel with me to a race, I thought he could cheer wildly as I crossed the finish, then sweep me off to a nearby watering hole for a celebratory ale. I am told that he did actually see me cross, but I did not see him for nearly 90 minutes. Instead, I joined a crush of sweaty finishers for a grueling march toward Gatorade, a Mylar blanket, and a medal, after which we rounded a corner en route to the family meeting area straight into a blast of wind.

Meanwhile, my dear husband had to walk a dozen blocks to get around the barricaded finish line. By the time he reached me, crumpled under my silver blankets trying to call him on a borrowed cell, I had melted into a delirious puddle.

Lesson Learned: Make a post-race plan.

Scout out a separate meeting place within walking distance of the finish and reachable despite course or roadblocks. (Blackford advises against using the family meeting area, which can be crowded and chaotic.) Write clear directions on the back of your bib so you can find your meeting place in your post-race state, and pick up a unique balloon for your support crew to carry. Even in a sea of spectators, a giant Tweety Bird will catch your eye. Finally, have a drop-dead time when, if you haven't found each other, you agree to head back to the hotel or car.

More:10 Race-Day Preparation Tips

10. I Forgot the Fun

Typically, I spend too much time obsessing over sock choice and gel flavor, panicking at the starting line, and neurotically checking my watch mile by mile. Fortunately, there always comes a time when the overachiever in me shuts up long enough for me to remember why I do these things.

Suddenly, the cheers and cowbells seem louder, the sideline signs—"Go Mom," "We Love You Dad"— seem more vivid, and the other runners seem like comrades rather than competitors.

At my last race, the grueling but spectacular Rim Rock Marathon in Fruita, Colorado, it took until mile 25, when my husband and two daughters pulled up, honking and screaming. My 13-year-old cross-country runner hopped out of the car and fell in beside me, instantly noticing my glassy eyes and stony face. As our footfalls fell in sync, she delivered a piece of advice no runner should forget.

"Look around at how awesome this is," she said. "Remember, Mom, this is supposed to be fun."

More: 11 Keys for a Successful Marathon Journey

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