My First Marathon in Nashville: 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before

Finally checked the full marathon off the bucket list! The weekend was such a whirlwind.. and even with how much I trained, it was still such an emotional and physically tough experience.  Running those last few miles was absolutely the hardest thing I have ever done. Yet, as much as I swore off running for the rest of my life mile 22 on, I'm somehow sitting here 48 hours later thinking about how I can train differently for the next one. 

1: When they say hilly, they mean it 

For months leading up to this race, I would tell fellow runners I was doing the Rock N' Roll Nashville full, and they would respond with "oh yikes, I've heard it's hilly." Being from rural Pennsylvania (very hilly), I'd brush off these comments from Midwesterners with their flat topography and think that it was all relative.  But I was so mistaken. This course was one of the hilliest I've ever run, and given how sore my calves are today, I did not train well enough for it.  The training plan I followed varied distances and speeds, but did not focus on hills.  I should have trained hills more by swapping out the interval speed run every other week for some hill intervals. This would have taught me how to push on through hills even when I'm exhausted after running so many of them, instead of finding myself walking the hills mile 24 and missing my goal time by 2 I did. 

2: learn to Wear a hat / sunglasses While running

With how crazy the winter / spring has been, I didn't really have to worry about training with a hat or sunglasses because it just wasn't hot enough or bright enough to bother me. We were blessed with beautiful weather for the run, but I basically had to squint the entire time, which was really exhausting.  And with all the squinting and sun exposure, I probably aged my skin a year in the four hours it took me to run. 

3: Don't be over ambitious about your travel itinerary 

When planning the rest of my trip to Nashville, I basically thought my adrenaline and excitement had superhuman capabilities and I would totally bypass the exhausted part. I thought running Saturday morning was going to be perfect, and that I would have the rest of the weekend to enjoy. But the recovery time is really the biggest difference between half marathons and full marathons. Going forward, I'll be a little more honest with myself.. and the people who travel with me.. that I'll need a lot of rest after.  

4: right before the race is not the time to listen to pacing advice 

While waiting for the bathroom before the start, I found myself in a conversation with a woman who had run the race four times. She was telling me about the hardest parts of the course, when to conserve my energy, and when it finally got easy.  I really took her advice to heart and developed a new game plan right there, kind of neglecting my training. At mile 18, when she said it was going to start going downhill and get easier, I found myself back up another hill, exhausted, and a little mad at myself for getting my hopes up.  Looking back on the marathon and on running in general, the level of difficulty is really all about perception. What may have felt easier for her, could catch me at a bad time and be super miserable for me, and vice versa.  While it's always good to hear advice, I shouldn't have let it dictate the way I ran the course. 

5: B.Y.O. Water 

As good as they try to be about giving us ample amounts of water and gatorade, there are inevitably dry parts throughout the course.  In this run in particular, there was four miles (that were mostly uphill) without water.  Next time, I will run with a water belt or camelback. This takes everyone else out of the equation and I know I'll have water when I need it. 

What are some of the things that you learned when running your first full? Would love to hear! 


One of the many bands along the way.. I'm not a great mid-run photographer 

One of the many bands along the way.. I'm not a great mid-run photographer 

Big mile markers so you couldn't miss them

Big mile markers so you couldn't miss them

The race ended right at Nissan stadium!

The race ended right at Nissan stadium!

Pharmacy Burgers & Beer Garden

Cheers-ing with some well deserved beers post-race, and of course, supplemented with a massive order of sweet potato fries!