Observations & Training Tips from My Second Marathon

It’s been 2 1/2 years after running in my first marathon, but on October 4th, 2014 I ran in my 2nd marathon  at the Southern Tennessee Power Classic Marathon in Winchester, TN.

I finished 48 out of 86 with a time of 4:52:31, which was a huge improvement over my first marathon in my overall time. But more importantly to me, I wasn’t completely wiped out at Mile 19 and I actually ran without walking or breaking my pace through the final finish.

And those improvements were really just because it was my second marathon, and I that learned so much from my first. Here’s how those lessons carried over to my second.

2nd Time Marathoner

Before I ran my first marathon, I had heard trainers say that if you can run a 10k race then you have the physical capabilities to run a marathon. Going from 6 miles to 26  is purely mental conditioning. I felt like that was true after my first, but officially confirmed it after my second.

In order to get a lot of the mental strength, you have to do a marathon just to find out what you are up against. 26.2 miles is a ridiculously long ways to try to imagine during training. For me before my first, it was unimaginable.

But once you’ve done one, you know what you’re up against. And it makes everything so much smoother. I had that feeling in my 2nd half-marathon, and even more so during my 2nd marathon. It’s almost like you have to have 1 “throwaway” marathon if you plan on getting into distance running.

If fear of failure or performance is holding you back from signing up, I’d say go ahead and sign up but just make your goal to finish. Get the first out of the way and make your true “first” marathon your second.

Nutrition & Hydration

This race I tried something completely new – I carried a bag of gummy worms with enough for 2 every 2 miles (where the water stations were). I was also able to get some Goo supplement stuff from Amanda, my running partner, at about mile 20 to help with cramps.

And wow – having some nutrition & calories coming in during the race was huge, both mentally and physically.

But more than the nutrition, the biggest change was chugging lots of water before the race and slowing at every single water station during the race. I learned from my first race that once you get dehydrated, there’s no re-hydrating during the race. Maintaining hydration during the race is a must.


When training for my first marathon, I followed a detailed regimen  focused on sprints and conditioning every single day all the way up to the race. It was fine and all, but I learned that for me, I needed more long runs and less time commitment during the week.

I went to the other extreme for this marathon – no regimen at all, just pure winging it. It worked fine as well. I did maintenance workouts during the week. And I followed up with back to back long runs on the weekends with slowly ascending mileage until I capped out at back to back 16 mile runs.

The plan worked fine, especially given limited time that I was able to prioritized. And it worked fine because, again, my first marathon was my “throwaway” race and I knew exactly what kind of shape I needed to be in for the race.

That said, I didn’t hit my time goal and I did cramp up during the race. I really think I could have seriously improved my time and avoided the cramps with a bit more regimen and a better mix during training. Here’s the exercises I did the first time that I should have done the second:

  • Deadlifts for strengthening both quads and back
  • Tabata sprints (I did a few of these, but more would have been better)
  • Hill sprints for strengthening both quads and hamstrings
  • Hip flexor stretches for getting my hips right, especially critical for someone who sits way too much (and has lost my old standing desk)

Side note – related article here. I’ve ended with the same conclusion as the author.

Outsourcing Willpower

For a very long time, I subscribed to this idea of running very long distances solo with nothing but me and my shoes. I’ve learned that while that works for some people, and it is fun for me sometimes, it’s really not for me.

I know that when I need to be productive – it means outsourcing willpower with distraction blockers, timers, and gamified work. And when it comes to running, I do best when I can “outsource” my pace and willpower to a running partner and/or music. Adding small rewards & achievements throughout the race also make it less daunting.

For this past marathon, I was able to stay pace with my running partner. I was not about to stop and walk if Amanda was still plugging along.

I had small rewards set up throughout. Every 2 miles I got to eat gummy worms and Gatorade – small but 2 miles is much less daunting than “18 more miles and I finish.” And at 13 miles, I got to break out my music – all of which has been vetted by years of repeat plays and synced to my target pace.

With music playing, I didn’t have to constantly think about my pace. Instead, I just match the beat and get bursts of adrenaline from guitar riffs.

Aside –  The Whigs win when it comes to running music.


In the past, I was wiped out from both half and full marathons. After this past one I think I’ve discovered some tips that work for me at least:

  • Stay hydrated during the race – dehydration is what really screws up your stomach
  • Drink (sip) liquids with stuff in them after the race – ie, Gatorade, juices, etc since you’ve sweated off all sorts of salts and nutrients
  • Don’t eat anything until you’re rehydrated since your stomach won’t be able to do anything with it
  • Do full set stretches
  • Sleep for a few hours
  • Eat a huge something after you’ve slept & rehydrated
  • The next day, do a slow workout emphasizing leg strength and hips

Next Steps

If you are planning a first race and trying to figure out training – just pick something and go with it. After your first marathon, you’ll know exactly how to train.

If you’ve already run marathons – I hope I had something original to help your run.

By Nate

I'm Nate Shivar - I live in Atlanta and love exploring the city, outdoors, books & Internet. Read about me, my Now page, or my work.

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