Dorothy Beal: Don’t Make The Mistakes I’ve Made

It’s easier to read about someone else making a mistake than to learn the hard way in a marathon. Photo: Dorothy Beal

Over the course of 27 marathons, I’ve learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t.

When it comes to everyday life, I’m a little more stubborn and don’t like readily admitting when I make mistakes. But when it comes to the marathon, I shout what I did wrong from the rooftops, so as to hopefully help others avoid the same pain I have endured!

Believe me when I say it’s easier to read about someone else making a mistake and not make the same one for yourself, than it is to learn the hard way.

Major mistakes I’ve made:

— Starting too fast in the first couple of miles

— Not taking fuel early enough in the race

— Taking too much fuel too late in the race

— Entering the race dehydrated

Some mistakes, like not putting on enough body glide during a marathon, weren’t one of those make-or-break ones. Other large ones like the above mentioned ones basically destroyed any hopes I had of hitting my goal.

Here are the changes I’ve made as a result of those mistakes:

I start out at a pace 30-45 seconds slower than my goal pace. I tell myself that the pace should be so easy I should feel like a caged animal. I at no point freak out about how slow I am running in the first 5 miles. If I start up to a 1:00-1:15 slower than goal pace I still trust that I can make up the time and more in the second half by remaining calm and patient in the first. This is the only method I have found that completely avoids the wall.

I start fueling around miles 5-8. I use to get to the point in the race where I felt like I needed fuel and then I would start taking it, not realizing that if I felt like I needed it, I was already past the point. By thinking ahead I rarely ever feel like I need fuel during a race. I know I take it because I need it but there isn’t that “oh my goodness I feel like I’m dying” and “I would eat a horse if it was in front of me” feeling.

By taking fuel early and often, I no longer hit the point where I am trying to play catch up. There is only so much your body can digest at one time. The water combined with the fuel I was taking would end up sloshing around in my stomach. Once I felt the sloshing, I essentially knew my race, as I wanted it to be, was over.

The one and only time I ended up in a medical tent in a marathon was when I was a nursing mom and entered the race essentially dehydrated. It’s not a good thing to feel thirsty in the first mile of marathon. I completely underestimated how much fluids I should take in the day before the race—I didn’t taking into account how much I was losing from nursing and it ended up being unseasonably hot during the race. It was a very scary situation that could have been avoided if I had paid attention more closely to how much I was drinking the day before and the morning of the race.

Mistakes that lead to less-than-stellar results are all part of the learning curve for me. I try to not dwell on them. I move forward to the next race knowing I won’t make them again.

For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.

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