Why every runner should consider a marathon

Fitness expert James Fell shares his first-hand experience of running a marathon.
James Fell running a marathon James Fell

Last week I ran my first marathon, and even though I’m looking at a toenail that’s not long for this world, it won’t be my last. The reason why is that it was an awesome experience, and now I have a shiny medal saying I’m a marathon finisher.

I wasn’t quite prepared for how good I was going to feel when I ran it; I was surprised because a couple of years ago I never even thought about running one.

I’ve been running for about eight years and am happy with how it makes me feel and look, but I didn’t have much taste for races, even though I know that signing up for a race is a proven motivational strategy.

But then someone planted the idea of a marathon and it wouldn’t go away. On March 18 I ran the Honda L.A. Marathon and hit my goal of running it in under four hours. You can read the whole story here in the Los Angeles Times.

And I learned a few things from the experience, which I’ll now pass on to you if you’re considering one:

Consider making a trip out of it


I went to L.A. for my first because I write for the LA Times, so the whole run was made into kind of a bigger deal. I had to book flights and a hotel so there was no chance of bailing out on it. It also added to the fun factor, getting out of town for a few days.

Enlist a friend or loved one

I did mine solo, but in a way I had a big support structure both with readers and editors. Having a friend to do the training and racing with can be highly motivating.

Take a course

There are plenty of running clinics that can help you prepare for your first marathon. If the thought scares you, this can be a good idea.


Get some professional tips

I had a lot of help for race day, which helped make for a positive experience. Some of the tips I followed that made a big difference were:

  • Don’t drink too much before the race so you’re dying for a Porta Potty in the first mile – there is lots of water and Gatorade along the course.
  • Eat as much as you can stomach during the race – this is critical.
  • Don’t start too fast – let the speedy ones pass you and just maintain a steady pace.
  • Bring a “throw away” old sweatshirt to keep you warm before the race starts.
  • Body Glide. Buy it at a running store and smear it everywhere.
  • Minimize weaving around fellow racers. Weaving can add half a mile or more to the distance.
  • Be prepared for “The Wall.” It usually hits around mile 20-21. You can push through it.
  • Don’t worry about how wobbly your legs are afterwards. By my observations, everyone gets that and it only lasts a day or two.
  • Don’t worry too much about speed. I wanted a fast time to impress my readers (chalk it up to one of those “stupid guy things”), but for the first time the most important thing is just to finish.

Are you convinced yet? You’ll have an amazing sense of accomplishment and pride, and I was also pretty surprised at just how congratulatory my family and friends were. I’m still feeling the glow.

Go do it.



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