Last 5 Tips for How To Run a Marathon

It is officially Marathon Week here in New York City. The bleachers are up in Central Park, the flags are starting to fly on the course, there are several hundred (probably thousand) Europeans running around the streets and parks and everyone is wearing sneakers. The excitement is almost tangible.

Everyone is excited, but I bet quite a few of you running the marathon are getting nervous. Before you get all crazy with carbo-loading and expo shopping, take a few minutes to read these tried and true tips from your favorite run blogger 🙂

Mind you, I am not the speediest runner (my PR is 3:46) but I have finished all of the nine marathons I’ve started, including during a crazy flare-up in NJ and running with 2 other guides and a blind athlete in New York. Here are the main things that have gotten me through each of those marathons. From me to you.

#1. Start slow. Don’t let the excitement of actually getting started get you all riled up. Too fast a start will absolutely ruin your chances of finishing strong. I recommend running your first and second mile about a minute slower than your normal pace.

#2. Eat breakfast. You’ll likely be awake at least two hours before your race’s start time, which is plenty of time to eat a solid breakfast before your head off to the start line. Get up early enough to fuel up properly for what is probably going to be the longest run of your life.

#3. Maintain a steady, even pace. Even if you feel like you can run faster in the first half of the marathon, hang onto that energy for the second half. Marathon PRs aren’t set in the first 13.1 miles, but the second. If you tend to take off out of the gates, stick with a pace group.

#4. Stay positive. When it gets hard out there, don’t succumb to the pain and start getting down on yourself. “I can do this” is the most powerful thing you can say to yourself when you start to doubt your ability to finish. Negativity will get you nowhere but curled up in a ball on the side of the street crying for your mom. Trust your training. You can do this.

#5. Visualize a familiar run. The first 15-18 are in the bag, really. You’ve done it before. When you get to 18/20, visualize what your regular 6-8 mile run looks like and then count down your miles. You know what 5 miles looks like, 4 miles, 3 miles, here’s the last 2. You can do this. Think of a regular ‘ol 5 miler and hang tight.

Enjoy the crowds, but don’t get too caught up with them. Enjoy the moment and take in everything around you. This will be a moment to remember. You never forget New York. I can’t wait to see all of you out there on 1st Avenue. Look for me on the left side at 125th Street and then on 5th Avenue on 125th Street. I’ll be the tall, curly-haired brunette with cowbells in each hand.

Rock on, runners. And try to relax. Race day will be here before you know it.

Now go out and run!

What are your tried and true trips to get through a marathon?

Fitness News Fridays

Happy Friday! I have had a very productive Friday that began in the wee hours of the morning when it was only 36 degrees outside. You read that right. It’s FREEZING here in New York. I hear it’s been snowing upstate and my dear family in Colorado just got blasted with their first snow of the season. Apparently, Vail looks like this:

Courtesy of

Wow. Ski season is totally on. Red and her BF must be thrilled!

Anywho, there’s lots going on in the health and fitness world this week, too! As predicted, most of the news is about running and marathons as we count down the days (9) to the New York City Marathon. It’s funny, it’s not the biggest or only marathon in the world but when people in New York ask me, “Are you running The Marathon this year?” they are referring to the New York City Marathon and have rarely heard of another outside of possibly Boston. They are often confused when I say, “No, Philly. The Philly Marathon” and don’t know how to respond.

On that note, GOOD LUCK MARINE CORPS MARATHONERS!!! If you find yourself near Washington, D.C. or Arlington, V.A. this weekend, take a walk along the course and cheer on the 35,000 people running The People’s Marathon this year. I love, love, love this marathon and hope to do it next year.


And now, the news.

  • If you are a female runner, you have Dr. Julia Chase-Brand to thank for paving the way and debunking the myth that your uterus will fall out if you run for more than half a mile.
  • If I had kids, I would make these for Halloween. I may still make them. JB and I are big kids.
  • California has banned teens from using tanning beds. Personally, I dig it cuz it causes cancer.
  • ACL and meniscus injuries in young athletes are on the rise. This drives me crazy because their mostly overuse injuries. A year-round single sport child seems to me to be on the fast track to lifelong debilitating injuries.
  • Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall calls magazines out about unhealthy images portrayed and how it affects young women’s perception of health and beauty. Good on her.
  • Sam Fox is running 2396 miles to raise money for his mother who has Parkinson’s. What have you done for your Mom lately?
  • Yoga helps to relieve back pain. Do you really need MORE reasons to take up yoga? Do it.
  • Adidas made a shoe in honor of the late, great Grete Waitz. 100% of the proceeds goes to Waitz’s cancer foundation.
  • People rarely challenge me to an Anatomy/Physiology discussion about running being “bad” for you (guess who wins that one?) but not everyone has the information to back up their plans to run a marathon and sometimes they encounter the nay-sayers. My advice, tell them “I’m doing it because I want to.” So there.
  • It’s never too late to save your life and start exercising.

One last thing, by popular demand, Aleah and I will be hosting ONE MORE BRICK workout tomorrow starting at 12:30pm at the Upper East Side Flywheel. If you didn’t make the list, come on by and jump on the wait list. See you there!

Have a great weekend. Now go out and run!

Running On Empty

There are lots of opinions and studies running around out there about whether or not it’s beneficial to eat prior to exercising. Some people claim that they run faster/better/with fewer tummy issues on an empty stomach. Others swear they have an iron stomach and can eat an egg and cheese sandwich from the deli right before a big race. (Eww)

Here are a couple of things just for you to know:

  • When you exercise for long periods of time, you use different forms of energy. For the first 30-35 minutes, it’s usually that you’re using readily available glycogen from recent ingestion. Beyond that, you are using stored energy in stored in your fat cells. When that runs out your body will go anywhere for the energy, including your muscles and organs.
  • During exercise, digestion is basically halted. Blood is pumped to other, more active areas of your body (muscles, heart, lungs) and away from your stomach when your heart rate is elevated for any reason at all. It’s part of the sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system dynamic. That means, while you’re exercising, whatever is in your stomach will probably not go much further than your stomach until your heart rate comes down and you “rest and digest”.
  • Having low blood sugar can make you feel dizzy, nauseous and weak. Three things you definitely don’t want to feel when you’re trying to have an awesome workout. Generally, things like carbohydrates and simple sugars absorb quickest into the blood stream and can raise blood sugar counts back to normal fairly quickly.

Knowing when and what to eat before a workout is a very personal, very individual thing. I mean, you’re getting this from someone with a digestive diseases so, I get it. However, I have had many an athlete show up for a workout with me only to have them bonk midway through because they hadn’t eaten anything all day/since breakfast/since lunch. The remedy usually involves me running out the door for crackers and apple juice so that they don’t pass out or vomit (hasn’t happened yet!). It also means they missed a perfectly good workout because they didn’t think far enough ahead to fuel up for it.

Running on empty is not a good idea. Your body is a machine and you cannot control where it will take fuel in the absence of energy from food. If you want your body to perform at 100% you have to do your part, too. I get it. It’s early in the morning and you have barely 10 minutes to wake up, get dressed and run out the door. I get it.

Have a quick slice of toast. Have half a Luna Bar. Take a Gu, Shot Bloks or Sport Beans with you. Swig a Gatorade or a Vitamin Water. These little gems are exactly formulated to be absorbed into your blood stream without having to go through total digestion in your stomach. Actually, they’re pretty cool. The absorption starts in your mouth where all those capillary beds are under your tongue and stuff…anyway. Physiology lesson another day. Point is, you have options so that you’re not running on empty.

And those of you who are chowing down a burger and then going out for a run 15 minutes later. Please. Simple science will tell you that burger is going nowhere while you are getting your workout on. And who wants to run with a quarter-pounder in their gut? Yuck.

So, knowledge is power. Use it. And don’t get caught running on empty!

Now go out and run!

The Rules for Marathon Cheering

I am well-known among my family, friends and the running community at large as being one of the loudest, most enthusiastic cheerleaders. I cheer for everyone. I love cheering. No one is spared the embarrassment of getting a shout-out from me, should they happen to run by. I am especially bananas during the New York City Marathon, which happens to be JUST AROUND THE CORNER! I lose my voice on Marathon Sunday. Always.

We’ve talked about how cheering can be inspiring for your own running, right? Well, with all of the marathons in the upcoming weeks, there will be a lot of opportunities for you to get out and cheer on your fellow runners. Trust me, you need to get out there and watch people run their hearts out. It’s awe-inspiring. There is always “that guy” who has a FREE HUGS poster and “those runners” who take him up on it. So fun.

But there are rules.

#1. Cheer for everyone. Yes, you are probably out there to cheer on your one/ten friends, but there are lots of other runners who could use your smile, clapping and cheering. And since you’re already there, you may as well offer support to them, too.

#2. Do NOT yell “You’re almost there.” Unless you can see the finish line, they are NOT “almost there” and this will make them angry, not inspired.

#3. Do NOT say “Go faster!” They are going as fast as they can, I promise. No one wants to be out there any longer than they absolutely have to be and telling them to hurry up isn’t helping.

#4. Tell everyone “You look/are doing great!”. Even if they don’t look and aren’t doing so great. Encouragement, even from perfect strangers, goes a long way during a marathon.

#5. Don’t crowd the course. This one is SO important for those of you who want to be on 5th Avenue in Manhattan during the New York City Marathon. If you step out onto the course and crowd the runners, you can cause a funnel that causes a backup on the course. No bueno. Stay on the sidewalk, behind the lines and barricades. The runners will appreciate it.

For those of you who have a marathon nearby in the next couple of weeks, step outside and cheer on those remarkable individuals who’ve decided that they are going to take on the challenge of 26.2 miles, some of them against incredible odds or for very noble causes. They will smile at you, shout back, thank you, hug you, hit on you, ask you for booze and otherwise love that you are cheering for them.

If you want to come out and cheer during the New York City Marathon and don’t have a spot already, consider joining our luluelmon athletica crew up on 125th St. & 5th Ave. We will have a DJ and loads of enthusiastic people cheering like wild banshees. I will have two cowbells, per usual. And if you’re in Philadelphia during the Philly Marathon, look for me and JB. I will have my name on my shirt because I love when people shout, “Go Abby!” We know no one in the city and will need all the cheerleaders we can get!

Regardless, get out there and cheer. It’s the best gift you can give your runner friend/family member/significant other. Everyone needs a cheerleader.

Now go out and run!





Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: The Force

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays is a time to remind ourselves that life isn’t really that bad. Right? I mean, you’re here, so that’s good. No matter what else is happening, my Obi-wan is always saying, “Hey, it beats the alternative” and so was born BTAT.

What better theme for BTAT, then, than The Force. If you don’t know what The Force is, please turn around and walk to your nearest computer and immediately watch the original three Star Wars movies. I’m talking the ones with Mark Hammill and Harrison Ford, not that other garbage. They are seriously awesome movies which you should watch in succession on a gloomy day or when you are sick. They rock.

Anywho, The Force can be used for good or for evil and is the most powerful weapon/tool in the whole Galaxy. The light saber doesn’t even come close to the power of The Force. The Force can move objects, choke people to death, make the impossible possible and otherwise overcome the powers of the Dark Side. And, as Obi-wan and Yoda are always telling Luke, The Force is strong with you.” Yoda has all kinds of words of wisdom regarding The Force.

The most powerful moment for me is after Yoda raises Luke’s jet out of the swamp using The Force:

Luke: “I don’t believe it.”

Yoda: “And that is why you fail.”

In my world, my Obi-wans (Mr. & Mrs.) are always telling me and my siblings that The Force is strong in our family.” And, yes, it is something we say to each other during times of trouble and when we need encouragement. We are corny, I know. But there’s truth to it. Because within our family structure, there is a Force, an energy and a determination to succeed and press on in seemingly impossible situations. So, yes, The Force is strong in our family. And we all have it.

And we all believe in it. And believe in it we must (little Yoda-speak for you there). When life seems impossible and there is only darkness, we have to believe that someday there will again be light. Faith, The Force, whatever you want to call it, it must be within us in order for our strength to overcome the Dark Side, to keep going.

Winston Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” That is what The Force allows us to do, to keep going. You may think it cheesy for us to take something from a movie and actually incorporate it into our everyday lives but I gotta tell you, there’s truth to it. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it in eyes of my family members when they were sick with cancer. I’ve seen it in the eyes of my sister running a marathon, of my brother on the football field. I’ve seen it in times of trouble or sadness when there is suddenly one focus, one team and there is nothing we can’t do together. I’ve seen it in the fierce protectiveness we all have over each other when on of us is hurting or in need. It’s very strong and certainly a Force to be reckoned with.

The Force is strong in my family. And for that, I am grateful. And that’s what makes is Better Than the Alternative on this Tuesday. No matter where we go, no matter what we do, The Force is with us and within us and it will keep us going through our darkest times.

I hope you have The Force in some way or another. I hope you know the depths of your strength and can harness it when troubled times abound. It’s in you, you know. You just have to believe it, like Yoda says.

May The Force be with you, friends.

Now go out and run!