Lentil Tacos and A New Blog for Bloggers

Health Blog Helper is Born

Happy Monday!  I’m super excited to announce the launch of my new blog, one that went from conception to execution in a single weekend!  The blog is called Health Blog Helper, and it’s all about stuff that we as health bloggers can do to make our blogs better.

In studying blogs in other niches, I’ve noticed that we have a lot to learn from them.  I’ve been dying to start sharing what I’ve learned, especially about making our blogs more visible to search engines, something I’ve had incredible results with.  But this type of information just doesn’t have a place on No Meat Athlete, since many readers aren’t bloggers.  Solution: Health Blog Helper!

Non-bloggers: I may mention Health Blog Helper a few times here as it’s getting off the ground, but I’ll keep it to a minimum.  Mostly, you’ll get the same old NMA that you’ve grown to love/tolerate.

Lentil Tacos

[lentil soft tacos photo]Erin and I have felt really busy recently.  Kind of funny, since you wouldn’t think a grad student would be too busy during the summer.  But with running, blogging, visitors, and the news of Erin’s pregnancy, things have felt like a whirlwind for the past few weeks.  And unfortunately, this has come at the expense of cooking.  Summers are usually the time when I try out any and all kinds of new recipes, but over the past few weeks we’ve been eating out a lot and cooking some old favorites that we know are quick and reliable.

This weekend, though, we decided we’ve had enough.  It’s time to start cooking again.  With school starting up for me this week, we need to get back to diligently planning meals, because take-out pizza and veggie wraps aren’t going to cut it.

Last night we made something we’ve been meaning to try for a while, the lentil tacos that Sarah from Running to Slow Things Down guest-posted about back in July.  In my comment on Sarah’s guest post, I even wrote that this would be the first lentil recipe I’d try.  (It wasn’t, Snobby Joes was.)  So lentil tacos were a long time coming.

Erin and I used to love taco night before we became vegetarian.  But their slow progression from ground beef to turkey to TVP had really taken a lot of the ole! out of taco night.  I thought the TVP tacos were good when we had them, but since we haven’t made them much since, I must not have liked them as much as I thought.  Plus, the fact that TVP is so processed is kind of a turn-off.  But the lentil tacos have breathed new life into taco night.

[lentil hard tacos photo]

Let me tell you, mis amigos, these things were awesome!  Erin went with the hard tacos, I chose soft corn tortillas.  The lentil mixture had a unique sweetness to it, owing to the chopped raisins that were simmered with the lentils.

Two other great things about this recipe: First, the seasoning is just a combination of chili powder and cumin.  So no more of those store-bought packets with who-knows-what preservatives and artificial flavorings.  Second, lentil beans are a whole food (with lots of protein, if that’s your concern), so these vegetarian tacos don’t feel fake at all.  Hey, people eat bean burritos all the time, right?  So lentil tacos aren’t nearly the stretch that they might seem.  And since Erin and I were told that our baby is roughly the size of a lentil bean, they hold a special place in my heart at the moment!  Though I guess eating them in tacos makes that thought a little weird…

Moving on.  If you try this recipe, you’ll probably need a lot more liquid (either veggie stock or water) than the one cup that the recipe calls for.  We did.

Five Weeks Left

I’m in a strange state of denial about the Wineglass Marathon being scantly more than a month away.  Seeing as it will be my sixth full marathon, there’s really no good reason for any nervousness.  But I suspect that it’s because it will be the first time that I truly feel I have a decent shot at qualifying for Boston, my singular goal for my entire running life.  In the past, I’ve gone to bed the night before marathons thinking “I don’t expect to qualify tomorrow, but I guess there’s always a chance.”  This time it will be different.  Throughout this entire training program, I’ve expected to qualify.  Anything less, much as I hate to say it, will be a disappointment.  And I think it’s that thought that’s hard to face.

The good news is that my training is going really well.  I hit the paces I wanted to on my track and tempo runs this week, and my second-to-last 20-miler is tomorrow.  As far as I can tell, I’m injury free.  I’ve even had some success in dealing with that nasty blister of mine, using Blister Shield, foam pre-wrap, and sports tape.

So things are good, but the great big shadow of the marathon looming on the horizon is just a little bit unnerving.



Tempt Non-Dairy Ice Cream and Hempmilk

Tempted by the Hemp of Another

[tempt ice cream photo]I was recently introduced to hemp products, since they’re so prominently featured in Thrive. Perhaps the best thing about hemp (well, the second best thing about hemp, I’m told ;)) is that it is nutrient-rich as a whole food, so little or no processing is needed to make healthy hemp products.  Hemp is also a source of complete protein, it’s highly digestible, and is much less acid-forming than other proteins.  Long story short: eat hemp stuff!

[tempt ice cream in dish photo]So of course I was very happy when Living Harvest, makers of all things hemp, sent me some coupons to try out their goodies.  In addition to their nutritional products like hemp protein and hemp oil, Living Harvest has a line of everyday foods called Tempt, which includes hempmilk and ice cream made with hemp milk (they call it non-dairy frozen dessert).  I decided to try the Tempt products first (what can I say, they were tempting), and I’ll review the health products in a later post.

Erin and I picked up two flavors of Tempt non-dairy frozen dessert: chocolate and coffee biscotti.  We tried the chocolate a few nights ago, and we were shocked at how good it was!  A very nice, rich chocolate flavor, with texture somewhere between that of frozen yogurt and ice cream.  Then today I tried the coffee flavor, made with real organic coffee beans, after my workout.  Erin abstained, on account of having a baby growing inside her.  Yum!  (The ice cream, not the baby.)  This was right up my alley.  Again, not quite the richness of real ice cream, but very close and still really tasty, on par with good frozen yogurt.

So the ice cream by itself was delicious, but if given the choice, I’ll always choose a milkshake over ice cream.  Now, if only I had some sort of non-dairy hemp product that could take the place of milk in a milkshake.  Let’s see what I can find in my pocket here…

[matt in pocket photo]

[tempt milk photo]

Yes!  Tempt hempmilk, how very convenient!  I blended a little bit of this together with some of the coffee biscotti ice cream and made myself one hell of a post-workout non-dairy treat.

By itself, Tempt hempmilk was pretty good too.  Very much like regular milk, just not quite as sweet.  I’m not a vegan, but when I became vegetarian largely for health reasons, I decided that regular milk is not something that I want in my diet.  I’m not a big fan of the taste of soymilk either, so I’ve been using almond milk instead.  But now it will be nice to mix it up a little with hempmilk, which tastes just as good to me as almond milk does.  Nutritionally, Tempt hempmilk (unsweetened vanilla flavor) has 1 gram of protein, 1 gram of carbohydrates, and 6 grams of fat (the good kind, with lots of omega-3’s and -6’s) per serving.

These Tempt products are among the very best products I’ve tried, and I would highly recommend any of them to anyone who doesn’t eat dairy for whatever reason, especially ice cream lovers looking for a non-dairy substitute.  Thanks Living Harvest!

Look for my Living Harvest health products (hemp protein and hemp oil) review soon!

No Meat Athlete Shirts Around the Blogosphere

Check it out, photos of other vegetarian-runner bloggers wearing No Meat Athlete shirts!  First, Caitlin from Healthy Tipping Point wore her yellow one to a Team In Training meeting, who she’s raising money with as part of her training for her first marathon.  As if training for your first marathon isn’t enough of a commitment!  Seriously though, Team in Training is something that I really admire and am going to do someday.  And if you haven’t been to Healthy Tipping Point—wait a minute, what am I saying?  Of course you’ve been to Healthy Tipping Point, it’s one of the most popular blogs around.  I was so happy when Caitlin decided to become vegetarian a few months ago, so that all those readers would see what you can do on a vegetarian diet!

Next up is Lindsay, an avid runner who writes the blog iRun.  Get this—she had a running date (fun, Erin and I did something like that when we first started dating), and decided to wear her NMA shirt on the date!  Just like me, Lindsay is training for an October 4th marathon, the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee.  And she’s even thinking of doing one three weeks later.  Crazy!  (Aside: Holy crap, I just went to the Lakefront Marathon website, where they have a countdown. Only 34 days left?! )

Thanks Lindsay and Caitlin, for helping show the world that you can be a bad-ass marathoner without eating meat!



Chickpea Granola Bars

Hello my healthy Sweet-Toothers!  Friday has finally arrived, so it’s Christine here with another STF!  This week I’ve got a great recipe for you that I wasn’t quite sure what to call.  I was leaning towards Everything-But-the-Kitchen-Sink bars, or Anything-Goes bars, but I think my boyfriend Greg summed it up nicely by calling them (with his mouth full) “delicious peanut butter granola bars.”

[christine granola photo]

This idea started at the grocery store when I picked up a box of Quaker chewy oatmeal bars that I was on sale.  I guess Quaker has a good marketing team because I felt totally betrayed when I checked out the back of the box…high fructose corn syrup…partially hydrogenated oil…what?!  I put the bars back on the shelf, determined to make my own better version.

I’ve baked granola bars before, but they always come out rock hard—never chewy.  With a little investigating, it seems the word on the (baker’s) street is that to get chewy bars, you just MAKE granola bars, not BAKE them.

Without baking the bars, the challenge is getting all the elements to hold together.  This called for something sticky!  I was leaning toward maple syrup, but the home-style combo of peanut butter and honey was calling my name.

[chickpea granola photo]As for the chickpeas I threw in the bars, I got that idea from The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine.  After my Blueberry Crumble Bar post from Deceptively Delicious, I thought it was only fair I give the competition a try too.  The concepts indeed are similar, but Missy has an interesting recipe for roasted cinnamon sugar chickpeas called “Rattlesnacks.”  She bakes them for an hour to really get them crunchy like soy nuts.  I cut that time in half to make them more suitable for a chewy bar.  I also tossed them in sucanat instead of sugar.  Thanks to Clare in the comments section for introducing me to that sweetener!

Here’s the recipe I developed, but don’t follow it too closely- use any kind of beans, cereal, or dried fruit that you’d like!

Healthy Granola Bar Recipe

[granola bar ingredients photo]1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sucanat or natural sugar
1 1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup whole grain cereal (like brown rice krispies)
1 cup dried fruit (I used Sunmaid’s variety pack of “Fruit bits”)

1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
3 tbs canola oil
1 tbs ground flax seed

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Mix the ground flax seed with 1/4 cup warm water, set aside to thicken.

Toss the chickpeas in the sucanat and 1 tsp of the cinnamon.  Bake for 10 minutes, stir around in the pan, then back for 10 more minutes.  Add the oatmeal to the pan and bake for 5 more minutes, stirring the oatmeal once.
Stir together the peanut butter, honey, canola oil, and flax paste.
Combine the chickpeas, oatmeal, cereal, dried fruits, and remaining tsp of cinnamon.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir to combine.
Press the mixture into a greased pan.  My 9×13 casserole dish was just a little too big, so go for an 8×8 if you have it.  Really PRESS and PACK IN the mixture as hard as you can.  Refrigerate until firm, then cut into 24 bars.

[granola bar close photo]

Hope you enjoy these chewy granola bars!  There is a decent amount of protein in them too from the chickpeas and the peanut butter.  The chickpeas are a surprisingly nice addition to the bar- they don’t taste out of place at all.  My boyfriend and I devoured our tray in no time!

That’s it for this week.  By the time you read this post, I’ll be on an airplane on my way to Destin, Florida!  Finally my sweet, sweet summer vacation has arrived!  Cross your fingers for no hurricanes!

See you next Sweet-Tooth Friday!
xoxo Christine

For more natural sports nutrition posts and recipes, check out the Running Fuel page.



Giant Blister Attacks Tokyo!

Warning: Just below the fold, I have placed a giant photo of the disgusting blister on my foot!  (As I write this, I wonder how many subscribers this stunt will cost me.)  If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, don’t scroll down, immediately close your browser, and come back tomorrow for Sweet Tooth Friday.  Or just skip to the bottom for veggie burgers!

Still with me?  Good! Dealing with blisters is a reality of marathon training for a lot of people, so maybe this can serve as a warning to take care of your feet, BEFORE your blister threatens to take your entire foot on its way to world domination.

It’s really not a blister anymore, just a circle of very tender skin that hurts to run on and seems to expand with every run.  I’m noticing that I’m limping again towards the end of my workouts, unconsciously running on the outside of my foot because of the pain, and I know that this is an excellent way to get myself injured.  I really need to get this thing taken care of, or at least find a way to manage it for five more weeks until my marathon, after which I can give it a good, long rest.

[blister photo]

Aaaaahhh!!!  Scary huh?  Angela from Oh She Glows wrote a very timely post about managing blisters with moleskin and electrical tape, so that’s my next move in this chess match against what I affectionately call the revolting blob.  Does anyone have any more ideas?

While I’m on the topic of disgusting things, I had to induce vomiting in poor Linus today, who swallowed a cotton headband that Maggie, Erin’s little second cousin, flung at him.  Kind of funny, I must admit, but I was worried about him.  I called the vet and they said to give him a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide immediately.  I reluctantly did it, and sure enough, two minutes later we had a girl’s headband coated in doggie stomach acid.  Hungry yet?

In Other, Much Less Disgusting, News…

[guitar and girls photo]Erin’s cousins left this morning, after a whirlwind four days.  We had lots of fun with them; it’s funny how you look at kids differently when you know one is on the way!  Here we are in somewhat of a kumbaya moment, which consisted mainly of the girls shouting out Miley Cyrus songs for me to look up on the internet so they could sing along with the guitar.  It was actually fun!  It made me realize how nice being able to play the guitar will be once I have my own kid.

Black Bean Burgers

For dinner last night, I tried out a black bean burger recipe by Alison from Mama’s Weeds.  The best thing about these burgers was that they were SO SIMPLE to make.  You probably already have all the ingredients in your pantry, and you can even adapt the recipe to whatever vegetables you have lying around.  I quickly sauteed some onion and garlic to use in mine, with ground rolled oats and barbeque sauce as the binder.  I really wanted to use buffalo sauce, but then again, I always really want to use buffalo sauce.  To spare Erin’s still-functioning taste buds, I didn’t, but I topped my burger with it.  Including the sauteeing step, it only took me about 15 minutes to get these burgers on the table.  And they were really tasty!  Still wish I could find a way to firm them up a bit though; I had the same structural-weakness problem with the last black bean burger recipe I tried.

[black bean burger photo]

Alright guys, that’s all for today.  Hang in there, Sweet Tooth Friday is almost here.  And I promise, no more blister photos.

Ooh I almost forgot, “Runs on Plants” won the blog-tagline vote in a landslide, garnering over half of the votes!  So I’ve made that the tagline in my current header, soon to be replaced by my new blinged-out one.



To the Polls!

[San Marzano tomatoes photo]Well, not much new in the food department this week.  Erin’s cousins are visiting, so we haven’t had the time to try out new recipes.  We’ve basically been sticking to the easy standards, like orzo with citrus-cooked vegetables and Giada’s baked penne with roasted vegetables.  Last night we made pasta with roasted tomatoes, chickpeas, and arugula, one of our favorites.  This was the first time we had fresh San Marzano tomatoes from the garden to use, and (of course) they were so much better than the rocks you find in most grocery stores.

Help Me

As of Monday, I’ve been blogging for six months!  Which means it’s been about six months and one week since I ate that final, nasty, roadkill-disguised-as-chicken sandwich from the rest stop on the way home from the Tony Robbins seminar that got me all jacked up to make some major changes in my life.  For about a month after that, I still ate fish but no other meat.  And after that month, I stopped eating fish, save for a few very rare occasions (maybe three times since then).

So all is well, and after six months of eating this way, I can say I’ve never felt better.  But I’ve decided that my blog needs a new look to reflect the mature, distinguished six-month-old-with-a-discriminating-palate that it is.  Since I’m about as graphically unartistic as one could be, a friend of mine is doing me the huge favor of putting together a brand new, shiny, custom header for me.  But this means that my tagline will become just a little more permanent, so I’ve been spending some time trying to come up with a new one.

I saw a post on Run, Eat, Repeat the other day where Monica polled her readers for input about what her blog tagline should be.  I’m borrowing Monica’s idea and doing the same.  (One of the taglines makes it seem like I “borrowed” something else from Monica’s blog, but I swear that’s coincidence.)

Do your duty as a proud citizen of the blogosphere!  Thanks so much for your help!



Excuses are Like Booties

“Excuses are like booties.  Everybody’s got one, and they all stink.”

This is what the teacher of a songwriting course I took in college used to tell us.  If the phrase is trite, then I need to get out more, because it was new to me then and I’ve never heard it since.  It struck me as funny at the time, though I wondered what the original word was that “booties” replaced.  But it didn’t mean anything to me on any level deeper than the surface.

I decided not to go for my scheduled 15-mile run this morning.  In the 12 or so hours since I made the decision not to do it, the following excuses have all spent some time in my brain:

  • My blister still hurts me every time I run and could use the time to heal.
  • I just ran 11 miles on Sunday; 15 miles two days later is too much.
  • I’m a few days behind on my training schedule and skipping this will help me get back on track.
  • The bottle of wine (a Valpolicella) that I opened last night to celebrate seeing my baby’s heartbeat was a little too delicious.
  • I could use the time to prepare for a meeting with my thesis adviser today.

But none of these is The Truth.  They’re all a little bit true, but none is The Truth.  The Truth is that I wanted the time to do a few things this morning, to not have to rush around from home to trail to home to school and back again like I did last week.

Not nearly as noble-sounding as many of the excuses, and that’s why it’s so much fun to make them.

But this morning, as soon as I admitted to myself the real reason, the one that I built this fortress of excuses to protect myself from, I felt so much better about the decision to skip the run.  Liberated, even.  Facing “you chose to do something else instead of run because it would make you happier” was much easier than you might expect.  Rational, logical, Truthful.

Very recently, I noticed something interesting about the stories I was telling myself during workouts, especially the long runs.  On the days when my body wouldn’t carry me as fast as I had hoped, a million reasons flooded my mind to explain the slowness.  The heat, my blister, my lack of water stops.  But on the days when the miles just seemed to fly by, it was all me.  No credit given to the nice weather or anything else but me.

This self-serving bias is actually very common, perhaps universal.  It’s thought that we have it in order to protect our self-esteem.  But here’s the thing.  When something we do isn’t good enough, not up to our personal standards, we experience pain.  This pain serves a purpose, to drive us to work hard to make things the way we know they should be.  Pain can and should be one of the most powerful motivating forces in our lives.

But so many people choose not to use pain this way.  They deal with pain by doing whatever it takes to make it go away as quickly as possible.  In many cases this involves putting something into their bodies, like food or alcohol.  For me, the excuses serve this purpose.

It’s very easy, especially in writing about my runs on this blog, to explain away my bad days with excuses.  But you might have noticed that it stopped recently, when I wrote “No excuses” in reference to my 20-miler last week.  No more softeners.  Taking responsibility; facing The Truth.  And it feels great.

The Truth, as they say, will set you free.  I still like “excuses are like booties.”

What’s your excuse du jour?



This, That, and the Big News!

Whoa, way late on the post today! For that I apologize; I had to pick up some shirts from the printer and get them shipped off. (And that means more women’s mediums and smalls are available now!) But Erin and I also did something far more exciting, which I’ll save for last today.

This (food)

[peppers on grill photo]I cooked two fun things this weekend, both of which I’m hesitant to call “recipes” because of their simplicity.  The first is twice-grilled peppers with fresh mozzarella; I saw it in Bobby Flay’s Grilling For Life (an awesome book, made only slightly less awesome by the fact that I don’t eat meat anymore).  The recipe is really simple, colorful, and definitely delicious.

To do it, just take nine bell peppers, brush them with oil and sprinkle a little salt and pepper on them.  Grill on high for about 12 minutes, turning every few minutes so that all sides get charred.  Then let the peppers sit in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, for 15 minutes.  Remove the seeds and peel the skins (don’t rinse, you’ll wash away all the juicy goodness), then cut into small strips, season with oil, salt and pepper again, and grill once more for two minutes per side.  Serve layered with about a pound of sliced mozzaralla, and topped with the dressing of your choice.  We used a caper-basil vinaigrette from the same book.

[roasted peppers photo]

One problem: it’s not really a meal, and I attempted to pass it off as one.  Consider Erin not fooled.  Next time, I’ll serve it as an antipasto.  Another problem: the peppers were much prettier before they were grilled and sliced.

[roasted peppers on plate photo]

The other fun thing we made was okra.  We found some at the farmers market, and what better reason is there to buy okra than never having tried it before?  The lady who sold it to me (a farmer, I suppose) said to just slice it into little chunks, toss with some corn meal and salt and pepper (it sticks because the okra releases a tacky liquid when it’s sliced), and saute in some nice hot olive oil for four or five minutes.  Southern cooking fit for the heat wave we’ve been “enjoying.”

[okra photo]

The result: okra is okray with me!  No mind-blowing flavor explosion or anything, but what’s not good when it’s sauteed in oil, salt, pepper, and cornmeal?  If you’ve never tried okra, do it!  One less thing to regret on your deathbed.  Anyone know any other okra recipes?

[sauteed okra photo]

That (running)

I’m a few days behind on my training schedule (six weeks left!), so I did an 11-mile run yesterday, and my long run (15 miles) is scheduled for tomorrow.  Funny how 11 miles isn’t the long run anymore, huh?

Anyway, after the one-mile warmup, the  remaining 10 miles were to be done at 7:15 per-mile, exactly the pace I need to qualify for Boston.  I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous going into this run.  Not because I thought I couldn’t do it, but because I knew that on the off-chance that I did have trouble with it, I’d freak out.  After all, in 41 days I’ll have to hold this pace for 26.2 miles!

Fortunately, I had one of my best runs to date.  I cruised along without any issues at all, and relatively comfortably I finished the run in 1:11:40, for an average pace of 7:10.  Go me!  Don’t get me wrong, thinking about running 26.2 at this pace still leaves me with the need for a clean pair of shorts, but at least I managed what the program asked for without a problem.

The Big News!

Ok, here goes…the appointment that Erin and I had this morning was to get an ultrasound (or sonogram?).

Erin is pregnant! We saw our baby’s little heartbeat this morning!

[erin belly photo]Erin and I have been sitting on this little secret for about a week and a half now, and we’ve been bursting at the seams to let it out.  The secret, not the baby. She’s only six weeks along, but we’ve decided that we’re ready to share the news with everyone.  I know that the first trimester is risky, but god forbid anything should happen, we both agree that we’d rather have our friends know what’s going on than have to pretend like nothing’s wrong.

So there you go, the cat is out of the bag! We are so excited, and only a little scared about the fact that I won’t be finished with my Ph.D. by the time the baby arrives next Spring.  Oops!  No toys for baby, I guess!

Of course I’m kidding.  We’ll figure out what needs to happen, whether that means switching to part-time school or somehow managing to stay full-time.  But for the time being that’s an afterthought; right now we are enjoying the thrill of knowing that in less than eight months, we’re going to be proud parents!

Jokes that have already been made include:

  • “When are the No Meat Athlete-in-Training onesies going to come out? ‘Crawls on Plants’?”
  • “Can’t wait to get some NMA-approved baby food recipes.”

Please feel free to add your own. 🙂



First Marathon Survival Guide

Rock_N_Roll_Marathon_StartA lot of you are getting closer to running your first marathon or half marathon this Fall, and taper time is near.  Congratulations on making it this far!

My first marathon was nothing short of a disaster. When two college buddies and I lined up in the first corral of the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego marathon in 2002, we had no idea what we were doing. We hadn’t been runners before we started training; we didn’t even know any runners to go to for advice.

Fit and determined, yes; informed and respectful of the 26.2 miles in front of us, not at all.

Of the countless mistakes we made that day and the previous, the worst was our pacing. How bad was it? Let’s just say the last 8.2 miles took us the same amount of time as the first 18, and leave it at that.  That day was the most physically painful of my life.

When I ran my second marathon—to this day I’m amazed THAT I ran a second marathon—I took an entire hour off of my previous time, and had a heck of a lot more fun. Not because I was in better shape, but because I knew what to expect. I knew what to do (like wearing actual running clothes instead of a cotton t-shirt), and perhaps more importantly, what not to do (taking a walking tour of the largest zoo in the United States the evening before the race).

It’s my hope that by sharing what I learned the hard way, I can save you a lot of stress, time, and pain, and help make sure your first marathon isn’t your last.

21 Ways to Make Your First Marathon a Success

  1. Don’t plan on running with a partner. It’s tempting to want to run with your training buddy, but it’s asking for trouble.  You won’t both need water and Porta Pot stops at the same time.  And what’s going to happen when one of you is going strong and the other starts to lag?  Awkward!
  2. BYOTP. That’s “Bring Your Own Toilet Paper.”  Thousands of runners + race-day jitters = bad news for the TP supply.  Stash some in your bag or your shorts.
  3. Wear technical apparel. Shirt, shorts, socks, bra.  Cotton is rotten!  RaceReady makes shorts with lots of pockets for holding gels, keys, salt tablets, etc.  Consider lubricants for chafing and blister powder for your feet as well.
  4. Don’t try out any new goodies. Especially if your marathon is a big one, you’ll get all kinds of free samples at the expo.  Just don’t use them on race day; stick with the same gels, bars, and gummies that you’ve used throughout your training.  I once tried some caffeine pills that I got at the Disney Marathon and broke out in a weird sweat, before the race even started.
  5. Count your safety pins. When you pickup your number, make sure they give you four safety pins for securing it to your shirt.  Scrambling to find a safety pin on the morning of your race is the last thing you need to be doing.
  6. Get yourself a new pair of kicks. Good running shoes last 300-500 miles, but they lose 50% of their cushioning much sooner than that.  Get some new ones and break them in during your tapering period.  I ignored this in one marathon and got a nice stress fracture in my foot to remember it by.
  7. Skip the pasta party.  Have a big meal at lunch the day before the race, but take it easy with dinner.  This gives your body time to assimilate the nutrients, and having a huge meal so close to the race is risky if you’re at all worried about stomach issues.  For more, see my post on what to eat before a race.
  8. Don’t do much the day before. Like I said, the San Diego Zoo was a terrible idea.  Take it easy on your legs and mind, and give your body a chance to relax before the big day.
  9. Don’t stress over sleep. Try to get a good night’s sleep before the race, but chances are you won’t.  But take heart, oh sleepless one: the amount of sleep you get before a race has little to do with how you’ll perform.  As long as you’ve been sleeping well during the previous week, your body will have plenty of energy to draw from.  Bonus: not stressing over this might even help you stop tossing and turning.
  10. Bring a garbage bag. A garbage bag with a few arm and leg holes is the marathoner’s Swiss army knife.  Good for keeping dry if it’s raining, keeping warm before you start, and for a little privacy if the Porta Pot lines are too long.
  11. Pack a throwaway shirt and gloves if it’s cold. Lots of races start at the butt-crack of dawn, when it’s chilly.  Once you start running and the sun comes up, your temperature will rise considerably.  To accommodate this, wear a long-sleeve shirt, and maybe even gloves, that you don’t mind ditching a few miles into the race.  Lots of races have charity bins where you can toss extra clothing, but don’t feel too bad about just throwing it to the side of the road if you don’t see them.
  12. Show up early. Traffic is always bad and there are always lines for the Porta Pots, so leave yourself extra time before the race to stretch, fuel up, and relax.  And give yourself plenty of time to get from the runners’ village to the start line, sometimes they’re far apart.
  13. Arrange a meeting spot for after the race. The finish line will be crowded, so even if your friends and family do get a good spot to watch you finish, they won’t be able to get to you very quickly once you’re done.  And you probably won’t want to carry a cell phone.  Choose a spot ahead of time where you’ll meet, and stagger over there before you collapse in glory.
  14. Put your support team to work. Know roughly where your friends will be on the course; having that to look forward to can make all the difference.  And load them up with all kinds of snacks.  Bananas, oranges, gummy bears, salty snacks like pretzels, whatever you think there’s a chance you might crave when you’re 20 miles in and those last six are seeming like Mount Everest.  Chances are you won’t eat most of it, but getting that one thing you want most will make it worth it.
  15. Take it easy on the fluids in the hour before the race. There’s a delicate balance between hydrating yourself properly and standing in the starting corral already having to go to the bathroom.  For me, this has only been a problem at the beginning of the race, since once I’m running my body tends to use up whatever fluid I can take in.  Err on the side of hydration, but be aware of this issue, especially if you have a time goal.  That said…
  16. Don’t have a time goal. If you’re like me, this is impossible.  But if you can, don’t make your goal for your first marathon any more than just to finish the race and enjoy the fact that you’re doing something incredible.  Leave the extra stress of a time goal for your next one.
  17. Don’t let your adrenaline get the best of you. At the expo of my first marathon, a famous runner gave us this piece of advice.  Of course, we didn’t listen.  We tore out of the gate and ran our first mile in under seven minutes, and with adrenaline pumping, figured we might qualify for Boston that day.  Wrong, by almost two hours.  They say that every minute too fast that you run the first 13.1 miles, you’ll lose two minutes in the second 13.1.  Don’t let your excitement get the best of you on race day.
  18. Watch out for hyponatremia. Everyone knows about the dangers of dehydration, but overhydration is a concern too.  Hyponatremia occurs when you drink so much water that you dilute the sodium levels in your blood, and it can be life-threatening.  Symptoms are very similar to those of dehydration, part of the reason it’s so dangerous.  I try to pay attention to my ankles and fingers to make sure they aren’t swelling around my socks or ring.  To avoid hyponatremia, be sure to take in adequate sodium with your fluids, in the form of sports drinks, gels, salty snacks, or even salt tablets.
  19. Consider an ice bath afterward. Especially if you haven’t done a lot of 20+ mile runs in your training, you might be in for a fun surprise when you get out of bed the day after your race.  To help mitigate muscle soreness, consider taking an ice bath once you’ve finished the race.  Yes, you read that correctly.  15-20 pounds of ice, some water, a bathtub, and 20 minutes of pure misery.  But it works for me.
  20. Don’t make plans for after the race! After my first marathon, my friends and I went back to our hotel room at about noon, stretched out on the beds, and slept soundly through the entire day and night.  If you follow the tips in this list, you’ll be much better off than we were.  But still, you have no idea what you’ll be up for after you’ve run 26.2 miles.  So keep the plans to a minimum, and play it by ear.  I’ve run three Rock ‘n’ Roll races, and never once have I made it to the post-race concert.
  21. Enjoy every minute of it. This will be easy for most of the race.  But trust me, those last few miles will hurt, and you’ll have to dig deeper than you ever have before.  But you didn’t choose to do this because you thought it would feel good.  Whatever your reason, it goes far deeper than the physical.  You’re doing something incredible; relish in that fact and enjoy the moment.

If you found this post helpful, you’ll be interested in the No Meat Athlete Marathon Roadmap: The Vegetarian Guide to Conquering Your First 26.2Click here to learn more!