As I ran through the inflatable starting arch at the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon last Sunday, I couldn’t help but raise my dukes and throw a few jabs like a prizefighter making their way to the ring. After months of tested discipline and miles of conquered road, I was finally ready to take on my first half marathon. It was my Rocky moment. Now that I can gleefully cross it off my bucket list, here are a few things I’ve learned from running my first organized race: While training: • Wear your hardware! Whether it’s a knee brace – like me – or ankle tapings, if you come with some assembly required, use it! That nagging, mothery voice in the back of your head will become a sing-songy “I-told-you-so” chant when you hurt yourself. • Mapmyrun.com gives you easy-to-read, full route elevation. Nothing ruins a perfectly good training run like an unscheduled mountaineering expedition. Know what you’re getting into. • Seasoned runners have advice. A LOT of advice. Typically well-meaning but often panic-inducing. Stick to your running schedule and find what works for you. There is more than one way to get it done. [caption id="attachment_2721" align="aligncenter" width="390" caption="My sister, Kaylan and I celebrating at the finish line of the Toronto Marathon"] [/caption] For race day: • Buy one of those lame water bottle belts. Maybe not the fashion statement of the year, but stealing a bottle off the runner in front of you is frowned upon. You’ll thank me while running uphill at km 18 in 25 degree heat, in between water stations. You’re welcome, fellow runner. Oh! And chew gum. Weirdly, it helps. • Roadside cheerleaders offer an immeasurable service. Before race day I didn’t understand the role of those standing curbside, noisemaker in hand, watching a stream of sweaty strangers pass by. I get it now. Seeing that even this unfamiliar person wants me to succeed adds much needed fuel to my tank. God bless you, enthusiastic strangers! Post-race: • Chocolate milk is a perfectly acceptable post-race beverage. There are few times in your life that you will be encouraged to chug bottles of protein-laden chocolate milk in between bites of bagel and banana. Indulge, my friend. You earned it. • A pedicure is the ONLY worthy expression of gratitude to feet that have tolerated months of abuse. Show them some love. They’ve carried you through this journey. I think I’ve got that ‘bug’ that I hear runners talk about. Waterfront Marathon, here I come! Did you run in the Toronto Marathon this past weekend? What did you think?