I'm Training for My First Marathon — Here's the Advice Olympic Runner Molly Seidel Gave Me

Team USA’s Molly Seidel will run each mile at the Tokyo Games about 3 minutes faster than I (ever) will, but there’s more similarities between pro and hobby runners than you might think

Molly Seidel
Molly Seidel. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty

On Saturday, Molly Seidel, Aliphine Tuliamuk and Sally Kipyego will toe the line in Sapporo, Japan for the Olympic marathon race. Over the 26.2 miles, they'll race as three of the best in the world at a pace of around 5:30 minutes per mile, likely finishing the course in under two and a half hours.

Two months later, I'll toe the start line (er…eventually cross the start line with the rest of the non-elite runners) of the Chicago Marathon, hopefully running at about an 8:30 minute per mile pace to meet my goal of finishing in under four hours.

This will be my first marathon, and I'm training for it with the help of a coach from Nike (shoutout to the amazing Jes Woods). In the first five weeks of training, I've run a 3k time trial to figure out my paces, looped around the local high school track for speed workouts and played mind games with myself to get through double-digit long runs during a humid east coast summer.

So while our running times (and abilities) are vastly different, much of what the Olympians do to train and race apply to a hobby runner like me — and before she left for Japan, Seidel shared her advice for first-time marathoners.

One of the main things I need to figure out ahead of Oct. 10 is how to stay hydrated and energized through all 26.2 miles. I've run eight half marathons and it's something I've always struggled with — once I even tried adding an electrolyte tablet to my water for the first time on the morning of one race and ended up in the medical tent once I crossed the finish line. Luckily, Seidel had some suggestions for exactly that.

"The biggest thing is proper nutrition during the race," she says. "That was something I didn't fully understand before going into the marathon Olympic trials, and I actually bonked [in runner speak — ran out of gas] in the last six miles of that race."

Seidel recommends gels — a drinkable syrup packed with carbohydrates — to keep runners at their best through the lengthy run. She's a fan of the brand Maurten's because it's "really easy on my stomach."

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"It was literally night and day" Seidel says, when she compares her lackluster fueling at the Olympic trials in March 2020 to that of the London Marathon that fall. "I felt so much better."

"The rule of thumb for me is generally 40 to 50 grams of carbs per hour, which sounds like a lot, but once you're in the race, your body really wants it," she adds. "Even if you're feeling good early in the race and you're like, 'I don't want to take a gel at 5k or 10k' — take that nutrition early, because at the end of the race your body is going to need it. Fuel early and fuel often."

Seidel also has some important advice to make that post-race shower as painless as possible: "Body glide, lots of body glide, to avoid chafing."

To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.

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