I’d hoped to celebrate my 45th birthday by running the Pittsburgh Marathon with two readers turned friends (Marilyn and Juanita), but life took over my planning. Because of my sudden trip to New York two weeks ago, I’ve had to abandon the idea of another adventure to the East Coast. Instead, on May 6 (my actual birthday), I’ll be here in Washington training in the rain (I presume) for my next marathon, the Estes Park Marathon in Colorado—June 17.

But I’ll feel like friends all around the country will be celebrating with me as they run their scheduled events. Besides Marilyn and Juanita, Melissa, Julia, Jennifer, and Beth are all running May 6 races! And, yes, I’m aware they’re not actually running in honor of my birthday, but I’m excited for them nonetheless!

Many of those on my 2012 virtual training partner list have their races right around the corner. And for most, this is their first marathon or half marathon ever.  For those of us who are veteran runners (I can hardly believe I put myself in that category, but I suppose I must at this point), it can be hard to remember how incredibly difficult and painstaking the training was, how frightened we were that we wouldn’t make it to the starting line (or even if we made it that far, could we get to the finish line?). It may have slipped our minds how we fought for every step during that first race and then how we cried crossing the line for the first time. Do you remember the sweet smell of the first medal ever hung around your neck? Or the way you searched the website after the race to find your name, just to prove you’d really done it?

May and June are heavy marathon months. What are your words of advice or encouragement for those undertaking their first big race? And if you’re doing your first marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K, or even your first mile, what are you thinking, worrying, and excited about?