Five steps to a happy marathon
I didn't have a solid goal going into the race. Like most first-timers I had been heard to say "I just want to finish," but really I agreed more with the prayer I heard at the starting line: "Please, god, just let me beat Oprah."

Having done that, and in good spirits, I declare myself qualified to pass along a few tips for a first-time outing. The principal one is to ignore any advice that sounds silly and run your own race, and that's all. If you're still reading, here's my totally discountable advice:

Eat good. On the night before the race, we walked past the people queued up in the lobby for the spaghetti feed on our way to the Dahlia Lounge. I had a small salad (with beets! I don't think I've ever eaten beets!), non-alcoholic wine, and for dessert Oaxacan pot de creme with Mexican wedding cookies. The night before that we had an excellent Thanksgiving dinner, and my recovery diet was Dick's fries and shakes, arty food at the Painted Table and another excellent family dinner down in Puyallup. On the basis of the beets, I will contend that the body knows what it needs. If that's wedding cookies instead of noodles, go with it.

Five dollars is not too much for a pair of socks. Everything else I wore came in six-packs from Mervyn's, but boy was I glad for my brand-name, brand-new, full-price socks that stayed cushy even when they were soaked, which was all of the race except for maybe the first three minutes.

Laugh (ha! ha!) at the rain. To be honest, I had allocated a few jitters to the weather until the woman behind me at registration started braying, "I'm from Palm Beach. We don't dooo rain!" That's all I needed to put me in the right frame of mind: I'm from Seattle; I do rain. It rained the whole race, and I wouldn't have wished it any different. (Ms. Palm Beach did not finish.)

Try to come up with good songs to get stuck in your head. I thought maybe that Chumbawamba one would work, but that was doomed because I only know a few of the words. In the end I was stuck with "Jingle Bells" and the song from the Drew Carey show, not "Moon Over Parma" but the new one, "Cleveland Rocks." The race rules say no headsets but people did wear them. One more thing to carry, but maybe worth it. I had a Walkman during my training runs and after about 90 minutes I'd switch to talk radio. It did divert my mind from the miles, but I wouldn't want to go through my first marathon preoccupied with what a smarmy shrew Laura Schlessinger is. I did occupy my brain with a fair amount of math involving three-mile split times, and I spent a few minutes on the possible context of a sign I saw near Bothell: "It is against the law to chase or hit at chickens." (Hit at.)

Have a good support crew. I got lucky here. David drove me to the start, then showed up at five spots along the course bearing energy goo and spare clothes. I took only two goo and no clothes, but seeing him lifted me out of the monotony and reminded me I was moving along. At the end, he met me with Ann, Radj and Eleanor, who brought red roses, and I bet Oprah can't say that.