Much of marathon running is about avoiding injury and ailment along the way. Unless you’re willing to hop a bus to the finish line, your chances of winning the race (or even finishing third) are slim, so go ahead and skip the delusions of grandeur. Instead, it’s best to concentrate on the little victories, like pacing yourself and dodging ankle sprains and shin splints and vomiting. I ran the Chicago Half Marathon last month and saw a runner red-faced and hunched over, puking her guts out not more than three miles into the race. My bet is she didn’t finish.

As a first time half-marathon runner in 2011, I needed advice on ways not to hurt myself. Though I had learned years ago how not to stick a fork in a plugged-in toaster and how to not lift with my back but with my knees, I still wasn’t well-versed in the art of running stupid-long distances without having my body fall apart—my regular runs at the time usually averaged around five miles in length. So I walked into the Fleet Feet in Old Town and asked a marathon runner for some tips.