If you are doing your first or second readathon, let me tell you congratulations and welcome to some of the most surprising fun you will have! This is my third readathon, so by no means am I am expert, but that makes me the perfect person to give those just starting out a couple of tips I learned the first two times. Here are five things I wish I’d known when I started.
Do what you can and don’t feel bad about it.
My first readathon, I was really bummed that I couldn’t start until 9 pm (the readathon begins at 5 am my time). I felt like I was starting as a failure, and was kind of bummed when I went to bed after I finished my first book. But when I had some time to think about it, I realized that I went to bed around 2:30 am — and between 9 pm and 2:30 am, I read a book. One whole book! If I hadn’t done the readathon at all, I would never have read a book during those five and a half hours.
My second readathon, I participated more or less for 20 hours. I gave myself permission not to beat myself up if things, aka life, happened, and they did. I went to a swim meet for my sister and read when I could during those three hours. I enjoyed the swim meet and the books. I engaged with social media when I wasn’t able to read (yay for smartphones with Twitter!). It was an entirely different experience than my first go-’round, but it was just as rewarding and fun!
Don’t measure your readathon success by how others participate. If you read for one hour, great job! If you read for 24 hours but don’t participate in any contests or social media, great job! If all you do is participate on social media, great job! Do what you can and want to do — and called it a successful readathon!
Be careful with snacks.
I think the last time I stayed awake for more than 16 consecutive hours was when I was in grad school pulling all-nighters and I lived on coffee and sugar. I tried to recreate this kind of diet for the readathon and whoa baby, I am not in my 20s anymore. (Ok. I’m barely not in my 20s, but still. Once they’re gone, they. are. gone.) I bought all these yummy snacks that would give me energy: fruit snacks, Diet Coke, cookies, Fiber One brownie bites, and other carby, sugary things. I also drank about twenty cups of coffee throughout the day. And I am not kidding when I say my mind was willing but my body was weak when hour 20 rolled around. I pushed through my final book and I never, ever have been so happy to go to sleep. I lay down in bed and I immediately felt like I was going to barf. My head was spinning, I had some crazy sweating happening, and my belly was not happy with me. And when I woke up the next morning, I felt hungover. Lack of sleep the night before the readathon + over-reliance on carbs and caffeine to get me through + lack of sleep during the readathon = whoa major sick and nauseated Krista. Give your body fuel to enjoy the readathon, not crap to make it end sooner than you want.
Be careful the first time around. Pick your food choices wisely. This year, I might make a few well-balanced meals ahead of time that can be heated up, and I’ll stock up on things like veggies, water, nuts, water, salad, water, and yes, I will still probably buy those gummy bears. (I’m not an machine, you guys!)
Sleep is not your enemy.
I woke up super excited for the readathon. I was like a little kid on the morning of the coolest field trip ever. And several hours in, I realized that I was exhausted because I didn’t go to bed until way too late the night before. I should have taken a nap, but I was so set on making it all 24 hours that I just tried to push through. Not only did I make myself totally sick with bad food choices, I also was tired and refused to listen to my body. Listen to what your body is telling you to do, even if it might seem counterproductive. I went to bed after reading for 20 hours, so I slept for the final four hours. If I had broken those four hours of sleep into two two-hour naps, I wonder how much more productive my reading would have been (and if it would have helped with some of the total sickness I felt at the very end). I was fighting to stay awake at the end of the night, and I was not focused on what I was reading but just finishing already. If you live in a time zone that puts the start of the readathon during the day, make sure you either nap before, or factor in some sleeping time during the readathon if you need it.
Be prepared to deal with the curious/people who don’t “get” it.
No one who doesn’t love reading or who doesn’t participate in the readathon doesn’t understand why you do it. Be prepared to answer the “Why?” question over and over and over again. I had to explain why I was participating so many times that it actually became kind of annoying. Know beforehand what you’ll say, because I’m pretty sure you’ll have to say it. (My blanket answer? “It’s fun and it’s amazing the kind of community and camaraderie that exists with people who are participating!)
Don’t set your goals in stone.
I’ve done a few different readathons now and have learned that I cannot be a set-in-stone kind of goal-maker, at least not for this kind of thing. Because then I feel pressured to meet those goals and feel like a failure. For my first readathon, I picked a book at random the evening of and read that. In April, for my second readathon, I picked five books one day before. I had a tentative list in my head leading up to that point, but it changed a lot — and in the end, I ended up subbing out a book I had planned on reading. Both times, I was totally satisfied with the books I read! Know it’s okay for your goals to change throughout the day of (and the weeks leading up to) the readathon. Goals are fluid in this kind of event. If you are the kind of person who sets goals and meets those exact goals, that is awesome (and I solicit your advice). If you’re like me, that’s great, too. Just have fun!
Veteran readathoners, what are your tips for a successful first or second readathon?
Thanks to Krista from Krista on Purpose for this wealth of great advice!