Elissa Leibowitz and Effie Dawson of The Post's Sports staff ran their first marathon last year. They compiled the following tips they wish they had heard before last year's race:

1. Pin your number to the front of your shirt, not the back. Many first-timers missed receiving much-cherished finish line photos because photographers couldn't identify them without a visible number.

2. Only the most skilled road racer knows how to run and drink water from a paper cup at the same time. Don't bother trying, unless you want a bib of water down your shirt.

3. Don't ingest any food or drink that you did not try while training. Some people we know ended up with upset stomachs after trying an unfamiliar sports drink at the water stations. (On tap Sunday: wild berry-flavored Ultima Replenisher.)

4. Wear your name on the front of your shirt. It might seem hokey, but hearing strangers yell, "Good job, Wendell!" and "Go Bernice!" seemed to motivate runners who planned ahead. We loved seeing the two men with "Cheer for Tracy" scrawled on the backs of their shirts, with arrows pointing at the woman between them. Or, wear a shirt or hat proclaiming your college (or high school or favorite pro team). You'll get lots of cheers (and some good-hearted ribbing) as you run.

4. Tie your shoelaces in a double bow so they don't come loose during the race.

5. If you have pockets or a waist pouch, carry a lipstick-sized tube of lip balm or petroleum jelly to rub on body parts that begin to chafe. It's easier and less messy than high-fiving a volunteer with globs of petroleum jelly on his hands, and you can use it at your convenience.

6. Predict the times that you will arrive at certain mile markers and write them down for your family and friends. Suggest places for them to wait for you, and look for them. It's sometimes easier to spot your fan club than it is for them to spot you.

7. Get in the bathroom line early at the starting line, even if you don't have to go. It gets long, long, long as race time nears. You don't want to be in the Port-o-John when the gun sounds.

8. Wear your lucky socks. They'll help.


Root, Root Root for Your Runner

Last year's winner, Weldon Johnson, had the ultimate support system -- his twin brother ran and rode a bike along some of the course with him. That's impractical (and frowned upon by the Marines) for middle-of-the-packers, but friends and loved ones can offer valuable mental and physical support in other ways:

1. Bring a boom box and crank up some running music. Try for something other than "Chariots of Fire" or the theme from "Rocky" -- many others already have thought of those.

2. Wave a flag instead of a sign. Your runner will spot it above the fray and will quickly find you at the finish line.

3. Surprise someone. Show up where you are least expected. After cheering at the Capitol, you can easily reappear at the 14th Street Bridge.

4. If you plan to zip around the city to see your runner at several points, consider buying an all-day Metro fare card. If you and your runner plan to take the Metro home after the race, buy your farecards ahead of time; lines to buy farecards after the marathon can get quite long, especially at the Rosslyn station.

5.Carry supplies for your runner: a few bottles of water, a bandanna or small towel, maybe a banana or an energy bar. Even if your runner doesn't request them ahead of time, those supplies may prove to be much needed.

6. Don't just cheer for your runner; cheer for everyone.

7. Don't fib. "You're almost there," won't inspire anyone at Mile 12. "Water just ahead," will crush a thirsty runner who finds out that water is another mile down the road.

8. Take tons of photos. Your loved one will cherish pictures taken along the route. Capture the scene with all the other runners too, just in case your runner is too tired to notice the crowd.

9. Have some soft slippers and peppermint foot lotion in the car.

10. Tell your runner she was awesome and convince her to register for another marathon before her calves tighten up.

-- Effie Dawson