Here are some marathon tips as you prepare for that 26.2 challenge. Whether you’re just starting your training plan or getting ready for the big race - Congratulations! The real accomplishment is in the many months & miles of training that you’ve already got under your belt. I hope these tips help you get the most out of your accomplishment!
Race day should be a rewarding experience no matter what your goal is (“rewarding” still comes with sore legs, though ;-). The marathon tips below should help make your training and the race more enjoyable experiences:
- Pick a realistic goal pace:
This can be tough, especially if it’s a new race distance. I was concerned a few years ago that my goal pace was a full 1.5 minutes faster per mile than my training run pace. If you’re using one of Jeff Galloway’s plans or another accomplished runner / coach, stick to it and use a race prediction calculator to approximate your goal. If your goal is to finish, then maintain your familiar training-run pace. If you have a lot left in the end, you can always pick up the pace for the last few miles (this is more enjoyable than petering out in the middle, or “bonking” as it’s affectionately called).
- Carry a water bottle:
I run most of my training runs with a camelbak (water bladder backpack). During the race, however, I bring a simple flip-top water bottle and fill it at each water stop. This allows me to sip the water as I go without choking on it as I try to gulp out of a cup. Another way that is popular with marathon runners is a running belt with places to carry mini-water bottles and gel packets. Whatever your pleasure, make sure you drink enough water during the race.
- Grease up:
If you’re entering in that long-run phase of your training, you’re quickly going to find that friction is not your friend. Those areas where skin meets clothing (groin, armpits, nipples, toes, & ankles) will rub themselves raw if you don’t prepare. I personally like Sportslick, but have used Body Glide and Vaseline with success, as well. It may seem nasty now…but believe me, it can be a whole lot nastier without it!
- Scout out your training run areas:
While spontaneity can be fun, long runs can cover quite a bit of real estate. If properly planned, you can have an enjoyable run where you’re in little danger of getting hit by a car or burned by the sun. Try to find areas where you have nice scenery, tree cover, shoulders on the road, and even varying terrain. Your long runs will have you running for hours on end, so it’s worth the prep time!
- Bring energy gels on your long runs and during the race:
Energy gels can help re-supply your muscles and give you some slight hydration in the process. At 100 calories each, most gels give you a burst of energy when you need it most. Don’t try a new flavor on race day, it may turn your stomach. Experiment with these on your long runs.
- Start SLOW:
This can be the hardest lesson from beginners to veterans, but it can be the factor between meeting or missing your finish time goal. A few marathons ago, I felt great and was going about 10 seconds faster per mile than I had planned. I thought I was placing this ‘extra’ time in the ‘bank’…well, I spent it all on Mile 22 when I bonked! Starting out slow and building up to your goal pace will give you a physical and mental edge and lead to a much more enjoyable race. Learn from the thousands of us that ignored marathon tips like this one!
- Stick with your routine:
Race day should find you wearing the clothes, socks, and shoes that you’ve trained in. Race day is not a good day to try out new gear you just bought at the expo. If you foresee the need for new shoes, make sure you get a few training runs in with them before race day. If you run your long runs after breakfast, don’t skip breakfast before the marathon. It’s best to stick with what you know on race day.
- Get to the race EARLY:
On a few occasions, the marathon started while I was in line for the Port-O-Johns. Leave yourself plenty of time for parking, stretching, and port-o-john…ing (sorry…seemed like a polite alternative ;-). Your nerves will be at a heightened state as it is, don’t add any undue stress of being late. This marathon tip will have you less stressed at the race start and feeling fresh instead of trying to catch up!
- Sign up for a Pace Team:
Clif Bar has sponsored many on these FREE pace teams - a great way to pursue & meet your goal! The pace-runners run very consistent splits and will have you meet your goal in style. They are a very experienced group of runners and may have some other good marathon tips to offer. It’s a fun way to join others with a common goal, and it really enhances the overall experience of the day. If your marathon has pace team sign-ups, I’d highly recommend signing up!
- Post Race Cool Down:
After a grueling 26.2 mile race, your primary desire might be to lay down…don’t. If you can walk comfortably, walk around the finish line and eat a few bananas. The walking will keep the lactic acid from pooling up in your muscles and the food will help replenish your muscle’s glucose stores. Drink water and if you’re in pain, take some pain reliever or anti-inflammatory. Most races have these out at the finish lines. You’ll likely have some pretty sore legs for a few days, but the hour after the race can really reduce the length and severity of the post-race blues.
I hope these marathon tips give you a boost in your training and help you meet your goal on race day. Best of luck & have fun!!
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