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May 10, 2013

Tips for the Marathon

Written by Tom McGlynn

This is the general race weekend final instructions note. 

Remember to lay low and stay off your feet the days before the race (no Expo attendance for longer than 1 hour). Your reward is race day itself and the challenge of running. . . .

Arrival

Make sure you get outside and feel the air.  Go for at least a 20 minute walk or jog on either the day before, or two days before (or whatever is on your schedule).

Think about what you did, not what you didn’t do in your training.  When you go to pick up your  race number or run into old friends, family etc. everyone will want to ask about your training so they can tell you about theirs.  Forget about theirs and don’t compare yourself to anyone.  The training plan that you completed has been highly successful for many runners.  So when “joe cool” tells you he did ten 25 mile runs just remember all the good workouts you have completed.

Night Before, Morning Of

Have a full meal the night before.  Try and consume some complex carbohydrates (pasta).  Do not over eat, but make sure you fill up.

On race day eat some calories early in the 400-500 range of carbohydrates including the sports fluid you drink.  For mid-morning race, you may want to have a few extra calories because of the late start or have a snack in the 100-200 calorie range wants you arrive at the race site.  Drink gatorade (or any sports drink that doesn’t include protein) and/or water frequently to assure you are hydrated (clear urine is a good sign).  You should stay well-hydrated throughout the morning before the race.  At some point prior to the race stop drinking so you can empty your bladder before the start.  It is important to refrain from over-consumption of water alone, as that will drain your body of needed electrolytes.

I suggest you take some throw away warmups to the start especially if it rains.  This could be an old t-shirt or old sweat pants.  Also old socks will keep your hands warm. Some runners will even wear the t-shirt for the first couple miles of the race until they warm up and then pull it off and throw it away.  This is a good strategy to prepare for all temperatures.

Take a bottle with gatorade/sports drink to the start with you and right before the gun goes off drink 4-8 ounces.  This is your first water stop.  If you drink close enough to the start you shouldn’t have to pee – the fluid should only drip through your kidneys because most of your resources (blood) will be in your legs and out of your gut.

Early Miles

I suggest that you start 30-60 seconds per mile slower than your Marathon Goal Pace (MGP).  You should run the 2nd mile at 15-30 seconds/mile slower than MGP.  Try to get on pace by the 3rd mile and stay on pace until 18 or 20 miles when the race starts.  I recommend this approach as it may activate (and utilize) a higher percentage of fat fuel over the first couple miles.  Remember we are trying to conserve glycogen and muscle for as long as possible.

Glycogen conservation is key as you can’t rehydrate during a marathon.  So drink early and often (4-8 ounces every 20 minutes).  It is better to consume enough fluid early and sacrifice the later stops if necessary.

Remember the 3 ‘C’s’

Confidence:  Have confidence in your ability and your training.   Remember all those hard workouts you did.  Remember those early mornings, late nights, sore calves, tight hamstrings etc. - they weren’t in jest.

Control:  You must relax yourself early in the race.  You absolutely must go out under control and run easy for the first 18-20 miles.  The marathon is evenly divided into thirds (in regards to effort):  1st 10 miles, 2nd 10 miles and 3rd 10K.  Save yourself for that last 10K by running easy in the beginning.

Collection:  Keep your thoughts collected and on your objective.  In the typical big city marathon there will be about 250,000 distractions along the way.  The further you get in this race the more you need to focus on yourself, goals and race strategy.  Don’t let the fans and competitors into your zone.

The Ebb and Flow

I said before that I can’t guarantee anything about the training or the Marathon race itself.  Well, I can guarantee this:  you will feel good at some point and you will feel bad at some point within the race.

Marathons always ebb and flow, runners never feel terrific the entire way.  We always hit little walls.  If you hit one just focus on the next mile, don’t think about the end of the race.  If you take each difficult moment one mile at a time you will usually feel better at some point.  It always comes back because. . .

You Always Have One Cup Left

That’s right – you always have one cup of energy left.  The difference is that some people find it and some don’t.  Remember what normal, untrained people do when they feel discomfort – they slow down and feel better.  You are not a normal un-trained person.

You are a marathon machine!

As a machine you will have to dig down at the end to determine if you will have a good effort that you can be satisfied with or not.

Go get that last cup!
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