There comes a time as your marathon nears there is seemingly nothing else you can do. You have put in countless miles in the wee hours of morning, the dark, and the rain. Your friends are tired of hearing you can’t go out for a drink because you are training. You’ve started checking the projected weather forecast 10 days out. You have tapered and rested and eaten all the carbs. Before you hand your big day over to fate, there are some things to keep in mind to make sure the race lives up to your expectations.
REMEMBER THE GOLDEN RULE OF MARATHONING: NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY.
• Everything you wear on race day should have been worn before on a long run. That cute shirt you bought at the expo? Save it for after the marathon. New clothes and shoes can lead to blisters or chafing. Stick with what you know so there are no surprises during the race.
• The golden rule also applies to hydration and nutrition. Do not experiment with something new because you think it will improve your race. Stick to the same breakfast on race day that you had before your long runs. Eat similar foods the night before as well. During the race, use the same gels and drinks you used during training. Mile 20 is not the time to find out your stomach will not tolerate something new.
TRUST YOUR TRAINING. REALLY, REALLY TRUST IT.
• Those Saturday morning long runs? The mid-week speed work? The easy runs with friends? They all had a point—to get you to the start line ready to run. You cannot cram for a marathon. Know that all the miles you’ve run over the past months prepared you for this day.
• Your taper is part of your training. Trust it. Remember how I said you can’t cram for a marathon? You can’t cram for a marathon. Squeezing in “just one more long run” a week before your race is only going to make you tired. Your taper should be a time to recover from the months of training so you arrive at the race rested. Respect the taper.
PREPARE YOURSELF MENTALLY.
• Imagine all possible scenarios. There will be rough spots, but how you deal with them will make the difference. Have a mantra to repeat to get you through them. Fatigue will hit at some point. Be prepared to fight it when it does. Don’t think of the miles ahead, instead try to pass the next person or run to the next aid station. Marathons are as challenging mentally as they are physically.
• Have a race day goal. Set an A goal for the perfectly executed race, but also have a B goal in mind if things don’t go exactly as planned. Temperature, wind, and hills will make things harder and slower; adjust your expectations accordingly. Visualize reaching your goal and crossing the finish line in celebration.
HAVE A PLAN.
• If you are traveling to a race, make a list and start packing early. Triple check that you have everything you need so that you do not have to resort to breaking the rule of nothing new. Check the weather forecast so that you can adequately plan your race outfit.
• Make sure you know how you’re getting to the race and where you’ll park. Arrive early. There are certain things in life you don’t want to be late for—the start of your race is one of these. It is better to have a little extra time to go to the bathroom, check your bag, and find your spot on the start line.
As race day looms, know that nerves are part of it. Having a plan and believing in the work you’ve done will get you to the start line in great shape—mentally and physically. Remember the golden rule of marathoning: Trust your training and taper, eat all the carbs, and then go check that weather forecast one more time. You never know… it might have changed.
Do you have questions about getting started or finding a plan to work for you? Stop in and talk to anyone on our staff. We’ll be happy to help!
Rachel Randall is the go-to girl for all marketing, media, and events at Fleet Feet Sports. She has run more marathons that she can count and will be joining many of you on the start line of the 2016 St. Jude Marathon Weekend and the 2017 New York City Marathon.