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Getting Ready for your Marathon

Asphalt Green TTI

SLB Coaching & Training Systems

Getting Ready for Your Marathon

Whether it’s your first marathon or your twenty-first marathon, we all can use some help getting ready for the big day.  Here are some tips to help you prepare for a successful race.

General

·         Know the course – familiarize yourself with the course.  Run sections of the course – particularly the end of the course.  Drive as much of the course as possible.  The more familiar you are with the course the better your run will be, the fewer surprises you have during the race, the better your marathon will be.

·         Eating – don’t change a thing.  Maintain your normal diet.  You may want to slightly increase carbohydrate intake during the week or two prior to the marathon.  But, don’t go overboard.  Refrain from alcohol and excessive amounts of caffeine, both will dehydrate you.  Hydrate well during the week before the marathon.  However, don’t over hydrate. 

·         Don’t depend on anyone but yourself – if you want it or need it for the marathon bring it yourself and carry it yourself.  The only exception is water.  If you want a special drink, carry it with you.  If you want gel, carry it with you.  If you think you’ll need a change of clothes, tie the extra jacket around your waist until you need it.  Most races provide support along the course – water, carbohydrate/electrolyte drinks and gels.  But, getting to it may be a problem in large races.  And, they may run out of what you need, or the product you’re used to using isn’t the one they have on the course.

·         Get your number early – don’t wait until the last day to pick-up your number and chip.  Lines get longer as you get closer to the race.  The less time you have to wait on line to get your number, the less energy you’ll expend.

·         Stay off your feet the day before the race – try to get everything done before hand.  Use the day before the marathon to rest, stay off your feet. 

·         Plan for an emergency – have an emergency contact and some cash or a credit card with you.  Know the course and how to get back (to the start/finish or your hotel) in case of an emergency.

Taper / Training

You’ve spent months preparing for your marathon.  The last two weeks – usually the Taper Period – is as important as all the months before.  This is the time that you can ruin all your hard work.  Any training you do now will not improve your marathon.  So, rest and try to remain calm. 

Test everything you’ll be using during the marathon – wear the shoes you’ll run the marathon in, run in your marathon clothes.  Test your water bottle, gel flask and electrolyte tablet holder.  Make sure everything is A-Okay.

·         Two weeks before – reduce your mileage and effort by at least 25%.  Don’t do any long or hard workouts.  Don’t reduce the number of workouts you normally do during the week.  Just cut back your mileage, reduce your effort level to no more than 80% effort and don’t do any hard workouts or long runs.  You may want to do some very short and “quick” pick-ups during 2 of your workouts this week, these will keep you sharp.

·         The week before – reduce your mileage by 50%, from last week.  You don’t want to do more mileage, including the marathon, than you did the prior week.  You want to have your weekly total below the prior week.  Again, reduce your effort in your workouts, but don’t reduce the number of workouts.  You may want to do some very short and “quick” pick-ups during 2 of your workouts this week, to keep you sharp.

Just Before the Race

Try to maintain as normal a daily schedule as possible during the days prior to the marathon.

·         Two nights before – this is the most important night before your marathon.  Make sure you get a good night’s sleep.  You should get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep.  Don’t stay up late and sleep late.  Try to maintain a normal schedule.

·         The night before – everyone has trouble sleeping the night before a marathon.  Don’t worry about it.  If you got a good night’s sleep two nights before the marathon, you’ll be okay.  Eat a normal meal early in the evening.

o        Set everything out – have all your gear ready to go the night before.  Check your gear – make sure your shoe laces aren’t frayed and about to break.  Have your running gear, warm-ups, clothes for after the race, clothes to wear to the start and discard before the start.

o        Double-check everything – go over everything you need for marathon day.  Pack and re-pack everything.  Double check the weather forecast.

o        Don’t forget your shoes, number and chip! – as surprising as it seems, people have arrived at the staging area without their shoes, number and/or chip!  These are the most important items.  If you don’t have your number and chip you won’t get to race.  If you don’t have your shoes, you shouldn’t race.  You can improvise if you forget anything else.

Race day

·         Nothing new – don’t wear or use anything new on race day: shoes, socks, shorts, shirt, tights, jacket, hat, gloves, water bottle, gel flask and electrolyte tab holder.  That includes the drink, gel and electrolyte tabs you use!

·         Chaffing prevention – use a body lube to prevent chaffing – under arms, chest, between legs, feet. 

·         Double knot your shoe laces! – or use lace locks.

The morning of

Prepare for the weather.  It will change between start and finish.  Give yourself enough time to go over everything.  Remember you should feel cold at the start – so don’t over dress.  As you run the marathon you’ll generate a lot of heat.  You’ll also slow down towards the end of the marathon and it will get later in the day and colder as the sun gets lower in the sky.  Be prepared for the changes in temperature.

At the staging area

Settle in, there usually is a wait from the time you arrive until the race actually starts. Keep hydrating, use the bathroom and take care of your baggage – the things you want at the finish.

At the start

Line up where you belong!  Position yourself in the starting crowd according to your finishing time (or pace).  Look around you and make sure the people you line up with are going to run the same pace as you.  Stay warm before the start.  Wear some clothes that you will discard just before the start of the race.  You should feel cold for the first mile or two.

Keep hydrating at the start.  Bring a water bottle that you will discard just before the start. 

Don’t start too fast.  Use the first 2 to 3 miles to warm-up and settle into your marathon pace.  Don’t try to weave through the crowds in the beginning.  The crowd will open up soon enough, relax and go with the flow.  Don’t worry, you’ll be fine!

During the race

Carry everything you need – other than water.  Don’t depend on the aid stations having what you need and what you’re used to using – brand/flavor.  Have a plan:

  • Pace you’ll run (you may want to divide the race up into segments and run a different pace for each segment.  Check your pace every 5Km or every 3 miles.  Checking your pace every mile is too frequent in a marathon.  You’ll spend the entire marathon speeding up and slowing down to make adjustments to your pace.  Stick to your plan.  Don’t let a slow start or a slow segment change your pre-race plan.  Don’t let the excitement of the race and the spectators change your pace or plan.  However, know when to change your plan – weather (hot, cold, wet, windy) will force changes to your plan and pace.  Know when to abandon you race.  Injury – sharp pain – is a sign to stop.  If you’re planning a peak performance and you’re just not  having your day, turn the race into a training run or simply quit.  Save your body for another day. 
  • Hydrate – drink water every 1 to 2 miles.  Learn to drink from a paper cup – squeeze the top of the cup together and sip from the corner.  Drink only from official aid stations.  Don’t take water from spectators!  Remember when you mom told you not to take “candy from strangers”?
  • Electrolytes – take electrolyte tabs every 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Carbohydrates – take some carbohydrate (gels or drinks) every 20 to 30 minutes.  These should be complex carbohydrates – not fructrose!
  • Protein – take some protein every 30 to 40 minutes.

After the marathon

What you do after the race is as important as how you trained and your race strategy.

  • Immediately after you finish – keep moving!  Don’t stop when you cross the finish line.  Jog or walk for 5 to 10 minutes to allow your body to adjust to being done with the marathon.  Keep you heart rate slightly elevated to help adjust to being done running and to help your legs begin to recover.
  • 30 minutes after the race – consume about 20 grams of protein and about 350 calories of simple carbohydrates.  This will help you recover faster.  The first 30 minutes after you finish is the critical period to begin refueling your body so it can recover and rebuild.
  • As soon as possible – take an ice bath or cold shower for your legs.  This will close down the blood vessels in your legs and help reduce post marathon pain.  The ice bath or cold shower should last 10 to 15 minutes.
  • The morning after – get out and walk briskly or jog for 2 to 3 miles, or 20 to 30 minutes.  This will help your legs recover, better than if you just rest.

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Neil L. Cook, 212-472-9281 or 917-575-1901 or Coach@SLB-Coaching.com or Neil.L.Cook@mindspring.com
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