Getting Ready for Your Marathon
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.
Just Before the Race
Try to maintain as normal a daily schedule as possible during the days prior to the marathon.
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.