Want to know how to be prepared for your best marathon?
It can be anxiety inducing to wonder if you are going to be prepared for running your best 26.2 on race day. As someone who coaches marathon runners every day, here are some tips to help you out.
- Weather and Clothing: The first is to check the weather on race day, and make sure you are prepared for that condition. Well in advance, runners can see the average condition for that date and that time of year, but starting around ten days out, they can track the weather more exactly.
Select and set aside your exact outfit that you will wear on the day, and make sure you have “rehearsed” that outfit well in advance during your training to make sure it works well.
Also, especially if traveling to the race, select a couple of backup outfits in case the weather is suddenly much warmer or cooler than expected.
Make sure to plan in advance such that your shoes have enough miles in them to feel comfortable, but also have plenty of life/cushioning left on race day, so that you’re not breaking in a new pair of shoes on that same day.
- Nutrition and Hydration: It’s best to have race day nutrition figured out well before race day. Practice with various fueling options during training, which includes how much hydration you expect to need, what fuel works best for you, and even how well you are able (or not able) to use any run fueling/hydration that will be available on the course.
Check out the course map in advance to see how far apart the water stations will be, and correlate this with your fueling if you are using a type of fuel, such as a gel, in which it’s best eaten with water.
Taking water on a race course is actually something that can be practiced in advance by setting up your own table with cups of water, and practicing picking up a cup and drinking it on the run.
This can be beneficial to those who feel like they are always pouring the water on themselves accidentally or having it “go down the wrong pipe”, which can lead to slowing down or even stopping during the race.
Make sure to pack your fueling with your race day kit and carry this on the plane with you if traveling in that manner. Some have had their luggage lost that contained their desired fuel, had to use something else during the marathon, and got stuck with digestive issues that, at best, slowed them down.
- Pacing: Just like nutrition and hydration, a runner’s pace should be dialed in before race day as well. This can be done through shorter test races done as training progresses, and then race prediction tools online to predict a race pace.
A popular calculator is the Run Smart calculator. This pace can be further practiced and tested by running race-pace miles during long training runs.
If the weather is hotter than normal and especially than what the runner has been training in, preparing mentally for this condition crucial, as well as adjusting the pace to consider the weather conditions. The Run Smart calculator can also aid in pace adjustments due to weather.
- Pacers/pace groups: If a race provides pacers, this can also aid in staying on track, and the lead runners can also block the slowing effects of wind, if that is a factor. Also, it can be helpful to run with others who have the same goal as you do.
However, there are good and bad pacers, and it’s hard to know in advance which you will have. So keep an eye on your watch and make sure the pace is what you expect it to be in a pace group.
- Gear: Just like clothing, it’s important to have your gear selected in advance as well, and laid out with your clothing.
Most races are equipped with enough water station that runners do not need to carry water, but again check a course map to be sure. In addition, carrying water can weigh a runner down during the race and add to the fatigue.
And, it’s good to be aware that many marathons now do not allow the “backpack” style hydration carriers, so that is another thing to check in advance.
- Mental attitude: Resilience is something that can be developed during training, which includes pushing through times when you don’t feel like getting up for a run – but getting it done anyway.
Or realizing that bad runs can happen and you still make it through. Know that you may hit a low spot in the race but it’s not the end of the world.
It can be important to focus on what IS going right during the race, versus what isn’t. For example, if your left calf feels like it is getting sore, what feels good?
Sometimes focusing on your arms, right leg, or something else will be enough to snap you out of a downward mental spiral of doom, and you may even forget something was bothering you in a short while.
- Write your name on your clothing or bib: Some people find it helpful to put their name on their shirt or race bib. Then, as you go along the course, people yell your name and cheer for you.
This can give you a mental boost, especially if you do not have anyone who could come to the race with you personally on race day.
- Run the shortest course: Learn to run the tangents, or edges of each curve, for example: try to run in as straight a line as possible through curved sections.
Some races have the shortest course marked, if this is the case, follow that line, rather than the outer edges of the road, which can actually add unexpected distance to your race.