Ten Tips for a Strong Marathon
Jenny Hadfield’s top ten tips to make the months of training pay off on race day.
Co-author of the best selling Marathoning for Mortals and the newly released Running for Mortals.
- Have a plan and stick to it – don’ t try anything new on race day
- Run your own race – pace yourself and make sure that you are running the 26.2 and only the 26.2
- Rest before and recover after – bookend your Marathon Sunday with proper relaxation and nourishment
You’ve trained for months and marathon week is finally here. The hay is in the barn and the excitement is building. Here are a few tips for navigating through race week to a successful marathon finish.
1. Don’t shop until you drop.
Picking up your race packet at the marathon Expo is a right of passage for a marathoner, and a great way to get inspired before the race. However, too much time on your feet can fatigue your body for race day. It’s a good idea to set your watch alarm for 60 minutes, and make your way through the Expo in that time frame.
2. Go with what you know.
The number one rule in marathoning is “don’t try anything new race week.” Every week of training has been a dress rehearsal for race day and you by now, you know what works for you. It may be tempting to make changes in your diet, training, or race day apparel just before the race, but that is your nerves talking. Let your preparation be your guide and stick with your practiced routine before and during the race.
3. Review the course.
Download a copy of the marathon course and familiarize yourself with where the aid stations, mile markers and the general overview of the course. Visualize running at various points on the course and finishing strong. Mentally rehearsing for the marathon acts just like your long training runs, preparing your mind for race day.
4. Plan ahead.
Organize your transportation to and from the marathon before race weekend to alleviate additional stress. The larger the marathon, the more important is it to have a plan for logistics. The night before the race, dress as though it is marathon morning and put on your marathon outfit, shoes, timing chip and bib number. This will allow you to calmly dress on race morning, confident that you’re not forgetting anything. Plan to arrive at the marathon start line at least one hour before the start to allow time to use the bathroom, check your gear and get to the start line.
5. Have a mental plan.
Thinking “26.2 miles to go” as you toe the line at the marathon start line is an overwhelming thought. Eat the elephant one bite at a time and break up the marathon distance into smaller, more digestible pieces. By creating shorter checkpoints along the way, you can mentally focus on the reaching one at a time and keep your mind actively engaged in digesting the marathon course.
6. Pace yourself.
Marathoning is all about energy management, and the key to a successful performance is pacing yourself from the start. Invest in the final, most challenging miles by keeping the pace for the first half of the race slightly slower (2-3 minutes) than the second half of the marathon. Doing so leaves you with plenty of energy and strength to push through the most challenging miles mentally and physically, the final 10K.
7. Run only 26.2 miles.
Taking the long way around every turn on the course can add extra distance to the race, and you won’t get extra credit for it either! When a race course is measured it follows the tangents to the curves. A tangent is a straight line just outside the curve (or as close to the curve while still on the road). Avoid taking the long way around each turn and set yourself up to run the tangents. It keeps your mind focused at every turn and reduces the risk of running more than 26.2 miles!
8. Run efficiently.
Maintain efficient running form by performing a head-to-toe inventory at every mile marker after the half way point on the course. Think head over relaxed shoulders, arms swinging at 90 degrees like a pendulum from the shoulders, hands relaxed, hips under the shoulders and short, quick strides landing under the hips. Thinking through your inventory maintains a strong mind-body connection and good running form.
9. Go fishing.
Running mindfully means keeping your eye on the ball, especially in the challenging miles of the race. Mentally focus on a marathoner ahead of you and go fishing, reeling them in and passing them by. It’s an effective way to keep your mind engaged and with every runner passed, you gain a little more motivation and energy.
10. Recover efficiently.
Recovery begins the minute you cross the finish line. Continue to walk for at least 10 minutes post race, to allow your body time to re-acclimate to it’s resting state. Within 30-45 minutes, eat or drink a meal with carbohydrates and protein to refuel and repair muscles. Reduce post race inflammation with ice and compression using Moji. Schedule a post race massage two or more hours post marathon.