Although the peak of triathlon season is coming to an end, the endurance season is not — marathons are very popular in Chicago in the fall due to the lower temperatures, and while running 26.2 miles may feel intimidating, it’s a great way to build on your running skills for triathlons. Plus, it’s a great accomplishment!
Running a marathon this fall? Take my tips to ensure a smooth and safe race. And for frequent marathoners, these tips still apply to you!
- Set realistic expectations: If you are training at a 10 minute mile, don’t expect to be doing an eight minute mile pace on race day. Stick to your plan! It is very likely you will feel very good in the beginning – after all, you have tapered. However, you have a 26 mile race to do. Contain yourself in those early miles so you can hold your planned pace throughout the event.
- Use a list: Make a list of everything you need in the days before, the day before, the day of, the day after – make sure you do not forget anything. Consult your list and go over it thoroughly to make sure you do not leave anything behind.
- Know the Course: It is up to you to get familiar with the race course. You should know where the hills are, where the aid stations are, where you want your spectator friends to be – all of it. This way, you can nail down your execution plan – from pace to nutrition.
- Nothing New on Race Day: By now, this should be drilled into your brain! DO NOTHING NEW on race day! Have the “usual” breakfast you have before a long training run, wear what you have worn in those long training runs, stick to your nutrition plan – all of it. There are too many variables when you start trying new things on race day. The time to “experiment” is during training. On race day, you should be on auto pilot.
- Avoid Stress: This one can be difficult, but in the week before your marathon, try to avoid any extra stress at all costs. Ask co-workers to pick up the slack for you. Ask your spouse to take the kids away for a couple hours here and there to give you time to rest, relax and focus on your race. After all, you have been training for this for 18 weeks or more, you don’t want that time to go to waste.
- Respect the Taper: OK, folks – the taper is JUST THAT. A TAPER! When your mileage goes down to 12 and 8 miles for your long run, that does not mean that you should go faster because the distance is shorter. It means you stick to the pace you have been running your 18 and 20 milers. Yes, it absolutely should feel easy. It is at this point in time that you need to save it for the race!
- Do a Self-Check: This means to pay attention to your body in the days before and during the event. The sooner you can recognize something out of place, the better chance you have of correcting it before the damage is done. This means that if you realize you missed a “scheduled” gel intake, you need to take in a gel as soon as possible. If you are not getting enough fluids and feel thirsty, walk that next aid station and take in a little more than you normally would. You need to keep track of your pace and make sure you are doing the place prescribed per your plan.
- Know your WHY: We all have different reasons for doing such spectacular events like marathon, Ironman, half marathon, etc. You need to really tune in to why YOU are doing this. This reason will be extremely helpful and motivational when you come to the tough parts of the race. You don’t have to share this reason with anyone – it can be totally personal. You need to identify it for yourself and use it to keep you pushing when the going gets tough.
- Run for the Finish: Particularly for the newbies – try not to shoot for a finish time. Just shoot for the finish. I like to suggest an A, B and C goal. The A goal is if everything goes perfectly, you feel great and you get the “dream result.” The B goal is if something goes a little wrong, maybe you missed one too many training days or times, so the B goal is the next best thing. The C goal is to finish – no matter what (not including injuries). The C goal is to finish what you started.
- Celebrate and Recover: For all of us – newbies to seasoned veterans – a marathon finish is a huge accomplishment. There is a lot of time and sacrifice that goes into running a marathon. Once you cross that finish line – congratulate yourself and make sure you plan some recovery. You worked hard – stop and enjoy your accomplishment, no matter what the time result. You deserve it.