10 Tips for Novice Marathoners


The unique experience of training for and running a marathon allows runners to experience a full range of emotions. The last week or two before the marathon can be the most difficult part of training for many marathoners, especially first timers, as mileage decreases while nerves increase. The following suggestions help not only novice marathoners, but all marathoners to deal with pre-race jitters.

1. “The cake is in the oven!” Relax. You can’t make up for lost miles or time at this point. Rest is key. Yes, you still should do some easy miles but no more long runs. Enjoy your taper: you deserve it!

2. No changes: This is not the time to try anything new, including your shoes, diet and clothes.

One exception: Attempt to get to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier than usual during the last two weeks before race day.

3. Your running logbook: If you’ve kept a logbook of your training, read through it. Remind yourself of all the hard work you have done. This will build up your confidence. If you have not kept one, start now by putting your thoughts in writing. This will help calm your nerves.

4. Pre-marathon massage: A massage can help you relax. Make sure you to go to someone who has experience working with runners and book it for two to five days before the marathon. Make your appointment now to ensure you can get in before schedules fill up.

5. Shoes for race day: By now, you should have found, selected and confirmed the correct running shoes for you. Buy a new pair of the same model soon so come race day, they will have between 50 and 100 miles on them. Remember to double tie them.

6. Write down your race goals: Include several goals that you would like to accomplish such as getting to the finish line safely and with a big smile on your face. Goals should reflect your “A,” “B” and “C” racing plans. Have more than one race day depending on how you feel, the weather, etc.

7. Pack for marathon day: A week or ten days before race day, start thinking and gathering everything you need or might need. Don’t wait until the day before the race to do this.

8. Go to the Expo on Friday: Friday is much less crowded and enjoyable than Saturday. Sleep in on Saturday and relax at home. Stay off your feet.

9. Pre-race dinner: Have this meal at home if possible. I will not say what to eat as that is such a personal choice but I will make two important suggestions: Have this meal at about 3 p.m. on Saturday to avoid going to sleep on a full stomach. Remember that you’ll be waking up around 4 a.m. on Sunday. After your meal, go for a five to 10 minute relaxed walk around the block. This helps digest the food and gives you some fresh air to relax.

10. Plan how to get to the start line: Don’t overlook this important piece of the puzzle and don’t plan to find a taxi at 5 a.m. on Sunday. You could take the CTA or ask your most dependable friend or a family member to drive you to the starting area and drop you off.

BONUS TIP:  Run your own race!
There will be over 40,000 runners on the starting line. Don’t worry about them. Focus on your race and run your own pace. Run the first miles conservatively. If you go out too fast, you’ll pay for it later. You will have plenty of miles to reach your race pace.
Your weeks of hard work will pay off. Think positive! Get ready to join the marathon club.

Mark Buciak (PB:2:30:25) is the coach and program director of THE ROAD TO BOSTON Training Program and Running Camps.