Rules for a marathon
After months of training you are now only days away from your marathon. Whether it is your first or you are a seasoned marathoner runner, you will still be a little nervous about what the day holds. This is only natural and always a good thing, it means this day means something to you.
No doubt it’s been quite the journey to get to this day and this is what makes race day so special. You never start out being able to run 42.2km, congratulations for getting this far. This is just the beginning!
You have put in the kilometers, you have eaten your way through the fridge, you have carb loaded (not fat loaded) and you are in taper mode. Physically there is nothing more you can do to prepare for the day; it’s all a mental game now. Be calm and collected and most importantly believe in you, this race is yours for the taking.
Come race day, here are a few simple rules to follow in order to start strong and finish even stronger.
If you have to travel to the start line allow plenty of time for traffic congestion, finding a park and walking to the start line. If you are lucky enough to live within 5-10km of the start, maybe ride your bike, as this will be a nice easy warm up. Although getting back on your bike post race might throw up a few challenges!
Start drinking electrolytes a few days out from the race as well as water. It’s important to be well nourished come race day. The morning of the race, keep drinking you have a long day ahead of you so starting on the right foot will only benefit what’s ahead. Oh and allow time for a toilet stop, maybe a few. A combination of nerves and hydrating will sure have you need the loo more than once.
Proactive fuelling is essential because there are normally a few hours between when you wake to when the starters gun goes off. You don’t want to get to the start line starving or be low on energy a short time into the run but don’t over fuel here either. Start the day with what you normally would; toast with nut butter & jam, pancakes with maple syrup or if you are like me, porridge with coconut yoghurt.
Don’t try anything new on the day
Resist the temptation to try the race fuel available on course if you have not tried and tested it before. Gut issues are one of the main reasons your race could go belly up on the day. Racing is all about being self sufficient so bring the gels you have trained with and on course only sip water avoiding the on course electrolytes if you have not done so before. You have worked hard to get to this point; don’t ruin it with fuel you haven’t tried before.
Run your own race
It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of the race and start out like you are a bull in a china shop. But remember, you have 42.2km ahead of you and a lot can happen between the start and the finish especially when they say the race starts at around 32km. Run at your own pace and ignore all that is around you, you know what your plan is, make sure you stick to it.
Drink at every aid station
Keep alert, keep focused and keep hydrated. As a rule of thumb, if you are too busy racing you might just forget to take in fluids so as you run through each aid station, grab a cup of water and take a few sips even walk if you have too but make sure as a rule, you drink at every station.
Consume an easily digestible food
You are running fast which mean you are burning through calories (energy) so at some point you need to look at replacing what you are burning. Energy gels are designed to be easy to digest and contain up to 30g of carbohydrates so an ideal fuel for a marathon. Carry a few in your fuel belt or pouch and consume every 30 minutes.
Remember to breath
Sounds simple right? But when you are focused on the run sometimes we lose our mindfulness and forget to breathe. Take deep breaths in and out especially at the start of the race when your adrenalin is running hot! Also take check of your body throughout the race – are you shoulders, arms, hands, jaw even your ears relaxed? Running relaxed will help you run faster.
Set small goals
At the start line don’t scare yourself with the reality of what’s ahead; 42.4km of tarmac. Break it down, know where the aid stations are and get to them and then tick them off. Setting small goes makes the race more manageable mentally. After all, a marathon is a mental game.
Find the right distraction
Eventually the race is going to get hard, real hard so you need to shift the focus to help manage the hurt. In other words, don’t fight the fight, accept it and let the moment pass, the race will get easier in a strange sort of way. Think of a puzzle, a quiz question even a song something that is going to occupy your thought process till eventually you forgot what you were doing and the finish line will be upon you before you know it.
Don’t burn too many matches too early in the race
You have heard the saying before ‘ don’t burn the candle at both ends’ but in endurance sports, its don’t burn too many matches. We start out with a certain amount and as the race goes on, we are burning through a few but ensure you have enough left when you need them the most. Be conservative but still push yourself, you have trained hard for this now its time to bank it. Know when to push and when you do, save enough in the tank to have you run upright over that finish line!
Be nice to yourself
Yes you are tired, yes you might have a blister of two and yes your legs are fatiguing at a rapid rate but guess what ‘you are doing this, you are running a marathon’ and yes its going to be over soon. You are so lucky to be doing what you are doing so smile, talk nicely to yourself and believe you will get through this.
Our number one piece of advise when running any endurance event is to smile. Somehow smiling makes the race just that little much easier. Smile at the supporters, thank the volunteers and appreciate the moment, for despite what you think during the race – the day goes way too fast.
I look forward to seeing cross that finish line triumphant and ready to celebrate your massive achievement with family and friends. They say only 1% of the population runs a marathon so well done, you did it! Now your reward; rest.