Last week I shared my tips and tricks for marathon training… but what about for the big day?? With the Richmond Marathon a little over one week away, I thought today I’d share my advice for race day! Read on for a few things I learned while running my first marathon and things that I’ll put into practice on November 11th as I take on my second!
Wake up EARLY: I know, I know, you’d much rather grab a few extra moments of sleep before you head to the start line… but it’s extremely important to wake up early and prepared on race day! This means, if you want to get some extra sleep, you should be starting prior to the night before 26.2. Make sure that the week leading into the race you’re clocking in a bit earlier than normal to keep your body rested so that on race morning you can be up and moving with plenty of time to eat, shower, get dressed, and yes, to poop before heading to the start line! I like to be awake about two hours prior to needing to leave my house. That gives me PLENTY of time to do all of the above and have some time to relax and watch a little TV before heading out!
Have a plan for the start and finish lines: Nothing is more stressful than getting ready to leave for the race and having no clue if you’re Ubering, driving, parking, or riding with a friend. And you’ll also want your exit strategy planned for getting home once you’ve finished the race. Trust me, you’ll be tired once you cross the finish line, and trying to figure out how to get home is not going to be on the top of your list (what should be on the top of your list: post-race beers, what outfits will go with your medal since you’ll be wearing it for the next week, and what show you’ll be binge watching the next day while laying on the sofa recovering and being hand fed grapes and champagne by those who didn’t run a marathon the day before). So make a plan the week of and know how you’re getting there, where you’re parking (take a look at the race website and have a few options in case some are full), and how you’re getting home.
Bring cheap sweats to wear at the start line: This step obviously isn’t needed for summer races, but since most marathons are run in the spring and fall, it’s a good idea to be prepared for start-line temperatures. For Richmond, I’ve always worn a cheap pair of sweatpants and an old sweatshirt to the start line. Especially since I like to get there early. Nothing is worse than waiting around and freezing your tail off. Go to Wal-Mart or Goodwill and grab a cheap set (trust me, you’re not out to win any fashion awards, just to stay warm) to take off right before your heat heads out. Most races will donate your discarded clothing to homeless shelters around the city… pretty cool!
Ignore the GPS on your watch… it’s all about the course markers: I used to complain about how all the races I ran were way off from my watch, until I realized that my watch was actually what was off. It’s no fault of my watch, but it can really mess with your head when your wrist says you’re at mile 18, but you can’t even see the course marker in the distance. Long story short… big races (like Richmond) are calculated to be SPOT ON for things like Boston Qualifying times, etc. So while you may think the course markers are off, they’re not. Just understand that and know that you should base your time and your effort off of the course markers, not what your GPS is buzzing about on your wrist.
Trust your training: Most marathon training plans won’t have you training past 20 miles. That’s a good thing, because research has shown that training over 20 miles for a marathon really just increases your chance for injury (unless you’re a super athlete or going for a BQ… but let’s just say you’re a normal person like me with no dreams of crushing an Olympic record). But let me tell you, crossing that 20 mile marker on race day sends this feeling into the pit of your stomach. You will no doubt think “Oh my God, this is uncharted territory, I’ve never run more than 20 miles, will I make it? Am I going to collapse??”… don’t stress!! This happens to all of us and it’s totally normal! This is the point in the race when you HAVE to trust your training. You know all those early mornings? All those Sunday’s spent running for hours at a time? Yeah, they were for a reason! You don’t just run all those miles for nothing, they are to prepare you for that moment when you cross the 20 and you have just a 10K left. Trust and believe that all of those hours, miles, blood, sweat and tears will get you to the finish line, and just enjoy the ride until the end!
Take out your headphones at mile 24: This is hands down my biggest piece of advice. I’ve had several friends ask me for my number one tip when running a marathon and this is always the one I come back to, especially if it’s your very first marathon… run unplugged starting at mile 24. You’ll have 2.2 miles until the end, and I promise that you will make it across that finish line, so take out your headphones and ENJOY IT!! Soak in the sound of the crowds, listen to everyone cheering for you. Feel what it feels like to pass the 25 and 26 mile markers, knowing that you’re about to do something that less than 1% of the population has ever done!! I remember my first marathon, my running partner and I crossed mile 24 and we both looked at each other and said “we’re going to do this… we’re going to finish a marathon” (actually… I’m crying right now typing this, it’s THAT emotional of an experience). So please, if you don’t take any of my advice, take this one and cross that finish line with the roar of the crowds in your ears and the biggest damn smile on your face, because you’re a marathoner and you deserve every single cheer, every single smile and every single “congratulations” when you cross that finish line!!