Yesterday I posted all the gear you need for your first marathon and today I’m going to share with you a rundown on how to prepare and what to expect starting from the week of the race. Logistically each race is different, but the things that you can do leading up to it and what you can expect is just about the same.
What to do:
Check the weather
Check the weather as far in advance as you can to make sure you have all the gear you need. Keep checking like the stock market because you might need adjust accordingly, but remember, don’t try anything new!
Watch a course video
The more you know about the course the better. I don’t know about you, but looking at a race map tells me absolutely nothing. With video, you get a visual and auditory details including hills, turns, and sometimes they’ll even throw in some helpful tips. Some smaller races might not have a video, but luckily the big marathons are moving towards this helpful habit.
Have a plan if something goes wrong
Take some time to visualize every situation that could go wrong in your marathon and have a set strategy for how you’ll react to it and push through. You don’t want to let little side stitches around mile 10 completely throw you off your game. Also, if one of your goals is to be healthy after the race, make up your mind to do so and not push too hard if something were to happen like twisting an ankle or knee.
Set different goals
I’ve been hearing more about this in the world of running. Sage Roundtree talked about it her recent book about racing and on the Runner’s Connect Podcast to have 3-4 goals for yourself at different levels. First you have the, “if I don’t get this, I suck” goal, which could be like “I’d suck if I didn’t take care of my health during the race” or for some it would be like “at least walk to the finish.” Then your level two is pretty attainable, level three would be the main one you’re shooting for, and level four would be ideal day in ideal conditions, but a little bit of a long shot.
Focus on sleep
Your sleep leading up to the race is even more important than the sleep the night of so focus on getting to bed early and sure, take some naps if your schedule allows.
Carb load a couple of days before the race
2-3 days before the race are your prime carb-loading days. If you have a sensitive stomach, it’s best to keep them simple like white potatoes and rice.
Finalize your strategy
You probably have a good idea what you’re going for maybe even months before the race, but this is the week where you hammer out the details. Are you doing negative splits? A cut down? Steady pace? Are you running with a pacing group or on your own?
Plan your race day logistics
My least favorite part is figuring out where I’m going to park or how I’m getting to the race, but if you figure it out before the night of the race, you have one less thing to worry about.
Start hydrating more and more 2-3 days before the marathon so you don’t feel like you have to completely load up the day before or morning of.
Assure yourself that you’re ready
Before a marathon, I like to look back at my old workouts and remind myself that I can hit the times that I’m going for.
What to expect:
Urges to strength train or cut weight
All the sudden you might find yourself anxiously thinking that you’re not strong enough or need to loose a couple pounds, but the week before your marathon is certainly not the time.
You may notice little pains coming out of nowhere, but sometimes anxiety has a way of creeping in to scare you into thinking your injured when you’re really not. It’s important to take the time to discern between actual injury and fake-mind pains.
Again, our minds and bodies are so connected that your nerves can easy start churning things up in your stomach.
What to do:
Go to the Expo and pick up your packet
You might want to research the Expo before because in my experience with big marathons, getting to the expo’s take just as much planning as the race itself. Expo’s are so fun so enjoy it!
Lay your clothes out ahead of time
Make a flat (insert your name) with everything from your bib, to your clothes, to your gels.
Hydrate more the day before rather than the night before so you’re not up all night sleep walking to the bathroom.
Wear comfy shoes to work, arrange carpool for the kids, ask your husband to walk the dog. I know I go to bed a lot easier before a marathon knowing that I’m relaxed, well rested, and that I did something to better take care of myself.
Go on a shake-out run… or don’t
Some people like to do a shake out run and some people like to attempt their first Netflix binge. I personally enjoy a combination of both. For a half marathon I’ll maybe run 3 miles the day before a race and depending on how I’m feeling before a full, I might do 1.5-2 miles just to get things moving.
What to expect:
It’s okay because you are well rested from the week and you’ll be fine.
They happen to the best of us, just do what you can to calm them and assure yourself that you’re ready.
What to do:
Give yourself time
Wake up extremely early if you need time to eat, digest, and drink coffee. Get there at the very least an hour early if not two depending on how big the race is.
Warm up… or don’t
Get a small warm up in if you’re doing the half and even smaller or none at all for the full. Some people won’t warm up at all before the full because it’s typically at a slower pace so they have plenty of time to fall into it.
Find your Corral
After your warm up and/or stop at the porta-potty’s, find your corral marked by pace groups. Start up your GPS watch and take off your throwaway clothes if you needed them.
What to expect:
There probably won’t be a bag drop
Don’t bring anything with you that you’re not running in unless you have someone to hand it to because you can’t bank on there being a bag drop. If it’s cold, but you know you’re going to warm up mid-race, wear some throwaway clothes that you can ditch at the start and never see again.
Long porta-potty lines
Again, you might be cold when you start, but trust me, you’ll be warmer in no time.
Hitting a wall
At some point you may hit a wall, but remember unless you’re having sharp acute pain, it’s temporary and in the end, it’s all worth it!
Eat carbs and protein
Eat as soon as possible after the race and drink plenty of water as your stomach allows. This will help you feel better sooner.
Schedule a massage
Maybe give yourself a day or two, but it will definitely help speed up your recovery.
Make reservations at a nice restaurant
Celebrate! You deserve it.
This might be a little cold-weather specific, but there are a lot less marathons in the summer and for very good reasoning! Again, good luck to everyone running St. Jude this weekend wether it’s your first or 10th time! Don’t forget to enter in to win some great winter running apparel from Craft in my giveaway that ends tomorrow!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or nutritionist, just speaking from experience.
Have you ever run a marathon or half marathon?
What’s your biggest marathon mistake?
I’ve made a thousand, but wearing too small of socks and eating too many gels were my top two worst. Oh, and not training for my first one, but thats a story for a different day.
Are you a planner?