My marathon in Chicago is less than a week away so it’s safe to say that I’m definitely starting to get that anxious feeling or, in other words, nervous stomach (runners…you know what I’m talking about). Yes, I’ve done all the training and refined my fueling plan, but running the actual race is a whole different beast. Since I’m definitely not above asking for help, I reached out to some Olympian friends who DO know what they’re doing and here’s what they had to say:
This lady needs no introduction. She’s a 2 x Olympian and a World Championship silver medalist. She’s run Boston 3 times, always placing in the top 6. Needless to say, she knows her stuff when it comes to running marathons, and she’s been kind enough to share her words of wisdom with me.
Make sure that you break in your shoes. Don’t wear new shoes on race day, this means having worn them at least 3 times in training. You want to make sure they feel good on your feet, give proper support, and don’t give you blisters.
The night before, keep it simple. You are asking your body to move for 26.2 miles, so you want to make it as easy as possible. A great meal is some pasta or rice with chicken or fish. I tend to eat really bland the night before as I want my stomach as calm as possible on the start line.
Start your hydrating a few days out. Your body needs a few days to store it’s hydration, so I usually start hydrating 3 days out from a marathon. I’ll drink an extra 24-32 ounces of liquid and add Nuun tablets to my water. You want to make sure that the extra liquid you are taking in has a little carbohydrates and electrolytes in it. If you wait until the night before, it will be too late. For a Sunday morning marathon, I start hydrating Thursday night.
Being conservative is key. Don’t go barreling out at the start. Take your time working into it. It will feel easy at first, but remember that it’ll get harder as the race goes on. I always say to run the first 18 miles a little slower than your goal time. If you get up to 18 and feel great, then pick it up a bit. This mindset will set you up for a more successful experience.
Take the time to walk it out after. When you finish, you might want to just go back to the hotel or home and go to bed. Don’t do this! Try to walk around a bit that afternoon and the following morning. This will help flush your legs of all the stiffness and soreness. Also, don’t forget to keep up your hydration for a day or two afterward. It will help you recover much quicker.
Remember to enjoy the experience! The first time I ran a marathon I was so intimidated and scared. When I finished, I was so proud of myself. I never looked at myself the same way again, I knew just how strong I was. Enjoy the incredible opportunity, it will change your life!
The Hahner Twins
Lisa and Anna are marathon runners from Germany. They competed in their first Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro where they crossed the finish line together, holding hands, and beaming massive smiles.
Their top tips are mental based, since they believe the mental part is very important for the marathon.
The Pizza Technique
We think about the marathon in smaller pieces (like a pizza because we love homemade pizza). We do this because we’ve found that when we think about the whole 26.2 miles (42.2km) in one big race, it sounds very hard. So in our minds, we just run 8 x 3.10 miles (5km) plus 1 x 1.36 miles (2.2km). After we’ve done one piece, we look at the next piece. This way, it seems more manageable.
Doesn’t it though?! I used to do this for the heptathlon too… I’d wake up on day 1 and say to myself, “Alright, today you’re just a hurdler. You just have to get through one race.” Once that was over, I was “just a high jumper.” It totally works!
Run with a Smile
We smile while we’re running because we’ve found that when we smile, our bodies are more relaxed and there is more positive energy. When people look at us and see us smiling, they’ll smile back and it motivates us to run faster.
The feeling after crossing the finish line is the best thing we can imagine. It’s a mixture of relief, euphoria, exhaustion, pride and happiness all tied into one. We think of this feeling during the marathon and the preparation to motivate ourselves to always push in training and to give it our all.
Being a Canadian, I of course wanted some words of wisdom from a fellow teammate. Reid is a 2 x Olympian (2012 and 2016), and has also competed at 5 World Championships. His personal best time is 2:10:28. Here are his top marathon tips:
Tapering your training in the final week or two let’s your body rest up for the big effort. In the final week, I like to run about 50% of what I would run in my biggest training week. It’s important that you reduce the volume of each run, but still run as often as you normally do. Too many days off will leave you feeling sluggish. Also, do a little bit of speed work a few days out, even if it’s something as short as 2 x 2 minutes at half marathon race pace.
With a proper taper, your legs are going to feel fresh at the start of the race, so between that and all the excitement of the race, it’s easy to start off too fast. Stick with your race plan and save energy for the last part of the race, if you still feel great you can pick up the pace after 18 miles (30km). I like to split up the race into 3 miles (or 5km) segments, it’s a good way to break up the distance and easy for me to keep track of pace splits.
It’s essential to intake carbohydrates throughout the race. The easiest way is to take the sports drink offered at the marathon drink stations. If you’re able to practice with the same brand as the marathon offers it will help you get used to that particular drink. On top of that, you might want to pack some gels on you to make sure you’re getting about 40-50 grams of carbohydrates every hour. If it’s hot out you will need to drink extra water on top of sports drink. I like to start drinking Maurten sports drink as early as 3 miles (5km) into the race. Even if I don’t feel like taking a sip that soon, it’s important to stay ahead of depletion.
As far as what to eat before the race. I stick to what I normally eat before I run hard, which is oatmeal and tea about 3 hours before race time. I like to add an Endurance Tap maple syrup gel and peanut butter to my oatmeal and take another Endurance Tap about 30 minutes before the gun goes off. The night before the race I eat a normal meal except I add some extra carbs (rice, pasta or potatoes).
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