Half Marathon + Marathon Weekend Final Tips
You Can Improve Your Performance During the Last 48 Hours Without Running a Step
While the physical training has been done, you can significantly enhance the quality of your performance and how you will feel after your race by doing the right things and avoiding the dumb things during the final two days. You’ve done the work. You covered the miles in training. Your “graduation day” is near; don’t let your goals become clouded by your worries or anxieties.
(Note: Susan and I have been compiling and sharing these pre-race tips for years. Many of these tips were adapted from articles and books by Jeff Galloway, John Bingham, and many other authors and coaches.)
Key Mental Concepts
Be Positive – You are naturally going to have negative thoughts over the next couple days, so have this list ready to bypass them and move into the world of positive thinking! Repeat them to yourself as often as necessary:
- I have no pressure on myself
- I’m going to enjoy this
- I’ll start slower and enjoy every step
- The people around me are great
- I’ve earned this!
- Because I started slowly, I’m finishing strong
- I feel successful!
- I have been patient for the last 3-4 months, I can be patient until the 20 mile mark (or the 10 mile mark for the half-marathoners)
Focus – Because of nervousness, the excitement of the pre-race expo, or the distractions of another city, the marathon, friends, etc., it’s easy to lose your concentration. Remind yourself why you put in all those miles over the last 3-6 months.
Be In Control of your Pre-Race Schedule and Thoughts – Be in charge of your behaviors during the crucial 48 hours before the marathon. You can control your attitude, your eating, your schedule, etc. This doesn’t mean that you should be sitting at home or in your hotel room eating salt-free pretzels and PowerBars and drinking water. Being with friends is positive. Just remember, you have veto power over what goes into your mouth, where you go, and how late you stay out. Being in control of your destiny is the primary step in running your best. Plan ahead!
The Night Before
- Drink a couple mouthfuls of water (four to six ounces) every hour.
- Mentally rehearse the marathon: feeling good, overcoming challenges, recovering.
- Eat light carbohydrate snacks like energy bars or gels (not too many!).
- Relax with friends or family.
- Relax, laugh, enjoy the moment.
- Did we mention – relax?
- Go over the procedure, route, etc. for getting to the start.
- Do a very relaxed mental rehearsal of the marathon, concentrating on the positive.
- Pack your bag – again.
Your Race Day Bag Should Contain
- Race number and pins and Timing Chip on your shoe!
- Race instructions, map, etc.
- Shoes, socks, shirt, shorts, and gear to stay warm
- Other clothes if it’s cold: pants, technical fiber top, long-sleeved T, gloves, hat, ear covering, etc.
- Water (about 32 ounces)
- Bandages, BodyGlide, etc.
- $20-30 for reserve funds
- Energy bars, gels, sport beans, bloks or your chosen carbohydrate source (enough for start, second half, and after)
- Fanny pack or plastic bags
- Some extra “throwaway” shirts and/or pants as extra layers in case the staging area is cold
- Garbage bags as an inexpensive waterproof top and ground cover
More Half Marathon + Marathon Weekend Final Tips
Your Schedule for Half-Marathon or Marathon Day
- Wake Up – Set your wake up call so that you have plenty of time to get moving, gather your gear together, and go through your usual eating and drinking timetable which worked for you during the long runs.
- Eat – You should use what has worked for you in your long runs. Eating about 200-250 calories of high quality carbohydrate about an hour before the long one has helped many runners to stabilize their blood sugar level for the first half of the marathon.
- Go Slowly in the Beginning – Almost everyone who performs a personal record in the marathon runs the second half faster than the first. Slow down by 10-20 seconds per mile (from your projected marathon pace) during the first 3-5 miles. Many marathoners report that by starting out 15 seconds per mile slower, they have the resiliency to run 20-30 seconds per mile faster at the end of the marathon.
- Take Walk Breaks – For the first 16-18 miles of the marathon or the first 8-9 miles of the half-marathon, walk through water stops or stick with the run/walk ratio you may have practiced over the last 3-4 months. That way you enter that all important last portion of your event with all the energy reserves you need to finish strong!
- Eat During the Second Half of the Marathon – Eating small carbohydrate snacks during the second half of the marathon has helped marathoners improve time goals by boosting the blood sugar level. This will enhance your feeling of well being, maintain mental concentration, and sustain a positive mental attitude.
- Remember: Everyone Has at Least ONE “Bad” Patch – Group support helped pull you through at least one bad long run, didn’t it? By helping others through their tough times, you receive positive internal rewards. These tough runs teach you how to deal with tough portions of the marathon itself. During your race you will have tough spots. Stay positive and draw on the strength of those surrounding you in the race. Don’t be surprised by a “bad patch.” Acknowledge it and know that your training, your training buddies, and your willingness to do your best will pull you through until you start feeling better again. The closer that finish line and finisher’s prize is, the better you will begin feeling!
Race Day Morning List
- Drink two to four ounces of water (a few mouthfuls only!) every 20 minutes or so.
- Eat – according to the schedule which has worked for you in the long runs.
- Bring your bag, car keys, etc.
- Leave at least 30 minutes before you think you’ll need to leave . . . in case of traffic, etc.
- If you have several hours at race site before start, stay warm, get off your feet and relax.
- 45-60 minutes before the start, walk around the staging area to mentally rehearse lining up.
- Thirty minutes before the start, walk around for 15 minutes to get the legs moving.
- Keep an eye on the porta-potty lines. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
- Jog for two to three minutes (very slowly) just before lining up.
- Keep the legs moving, in place if necessary, as you stand waiting for the start.
- If going for a time goal, get to the starting area early enough to secure a good place.
- Those with a goal “to finish” should line up in the back of the crowd.
- Joke around; enjoy the energy and personalities of the folks nearby.
- Go out slowly. If it’s hot, go out even slower!
- Get over to the side of the road when taking a walk break.
- Drink when you feel the need. Drinking at every water station might be too much for some.
- If you feel warm, pour water over your head at each water stop.
- Each walk break gives you a chance to appreciate and enjoy every mile.
- When tired shorten your stride.
- Don’t stretch during the run or immediately afterward.
- You may cut out the walk breaks after mile 18-20 if you’re feeling good.
Immediately After Finishing Your Half Marathon or Marathon
- Grab water and carbohydrate food(s).
- Walk, eat and drink. Do not sit down or lie down for at least a half hour after finishing (unless you need medical attention).
- If possible, immerse your legs in a cold bath, as soon after the finish as possible.
- Walk for 30 to 60 minutes later in the day.
- Eat carbohydrate snacks continuously for the rest of the day.
- Drink four to six ounces of water or electrolyte fluid (at least) every hour.
- Walk for 30 to 60 minutes the next day.
- Run/walk for 30 to 45 minutes two days after the marathon.
- Continue to alternate: walk 30 to 60 minutes and run/walk 30 to 45 minutes.
- Be certain to make a gentle return to running. If you are feeling absolutely on top of the world for a few days, that’s great! Rest up and enjoy the view from there. Don’t be in a big hurry to get back out on the roads. Your muscles and your spirit will need some recovery time even if your mind doesn’t think so. Your muscles will thank you!