Top 10 Marathon Tips


1. Pace

The best way to run your fastest possible race is by starting out at the pace you can maintain the entire race. So run the first mile at the pace you expect to average for the whole marathon. You can’t put running time in the bank. You will end up losing more time in the end than what you gained by being “ahead of schedule” in the beginning. No matter how strong your will is, the metabolic condition caused by running too fast too early will force you to slow down during subsequent stages of the race. While it may feel easy, especially in the marathon, to run the first mile of your race at the same pace as the last, your patience will pay huge dividends during that last mile. Ideally, the second half of your race should be equal to or slightly faster than the first half. This requires accurate knowledge of your fitness level, confidence to stick to your plan when others have taken the early pace out too fast, and a good dose of self-restraint. Your workouts are invaluable for providing you with knowledge of your fitness level and for predicting your average race pace.

2. Sugar

Research has shown that fatigue can be delayed if carbohydrates (glucose) are consumed during exercise. The carbohydrates should be easily digestible so they are absorbed quickly into the blood. Carry Gu packs or pick them up at an aid station and start ingesting them before you feel fatigued.

3. Hydrate

Water is vital for many chemical reactions that occur inside your cells, including the production of energy. When you sweat, you lose body water that slows metabolic rate. Your blood volume also decreases and becomes thicker if you don’t replace fluids. The result is a lower stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped by your heart per beat), cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by your heart per minute) and, ultimately, a decreased oxygen delivery to your muscles. Your running performance starts to decline with only a 2 to 3 percent loss of body mass due to fluid loss.

4. Draft

It’s much easier to tuck in behind someone and let him/her pull you along than it is to maintain the pace on your own, so let other people do the work for as long as possible, especially if it’s windy. The oxygen cost of running (and therefore the perception of effort) increases when you run into a headwind. Let someone break the wind for you. 

5. BodyGlide

When you run for long periods of time, you can get chafed in places you don’t want to get chafed, which can make the marathon miserable. Apply BodyGlide before the race to any place that will be rubbed up against, such as inner thighs, nipples, and below your armpits.     

6. Bathroom

Although the urge to go to the bathroom is often suppressed while running to conserve water, nervousness and anxiety often intensify that urge, so take care of business before the race.

7. Breakfast

Eat a light breakfast of carbs and protein. No fiber, no fat.

8. Nothing New

The day of the marathon is not the time to do anything different. Wear the same clothes and shoes you have been wearing in training. Don’t buy new shoes to wear in the race. Nothing—not even your underwear—should be new. 

9. Divide

It can be overwhelming to think of running 26.2 miles (or 42.2 kilometers!) all at once. So divide the marathon into smaller segments. Focus on each mile at a time. If you’re aiming for a specific time goal, focus on attaining that goal at each mile checkpoint. For example, if you want to break 4 hours, that’s 9:09 pace. So focus on running the first mile in 9:09, the second mile in 9:09, the third mile in 9:09, etc.    

10. Be and Act Positive and Confident

One of the distinguishing characteristics of successful people is their unrelenting ability to remain positive, even in the face of negative circumstances. You often cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to what happens to you. Remaining positive when details before or during your race don’t go as planned will go a long way to keeping you calm and helping you to run a great race. If you go into the race thinking you’re not going to do well, you likely won’t. Even if your training hasn’t gone as well as you wanted, you’re not feeling well, you just broke up with your boyfriend or girlfriend, or whatever the negative case may be, when you step to the starting line, remove all negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. You owe that to yourself. When you are at the starting line, none of those negative things matter. The only thing that matters is the run in front of you. So carry yourself with confidence.

For more tips and 20-week marathon training programs, check out the bestselling book, Running a Marathon For Dummies.

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