The Perfect Marathon Week: Race Day

Your complete race day guide - mind, body, food, drink, admin, and even recovery...


Posted: 23 April 2010

Mind

Before you leave
  • Get up three to four hours before the start, especially if you’re normally an evening or night runner.
  • Plan spare time into everything you have to do. That way you’ll leave ahead of schedule.
At the start
  • Remind yourself of your goal. If it’s a time target, focus on the importance of controlled pacing. If you just want to prove that you can finish a marathon, you can be more relaxed. Focus purely on enjoying the moment. Remind yourself how lucky you are to be in good enough health to take part in the world’s greatest race.
During the race
  • Focus – but focus on the moment, not on how many miles remain. Think about your form, breathing and pace. This will build confidence and help you to remain relaxed. It’s only natural for your mind to wander, but it’s good to have this touchstone to return to.
  • Hold back, even if your body wants to speed off. The marathon is an exercise in restraint, as many people find out to their cost in the second half of the race. If you’ve been following a very conservative race plan and you feel great after 15 miles, then you could consider increasing the pace by a few seconds per mile.

Body

Before you leave
  • Visit the loo whether you want to or not.
  • Put blister patches on any parts of your feet that have suffered in the past.
  • Put plasters over your nipples if they’re susceptible to chafing.
At the start
Unless you plan to run in under three hours, you don’t need to bother with much more than a walk as a warm-up. Save your energy – you’ll be forced to ease gently into your run anyway. If you must stretch (and we wouldn’t recommend stressing cold muscles), do so very gently. Stay warm. Take a bin liner and an old long-sleeved T-shirt and leggings that you can discard just before the gun goes off.

During the race
Everyone’s body reacts differently to the marathon, but here’s what yours might encounter:

  • Miles 1-3 Nothing feels right – your legs are stiff and your heart rate is high. Don’t worry – it can take six miles or more for everything to settle down. If your shoes feel uncomfortable, stop and refit them. A minute lost now could save you 15 miles of painful blistering later on.
  • Miles 10-13 You have a stitch. Try holding some deep breaths for a few seconds before exhaling. Alternatively, stop running, then bend forwards a few times to relieve it. If you forgot to smear petroleum jelly on your inner thighs, they may be chafing bright pink by now, and if you made the mistake of racing in new shoes, they’ll be blistering your insteps and blackening your toenails nicely.
  • Miles 15-20 Frankly, you’re tired. Your legs are heavy and achy and your shoulders are tense. Remind yourself that this is normal, and focus on your running form by lifting forwards and upwards with your hips. Dehydration may bring you to a halt with agonising cramp. If so, stop running and slowly stretch the offending muscle. Next, relax it and give it a gentle massage. Loosely wiggle the joints at the hips and ankles, then gently try to walk and break into a jog.
  • Miles 20-25 If you haven’t drunk enough and replaced some carbohydrate as you’ve gone along, you’ll definitely have hit the wall by now. You’ll feel as though you’re suddenly carrying someone else on your shoulders, and you may feel nauseous and disorientated. If you’ve been refuelling properly and didn’t set off too fast, you might be lucky and only be experiencing general fatigue and fleeting aches and pains. From your training you’ll know if a pain is signalling a serious injury. Stop immediately and seek first aid if you have a tight, oppressive chest pain, for instance. If you feel sudden knee pain, try stopping and straightening the knee as hard as possible.
  • Miles 25-26.2 You really won’t care how you feel! Even at a slow walk the finish is no more than 20 minutes away. But the mind is a powerful thing. You might be surprised that you can convince your Body into believing that you’re in the last mile of a 10K, for a final fast mile.

Food & Drink

Before you leave
  • Drink a pint of water as soon as you get up.
  • Eat a familiar breakfast that you know works for you. Avoid fat, as it is hard to digest. Porridge is excellent.
  • Leave plenty of time for digestion. Some marathon runners opt for a high-energy drink if they feel they won’t be able to digest a full meal.
At the start
  • Continue sipping water if you need to, but don’t go overboard.
During the race
  • Drink regularly, and from early on in the race. Water stations will provide mineral water in small bottles every mile. If you have to walk a few paces to drink properly, then do so. By being properly hydrated you’ll more than make up the time you lose. A fluid loss of more than two litres will start to seriously impair your performance, and you can sweat that much out in less than two hours.
  • Try to replace lost energy. Your Body can only hold about 18 miles-worth of readily accessible energy. After that, you’ll be running on empty – and that’s when you hit the wall. If you’ve practised with Lucozade Sport, pick it up at the special drinks stations, which are at 5km intervals. It’s quite strong, so make sure you drink water, too. If you don’t fancy it, taking along energy gels is a good idea – or jelly beans, or whatever works for you. Ideally, you should be replacing 150-300kcals of carbohydrates every hour after the first hour of running.

Admin

Before you leave
  • Check that you’re wearing your race number and, if relevant, you have your ChampionChip secured to your shoe. You won’t get a finish time without them.
  • Check that you’ve got your post-race bag, your start-pen clothes, your emergency phone money and your energy food for the race (see Saturday’s Admin).
  • Write your splits on the back of your hand if you haven’t already put them on your race number.
  • Leave to arrive At the start for 90 minutes before the gun goes off.
At the start
  • Make sure that you’re at the right start (it will match the colour of the digits on your number) and that you know where your start pen is.
  • Queue for the loos early.
  • Put your post-race bag on the baggage bus at least 25 minutes before start time. An announcement will remind you of this. Stay warm with your disposable layers.
  • Look out for the RW pacers if you’ll be joining us to hit your target. From about 9.15am they’ll be in the start pens which match their predicted times, and they’ll all be holding up huge fluorescent boards to identify themselves.
During the race
  • Erm… high-five the kids, smile at the little old ladies along the route, be nice to the drinks station helpers. And that’s it!

After the race

Straight away
  • Try to keep moving.
  • Get to the baggage buses as soon as possible to put on fresh clothes.
  • Drink as much water as you can.
  • Eat some easily digestible carbohydrate, or have an energy drink if you can’t face solids. Your Body will kick-start its recovery if you can start refuelling in the first 30-60 minutes. And don’t skimp – your reserves are all but empty.
The first three hours
  • If you must stretch, do it very lightly – your muscles will be saturated with tiny tears, and are extra-susceptible to additional damage.
  • If you can bear it, sit in a cold bath for 10-15 minutes. It will reduce the inflammation and you won’t be nearly so sore tomorrow. Try sitting in the bath as you run the tap, for less of a shock to the system.
  • Eat more! And consider taking in some protein along with the carbos. Research shows that optimal recovery food is 70-75 per cent carbohydrate and 25-30 per cent protein. Use a specialist recovery drink such as Science in Sport’s Rego, or munch on a tuna sandwich. Eating little and often maintains higher blood glucose and insulin concentrations, which lets your muscles absorb more energy.
The rest of Sunday
  • Put your feet up – literally! Elevating your legs for at least an hour will help the Body to start flushing the damage from the tissues.
  • Wallow in your achievement! It will take the rest of the week for it to sink in properly, but you’re the bee’s knees – and you know it!
  • Take it easy with the beer, and drink a big glass of water for every pint you have. Your Body’s trying to rebuild itself in the 24 hours after the race, and alcohol isn’t its best friend.
  • Don’t listen to any more instructions.

Previous article
The Magic Mile
Next article
Ultimate Marathon: What if... (Race Day)

marathon raceday
TwitterStumbleUponFacebookDiggRedditGoogle

Discuss this article

Post race - DO NOT drink as much water as you can as this is very dangerous. Rehydrate slowly.


Posted: 12/04/2014 at 17:04

Some of us go straight to the pub for a beer. Well a few.


Posted: 12/04/2014 at 17:09

If you try to get a beer in London today rehydrating slowly is the best you'll get. Massive queues at the bar !
Posted: 13/04/2014 at 20:14

Longest wait I've ever had in the Red Lion today. Had to find another pub up the road.
Posted: 13/04/2014 at 20:29

We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.