Practicing for Marathon Race Day
If you are training for a fall marathon, by now your long runs are approaching 20 miles. It is time to start practicing for your marathon. You should use your remaining long runs (or at least the last two) as ‘rehearsals’ for the race:
- Meals and Pre-run Fueling – dinner the night before your long run and morning pre-run food should be exactly what you plan to eat before your marathon race to make sure it will not upset your stomach and/or cause unplanned bathroom visits. You also want to make sure your meal the night before fuels your muscles sufficiently for the long run effort. It is best to keep a good balance of nutrients the night before – try to stick with these approximate numbers: 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. Your morning pre-run food should be consumed at least 2 hours before the run and should consist of a simple carbohydrate, low fiber, low protein snack – such as a bagel with a small amount of peanut butter. You’ll need to experiment a bit with the pre-run snack to see what works best for you and your digestive system.
- Hydration – similarly, your fluid intake the day before and the morning of your long run should mimic your marathon pre-race hydration. Stay well hydrated the day before the long run. Approximately two hours before your long run, drink between 17 and 20 ounces of water. About ten minutes before you head out for the long run, drink another 10 to 12 ounces.
- Fueling and Hydration during the run – here again you will want to mimic the quantities and frequencies of fueling and hydration that you will use on race day. You will want to pay attention to the location and frequency of the water/fuel stops in your goal race and the specific type/brand of fluid and nutrition (water, sports drinks, gels, etc.) that will be provided during your race. This information should be on the race website and/or on the course map. It will be a good idea for you to practice with the specific types and brands of nutrition (sports drinks, gels, etc.) prior to the race to make sure they agree with your stomach. As a general guideline, during your long runs, you should consume 7 to 10 ounces of a sports (glycogen + electrolyte) drink every 10 to 20 minutes.
- Attire – your long runs should now be done wearing the exact outfit you plan to wear during the race – the same shorts/tights, shirt/jog bra, socks, and shoes. You should also practice any anti-chafing strategy using Bodyglide or a similar product to protect areas that commonly chafe (inner thighs, inside of upper arms, contact with clothing seams, etc.). You will likely want to use a fairly new pair of shoes for the marathon. A common strategy is to wear a new pair of shoes for one or two of your shorter mid-week runs, then use them for one or two of your longest runs (20 miles or more) and then wear them for the marathon race. This will give you shoes that are broken in but with plenty of cushioning and life left in them.
- Terrain and Conditions – In order to simulate race conditions as much as possible, make sure your long training run routes mimic the marathon course in every way possible. Training with elevation profile, terrain, running surface, climate and time of day that mimic your marathon race will make the race day experience feel more comfortable. In addition, all of these elements train your body for the specific biomechanical demands of your goal race. If possible, run part or all of your long run on the actual race course (traffic permitting of course).
- Pacing – if you are going for a specific goal time in the marathon, you will want to practice your marathon race pace for parts of your longer runs. One way to do this is to run the last 4-5 miles of your long run at marathon goal pace. You may also want to practice even or ‘negative’ splits (running the second half of the long run faster than the first half) – this type of pacing will help you to maximize your performance and not burn your glycogen reserves too early in the run. Note that if this is your first marathon, you should not have a goal time and instead should just focus on finishing.
Remember, practicing all of these elements of your race during your long run will help you to find the best strategies for your marathon and will help reduce your race-day anxiety by helping you feel more prepared and comfortable. This will help you maximize your performance for a great Fall marathon!
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Laurie has used her methods to help her clients achieve injury-free race completions (including numerous age group and overall medals) as well as first marathon completions and time goal achievement at all distances (including Boston Marathon-Qualifying efforts).
Laurie owns L2 Performance Training and also trains clients at Edward-Elmhurst Health and Fitness in Woodridge, IL as well as at Charter Fitness (Willowbrook, IL) and LA Fitness (Bolingbrook, IL and Naperville, IL).She also writes regularly for the Naperville Marathon Blog and the Edward-Elmhurst Healthy Driven Life Blog.
For more information visit www.L2PerformanceTraining.com
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