Hey guys it’s that time of year again for over analyzing our training, second guessing our coaches, testing our race gear in practice (you know you do it), energy bar wrappers all over our car, and the feeling of “will the race just get here already?!” 26.2 miles is not just a marathon. It’s a journey of self discovery in which you set out to find out what you’re made of. The distance tests the limits of the human mind and body. Runners? We’re the crazy bunch of people who gladly take this test and a few times a year find ourselves on the starting line. It takes guts, mental stamina, and little bit of crazy to race a marathon but there’s no greater feeling of accomplishment than crossing the finish line… well maybe a few but you get where I’m coming from.
I’ve raced 5 marathons in my career with my first being at Twin Cities in 2008 and my last Boston 2013. I often think my greatest memory should be my PR at Houston in 2011 where I ran 2:29:35. The funny thing about that race is I felt so effortless it was almost too good to be true. Don’t get me wrong the last 10k hurt like hell but the stars aligned for me that day. In contrast the 2012 Honolulu marathon I had to fight demons in my head to keep going and not let the horrendous headwind and running solo for 15 miles overtake me. I went into that race wanting to win as an American hasn’t won since the 1980s. I let the lead pack go as I wanted to respect the course and the heat that morning. I ran the effort I felt was right the first 10-12 miles while feeling sluggish and off. As I made a horseshoe turn at mile 16 and the wind came to my back, the race was on. I suddenly came alive and felt I couldn’t run fast enough. I had been averaging 6:10s-6:00 on the way out and now 5:40s were flying out of my legs. The elites get to run by the masses from miles 17-21 so I had cheers for GO USA and had my tractor beams on. In the last 10k I moved my way from a distant 7th place to 3rd place with 2nd a mere 25 seconds ahead in the last mile. I climbed Diamond Head at mile 25 with the strength of a buffalo and bombed down it hoping I could catch the lead. I didn’t win that day but I proved to myself never count yourself out until the last mile has been run. I finished 3rd place in 2:32:47.
Here are my marathon tips that I’ve learned along the way:
Pick a training program and stick to it: This is one of the hardest for runners to do because there are so many options out there with coaches and training programs it’s easy to pick and choose from a few or start with one and switch up halfway through. Be confident in your choice and consistent.
Wear what you’re gonna wear: You’ve made it through training and now the race is 2 days away and you want a brand new spanking outfit- socks, shorts, sports bra you name it. Problem is you haven’t worn this on a longer run or workout and don’t know if they’ll shift around, give you blister, or chafing. Pick that outfit in advance and test it out in training.
Avoid new exciting Thai food the night before: A big part of marathon weekend for runners is the social aspect and dining out with friends and family. However I caution you to avoid places and foods you don’t eat on a regular basis and stick with what you know. Your stomach will thank you the next day. These are the common reasons for porta-potty stops mid race.
The taper will make you crazy and that’s normal: Tapering is the necessary yet dreaded component at the end of marathon training. It’s time for your muscles to recharge, your tank to fill up, and your mind to rest. It’s ok if this week or 10 days you go a little mad. Try not to over think every little twinge, second guess your training, and run too hard with the extra energy.
Make a plan A, B, C: I call these your race plan, and back up race plans. Plan A is based off your training went fantastic, weather and conditions are perfect and you’re ready for dream goal. Plan B is if race morning the weather is overly hot, muggy, windy to the point where it’s going to affect your effort. Taking these factors into account can help you come up with a different strategy like going out slower, taking more fluids, etc. Finally the dreaded Plan C- you get out there and it is just not your day. You feel off and sluggish and need the race to be over at mile 5. Give yourself a chance, back off the pace and keeping running as you know if your body will snap out of it. I’ve had some of my best races when I’ve felt terrible the first half.
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