I want you to start thinking about race day! Today!
Start developing your race-day routine, now!
You are thinking: “What? The race is still many weeks away. Why should I start thinking about a race-day routine now?”
Let me stress that it is never too soon to start practicing what you will do before and during the race!
Many first-time marathoners spend so much time training their bodies to go the distance that their bodies are ready to run the race, but they do not have a race-day plan. They have not thought through what to do the night before, what to have for breakfast, how frequently they will stop at the water stops, whether or not they will run with their own water bottle or use the water provided along the course, or how to deal with the many issues that can arise during the race. Get the point?
Now is the time to start thinking about these things and actually start practicing them. It is time to think of every Long Run you do as a practice of marathon day!
Do not wait until the week before to come up with some plan that you have never actually practiced!
It is important that race day be as close, in every way, to every other long training run as possible. You will have enough pre-race jitters to deal with, so you do not want to have to adjust to situations you have never practiced for on top of that!
Trust me on this! Your race will go much smoother if you’ve got a race-day routine.
Let me give you some suggestions of things to practice and to start thinking about:
What time of day do you do your long training runs? I realize it is hard for many of you to do your training runs in the mornings, but let me specifically stress the importance of doing your Long Runs in the mornings and doing them on the same day as your planned marathon.
Almost every marathon is held early on a Saturday or Sunday morning. If you are practicing your Long Runs on a different day of the week or different time than your planned race, you are not practicing for your race. When race day comes, it will not be your normal routine to get up early for a long run on that morning. You will have to do things you have not practiced.
Here is another scenario: what do you do if you wake up on the morning of your long training runs and it is raining? Do you just roll over and go back to sleep? Do you get up and cross-train instead? If the answer to either of these is “yes”, is that what you are going to do on race morning? NO, of course not!
If it is raining on race day, you will go run in the rain, but it will be a condition you have not trained for so you have no idea how you will perform. I wrote in a previous chapter about the importance of training in all conditions. Here is where it really applies. Get up, go out, and practice running in the rain!
Practice what you will eat and drink before and during the race. What to eat and drink is probably the most important race-day routine to develop!
If you are going to run a marathon on a Saturday morning, experiment with different foods for dinner on Friday nights so you can see how they make you feel the next morning during your Long Run.
I know many races sponsor a big pasta dinner the night before the race and many runners and coaches have talked about the importance of “carb-loading” the night before. That does not work well for me. I usually carb-load on Wednesday night and then have a light, bland meal of chicken and potatoes on Friday night. Experiment with different diets the night before your Long Runs to see what works best for you.
When you find a meal that sits really well with you and gives you the necessary fuel to get you through your Long Runs, stick with it. Most importantly, do not change anything about that diet the night before your race!
Now, what about in the morning? Start experimenting with whether or not to eat breakfast, have coffee or juice, etc. before your Long Runs. It is better to learn early in your training if something is going to make you vomit or give you diarrhea 15 miles later! I have learned this for myself the hard way! Find what works for you now, rather than doing something new on race morning only to find out you made a bad choice.
How about during the run? What are you going to drink? Water, Gatorade, Powerade, or some other drink? If you are going to run with a hydration belt, experiment with different fluids. If you are planning to race without a hydration belt because of the weight, decide now whether you are going to drink the provided water or sports drink—almost all marathons provide both on the course. Find out well ahead of time what your race will offer and start training with that. If they are going to serve Powerade along the course, it doesn’t do you any good to train with Gatorade!
Many runners use other fuel sources like energy gels or power bars. Try different ones. Many races will hand out these gels, energy bars, and fruits, like bananas and oranges, along the course. Take my advice, if you have not trained with any of these, do not take them during the race, no matter how tempting they look! If you have no idea how your stomach will react to a banana 20 miles into a race, you do not want to learn that on race day! The time to learn is now. Take some of these with you on your Long Runs to see how they work for you.
Band-Aids and BodyGlide
Now is also the best time to practice protecting your body!
Band-Aids and BodyGlide are my best friends on a long run!
I have one toe, my “pinky” toe on my left foot, that tends to blister on Long Runs. I have tried many things to prevent it, but I have learned a simple Band-Aid on that toe does the trick!
However, the most import place I use Band-Aids may come as a surprise! Most ladies I have talked to do not have this problem because of their snug-fitting sports bras, but almost all men I have talked to have a problem with nipple chaffing!
I have not had it this bad before, but a friend of mine crossed the finish line of a marathon with two big, bright red blood stains on his shirt. His nipples had chaffed so badly they were bleeding. That’s painful! One Band-Aid on each nipple makes for a much more enjoyable run for me! Try it, men!
Still talking about chaffing, I very often experience chaffing between my inner thighs and butt crack! I have tried lots of remedies, but a bar of BodyGlide solves the problem for me. I usually carry a small bar in my running belt just in case I need to reapply mid-run.
So I have given you a bunch of stuff to start thinking about and practicing. I really want you to develop a mind-set where you think of every long training run as a practice race. Not practicing the speed of the race, of course, but practicing the mechanics and the routines you will go through in preparation for and during the race. You may find it helpful to keep a check-list of the things you’ve tried so you can remember to do those things every time.
If you develop your race-day routine now, it will pay big dividends for you on race day!