Firstly, congratulations on taking the leap of faith in signing up for a marathon. By completing the marathon you'll join the exclusive club of 0.5% of the US population. Wait, maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves here. We haven't even lined up on the start line and conquered the 26.2 miles yet.
So how can you ensure a great day and make a wonderful memory. Let's take a look at five tips that can make your day a lot easier and make for a better race.
Sure this sounds pretty obvious, but how much thought have you really put into nutrition? Your nutrition strategy should have already started this week. Runners should be thinking about filling their glycogen stores throughout the week and reducing fiber headed into the race. Why are we reducing fiber? Well...unless your race plan includes hitting the portable toilets on course, try to reduce fiber in your system.
"I'm super excited to carbo load the night before the race." That sounds like a sensible idea, but let's push it back a day. It's best to load up on carbohydrates and top off your glycogen stores two days out from the race. If you're loading too much the night before, you'll be marking your miles by number of toilet stops. In addition to properly loading up prior to the race, ensure that you're getting enough hydration and electrolytes prior to the race. Don't get to the starting line behind on hydration.
So you've conquered the nutrition before the race, what are your plans during the race? You should have a nutrition strategy that has been tried and tested in your training. This nutrition plan can vary from athlete to athlete. Some runners like to take their gels at specific time intervals, other runners prefer to take their gels at certain mile markers. Either way, know your strategy and implement it. Make sure that in addition to taking on gels, stroop waffles, or whatever you prefer, be sure not to skimp on water to wash those items down. Chances are the race will heat up as the day progresses, so keeping on top of hydration will be crucially important.
2. Nothing New
"Sweet, I just scored this new pair of shoes at the expo. I can't wait to wear them on race day." Nope! Don't do it! As tempting as it may be to pick up some new items leading into the race, leave them at home for another race. The equipment that you've used during training is what your body is familiar with and you have tested it over plenty of miles. While new items are tempting to implement on your big race day, the idea is extremely flawed. New items may have a break-in period, they may fit differently then your training shoes, and they may not conform to your style of running. Whether it's shoes, shirts, socks, nutrition, etc... don't try new things on race day.
3. Have a plan
A plan is important because it provides the blueprint and all you have to do is execute it. Without a plan, you'll spend the day doing mental calculations instead of enjoying the race. I always like to think that there should be two times in any race. First time is the best day with the wind at your back. The second time is still a goal time, but it accounts for a few hiccups in the process. Make your first and second times realistic. If you have never run at an 8:30/mile pace in any of your training, that's probably not the most realistic goal for your marathon. Most runners will walk at some point in the marathon and that's okay. The majority of runners will not finish the race without walking at some point, so please don't fret if you're faced with a walking situation in a race. The important thing about these walk breaks is how do you go back to running once you've walked? It's important to know your walking strategy before you've taken a single step in the race. A very common strategy involves walking through the aid stations (available every mile) and continuing the run after the aid station has ended. There are some variations of this strategy in which you add feet, time, etc... after the aid station. Regardless, make your plan with yourself and hold yourself accountable for it.
Know what you're going to do when the wall hits at mile 20. I don't have much advice for you here, except for that you should understand what you plan to do at this point in the race. If you're mentally prepared for this moment, you'll handle it a lot better than if you don't think it will ever happen.
4. You're done training
This is crucially important, so please listen carefully. There is no session or key workout you're going to do between today and Sunday that's going to change your race. The work for this race is done. Don't put yourself in a situation where you risk injury prior to the race trying to squeeze in some session that will boost your ego. Trust your training and know that you've put in the work to be at this race and complete it.
5. Enjoy the experience
Whatever happens leading up to the race and during the race, don't miss the experience. The LA marathon is an incredible experience and offers the opportunity to see the city in an incredibly unique way. Every marathon offers the opportunity to make memories every minute, so let those memories happen. Don't get caught up and emotionally invested in something not going right. When I ran the marathon in 2016, I lost all of my gels at mile two. I didn't lose my mind over it, I just accepted that it happened and improvised my plan. All plans are subject to revision, so don't be afraid to rewrite your plan if adversity hits.
The start of the LA marathon is an emotional experience. The start of the race at Dodger's stadium is an incredible sight. The start of the race is pretty crazy and you probably won't hit your goal mile time for mile one, but that's not a big deal. Don't waste energy running and dodging in the stadium parking lot. Enjoy the camaraderie of being surrounded by other runners and the idea of the experience you're about the endure.
When you cross that finish line, cherish it. Display that medal, wear it with pride. Take advantage of everything offered to runners on that day. While there are 30,000 runners that day, don't lose sight of the fact that your marathon experience is unique to you.
Come by Booth 506 to learn about Camp New Heights and talk shop about the LA marathon.