26.2 tips to help you prepare for your next marathon

Don’t forget the Sudocream.

HOW’S THAT TRAINING coming along?

Those of you gearing up for next month’s Dublin marathon are currently well on the road in your preparations.

The Berlin race is at the end of the month while October also has Budapest and Amsterdam. And the big one in New York in November always attracts plenty of Irish runners.

So here’s our 26.2 tips for running a successful marathon.

  1. Tapering As the Race Day gets close you need to start thinking about tapering.  This is when you reduce the volume and intensity of your training to be rested and ready for the Marathon.
  2. Goal Setting  Knowing what you want to do before Race Day will make it easier to achieve.  Your goal should be relative to how you’ve trained.
  3. Race Route Familiarise yourself with the route if you have time.  This can be done by driving it or just simply checking the map and elevation profile.  If you live locally then it can help to train on sections of the race route.
  4. Race Ready Prepare everything well in advance.
  5. Tried and Tested Race day is not the day to try out the new running shoes that you bought at the expo even if they are the same as you always use.  Stick with what you know and that also includes your race day breakfast and fuelling plan.
  6. GPS If using a GPS or similar do make sure the battery is fully charged before race day.
  7. Confidence Expect to feel nervous but take confidence from all the weeks and months of training that have helped get you to the start line.
  8. Support 26.2 miles is a long way but you can make it seem shorter by arranging to have friends and family out on the route.  Tell them where you expect to be based on your predicted pacing and it’s worth deciding on whether they should stand on left or right hand side to ensure you don’t miss each other especially if you plan on being supplied with food or drinks.
  9. Expo. The Race Expo can be an exciting place but it’s best to get your business sorted as quickly as possible and don’t be tempted to do ‘too many’ laps of the Expo arena.  Must remind myself of this tip.
  10. Sleep The most important night’s sleep is the night before the night before the race so don’t worry about not sleeping too well on the night before the race as this is normal because of pre race nerves.
  11. Night before Prepare everything for race day in advance and double check everything.  Knowing you have everything sorted will make sleeping easier.  Don’t forget to set your alarm clock and maybe even a second one.
  12. Race Day Plan your morning the day before and know your routine.  I sometimes prepare a checklist to avoid missing anything important and would always pin my number to my race T-shirt in advance.
  13. Breakfast Stick with something tried and tested before training runs and don’t consume more than usual.  Do make sure to allow adequate time for digestion and if anything you could even eat a smaller breakfast.  Try to make this your most relaxing breakfast of the week.
  14. Travel Allow sufficient time to arrive at the race start and allow time for parking and unexpected delays. Maybe check the race website for planned diversions due to the race taking place.
  15. Satellites If using a GPS try locking onto the satellites before assembling around the starting area especially for city marathons amongst tall buildings which can delay getting a signal.  I usually leave my GPS on the car dashboard when driving to the race to pick up the signal and then switch it off until the race starts as it can be easier to reconnect with the GPS satellites once the initial fix has been established.
  16. Warm up It’s worth doing even a short warm up as this is how you’ll know if your shoe laces are too tight or your shorts are on backwards.  No need to do too much as the early miles can be used to warm up proper but a few easy strides pre race can also help settle the nerves.
  17. Race Start Arrive in good time to avoid any last-minute panic and sufficient time to allow for a warm-up and finding your friends or pacing group
  18. Don’t Panic When the race starts don’t get caught up in rush and don’t worry if you happen to be a few seconds off your target when you reach the first mile marker as it’s easier to claim back a few seconds than it is to pay back the oxygen debt from going off too fast.  Start off too fast and you could easily be on borrowed time.
  19. Limits Know your limits and don’t be tempted to try run faster than you’ve trained for.  Having tapered and rested will leave you feeling fitter and stronger than you have felt during some of your training runs but this is when you need to exercise control and discipline.
  20. Pacing It’s not the distance that will get you but instead it’s the pace.  Run at the pace you’ve trained for.
  21. Pacers Run with one of the dedicated pacing groups if there’s one matching your goal time but don’t be tempted to run with a faster group if your time slot isn’t covered.  In this case you could step down and then when you feel comfortable consider increasing your pace.
  22. Negative splits An even pace is best but if you decide to run outside of a pacing group or they don’t match your goal time then you can consider running a negative split.  This means running the second half of the marathon faster than the first half and can be more beneficial than running the first half too fast (positive splits).  Positive splits are usually a result of slowing through fatigue rather than planned.
  23. Water stations Know the position of the water stations and use as required but be careful when passing through as this can be a dangerous part of the course with runners cutting across and discarding bottles.  Some aid stations also supply energy drinks and gels but today isn’t the day to try them for the first time (see Tip 5).  If you think you might use them then find out in advance the supplied brand and try them in training.
  24. Hills If running with a pacing group then you can expect an even pace throughout which might make the hills feel quite tough.
  25. The wall Don’t assume you’ll hit the wall but don’t be surprised and shocked if you do.  Your training should have pushed the wall far enough away that should make it avoidable if you stick with the pace for which you’ve you’ve trained.
  26. Post race  Plan your recovery before you start and with that in mind I’d pack a recovery drink in my kit bag.  Arrange a meet-up point for family and friends bearing in mind that the finish area will be quite crowded.
  27. Enjoy the race day experience as it’ll soon be just a memory.

em>John O’Regan is a renowned adventure runner and the Life Style Sports Run in the Dark’s expert coach. Follow him on Twitter: @johnoregan777. He is available an online Q&A every Monday – starting September 22 – from 8-9pm on the event’s Facebook Page to answer training related questions.

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