You’ve trained for months for your first marathon. Now it’s days away—how do you prepare yourself, physically and emotionally, for the big day? Here are some tips from people who run marathons regularly, and their coaches who have seen how something so simple, like a new pair of running shoes, can throw off your performance (don’t let it happen to you!)
Stick to familiar things and routines
Don’t take any risks, whether it’s new shoes, a new fancy athlete’s drink, new clothes, new routines. Use only what you’ve tested before, and proven comfortable and productive.
It’s the most important meal of the day, especially on marathon day. After 10 hours of sleep your stomach is empty and your liver glycogen stores are low. You need to load up on high-energy carbs like a bagel or a banana.
Dress for success
Yes there’s a morning nip, but in the middle of the day the sun will rise (and so will your body temperature). Heavy clothes will weigh you down and trap sweat, which will make you more prone to developing dehydration.
Choose seamless clothes
Chafing is a real problem for marathon runners, so to prevent skin irritation wear clothes that don’t have any seams that will rub against armpits, nipples and inner thighs. Also examine socks and shoes for any bumps that will cut into the skin. Again the only way of knowing this is to use these clothes on your practice runs—so you know how it feels when the sweat starts rolling.
Slather on the sunscreen
After four or five hours you’ll be running in the deadly heat of the noon sun. Some marathons even start at noon! Sun exposure can increase your risk for skin cancer, and more immediately, is heck of painful to endure. (Sunburn and chafing? It’s a nightmare.) Apply high SPF sunblock on your head and shoulders, and the thinnest part of your face, the lips.
Pin race number to shorts
That lets you take off your shirt when it’s hot, wrap it around your waist, or even change a shirt.
Some runners drink coffee, others take caffeine tablets about an hour before the race.
Actually superhydrate the days before and continue to sip throughout the marathon.
Warm up a little
Don’t exhaust yourself, but loosen up muscles to prevent injuries.
Take a slow and steady start
This optimizes energy, even if it hurts to hold yourself back in the first few miles. But you conserve energy so you can finish the race which is most important.