So you’ve done the hard work, now it’s time to enjoy! Race Day is about remembering all the training you have done, ensuring you have done the preparation to give you a smooth start to the day and getting your head in the game.
Here are some of my top tips to get you through the day, huge thanks to my parents for passing on some of their knowledge from the 20+ marathons they have done between them and of course running pals too!
Training: There’s not much more you can do to your performance but there is a lot you can do to mess it up. Follow the taper advice and cut down your miles in the final couple of weeks so your legs are fresh for race day morning
Carb-load at lunch the day before: You’ve heard of pasta parties the night before but enjoy your carbs at lunch and even a couple of days before. On the evening before you want something light rather than a heavy meal to weigh you don. Hydrate well the day before too
Get those legs up: Rest up the day before, if you are in a new city, you don’t want to be doing much walking/exploring. Pop those feet up on the sofa whilst preparing your playlist and visualising a good race the next day
Foot care: One from the mother - make sure you give yourself a mini pedicure at least three days before. Your feet will expand as the race goes on and you don’t want any rough bits/nasty nails to give you a blister
Prepare your kit: The afternoon or night before, lay it all out. You’ll have done your ‘rehearsal run’ so you’ll know what you need, make sure everything is charged (watch, headphones, phone)
Finalise your playlist: Asking some of your closest friends to share a song for you is a great way to empower you throughout the race, keep you smiling when you reminisce of them or songs to remind you of a brilliant time (A couple of mine are from the Coyote Ugly soundtrack - you know who you are!)
Plan your route to the start: There’s nothing worse than a feeling of panic that you might miss the start or not have enough time to drop your bag. I had an experience in Amsterdam where I’d planned to walk but then my leg had been playing up the night before so thought, I’ll get a taxi to save it… all the roads were closed anywhere near to the start and it was not the start I’d hoped for to say the least!
Visualise a good race: The power of visualisation is something I’ve only just been getting into and will be trying it on my next race. If you visualise yourself doing something with a smile on your face, with enjoyment and ultimately success it is more likely to happen
The W*ll: You will not hit the wall if have fuelled your body properly and don’t set off too fast. So you can erase this phrase from your vocabulary and for the race. Carbo load in the days before and start slow - see below
Vaseline: Slather this all of your feet, heels, toes and sides. This will help prevent blisters. Also slap it on anywhere else where you may need for example around the sports bra area for me
Breakfast: Stick to what you’ve been doing on your training runs. Don’t try anything new
Plan your support crew spots: Tell them where you would like them to be, agree the spots and let them know which side you’ll be running on. Don’t be disheartened if they aren’t there - know they are thinking of you. Remember it will be much easier for you to spot them so ask them to wear a hat/flag to help you out
Ready Steady Go (Slow)
Start slow: Don’t waste your energy trying to overtake or get round people at the start, they’ll be plenty of time for that later. It can be very easy to get swept up in all the excitement or people going at a faster pace than you but stick to your plan
Plan A: Focus on what your goal is (finishing with a smile / nailing a PB / running without walking) whatever it is, know that is your plan A however have your Plan B to hand. You don’t know what could happen on race day, you could get an injury, have to help another runner in need or bad weather. Know what your Plan B is and support yourself if you have to make a swap from A to B
Pacing strategy: You should have already worked it out, stick to it (unless you get to mile 20 and can give it some). I’d highly recommend using this tool to work out your race pace
Water stations: Don’t get caught up in the traffic jams at the start at the first sight of a water station. Head to the back, the stations always go on further than you think and are less busy
Fuelling: You’ll have practised taking on fuel in your training runs. Don’t deviate and try something new on the day. My preferences are GU and Sports Beans, I’ll have a couple of sports beans on the start line then take my first GU 1 hour in, followed by every 45 mins after and sports beans as a top up if necessary. Drink little and often at the water stations going round, especially if a hot day
It’s all in the mind
“Don't even think of it as a race until you get to mile 20”: I actually heard this a couple of years ago with mile 12. However mile 20 can be powerful if it is your first race so you don’t go off to fast and can finish strong with a smile on your face
Overtake rather than be overtaken: When I was younger running 5 and 10Ks my dad would always tell me to start near the back and then overtake. As it can be very disheartening if you have people constantly overtaking you - but this won’t happen if you start slow!
Break it up: Break your race into chunks e.g. 5,5,5,5,3 and 3 or 10,10 and 6. Congratulate yourself at each mark
Count down: Count the miles down another little trick to play with your mind! Also check in with yourself and your form at each mile. Are you relaxed? Are you in pain anywhere? Are you smiling? That one will help
Play games: Test some of these out on your runs, what can distract you or keep you focused? Dedicating a mile to inspirational people you know and replaying fun stories or quotes from them in your head. There are 26 letters in the alphabet and 26 miles to go, each mile could be dedicated to letter. Places or people that you know and love. If you are in London especially, enjoy the sights and the outfits
When the going gets tough Let’s face it, you are running 26.2 miles, there will probably be a time you have to dig deep, real deep. Here are a couple of strategies to keep you going:
One foot in front of the other: It sounds simple, but just keep going, one foot in front of the other, that is all you need to do
Eject that bad run video tape: Imagine your runs have all been video taped, eject the race that you are running in and put in a run you loved, where you felt really good and strong
Shed your snakeskin: Imagine you are a snake, shed your skin. Get rid of that slow, tough skin and imagine you have reformed a new fresh skin to re-energise and re-invigorate yourself
Repeat your mantra: Remind yourself of why you signed up to the race and just repeating your mantra will help you focus
Cherish that moment, that will be months of hard work, mental strength and huge congratulations you’ll be a marathon finisher!
Remember to stretch, get a free sports massage and then enjoy the celebrations.
Good Luck. Let us know how you get on and of course if you have any tips to share please do. (8 weeks until Mont-Saint-Michel!)