We always say that getting to the starting line of any marathon is harder than getting to the finish line. And for any Mainer in training this winter, that was definitely true.
If you made it this far, and are heading to the start of the Boston Marathon this weekend, or any other spring race, training was an endurance event like no other. In addition to the usual laundry list of compromise and logistical gymnastics involved in long-distance training you dared to go out in conditions most people wouldn’t drive in, or logged monster mileage on the treadmill as we weathered back-to-back-to-back blizzards.
So as you make your preparations for your big event, be sure to take time to savor and celebrate what you’ve already accomplished. Many people put years of hard work into preparing for an event and never make it this far. Whatever the finish-line clock says, just by earning the opportunity to pin on that race bib—with courage, discipline, patience, and hope—you will have achieved what many runners spend their whole lives dreaming about.
You worked so hard to make it this far. Don’t blow it now! Follow-these tips to make the most of your training on race day.
Review your notes. In these final nights before the race, review your training log, and take some time to reflect on the recent months. Add up all the miles you logged while preparing to get to the starting line (most of the training plans you did have more than 500 miles). Take note of all the workouts you powered through when you would have rather have slept in. Take time to revel and take proud in all that you accomplished to earn your race bib.
Review your fueling tactics. A solid refueling plan is the first of two bullet-proof strategies for avoiding the proverbial wall in the last third of the race, and assuring a strong finish.You must have a strategy for how you’re going to refuel at regular intervals throughout the race. Don’t wait until you’re hungry or tired; by that point it will be too late to recover your energy, or your optimism. If you hit the wall because you ran out of fuel, or got so excited and distracted by the raceday chaos that you forgot to refuel, and have to slow down, it is as hard on the ego as it is on the legs. So avoid the wall. Think about what worked for you on your long runs— write down what and when you need to eat to finish feeling strong. Review it. Write it on your hand. And commit yourself to executing it on race day. Chances are, if you successfully achieve this goal - and refuel at regular intervals throughout the race, the pace and finish time you’re hoping for will naturally unfold.
Start slow. Start slow. Start slow. Adrenalin swells at the starting line. In the first five miles of the race— especially if they’re downhill as they are in Boston—everyone will take off like they just got let out of prison, or like it’s the 100-yard dash. Just let them go. Trust us. the people who whiz by you in the first five miles will likely be walking and clutching cramped-up hamstrings by mile 22. Trust the process. All the energy you save in the first six miles of the race will be energy you will be able to unleash in the final 6 miles of the race, when you need it most. If you don’t feel like you’re going too slow, then you’re running too fast. Visualize yourself starting slow, then gradually accelerating and gaining speed with every step toward the finish line. You worked so hard to get to the starting line, you want to dash across that finish line with your fists pumping like you just won a gold medal in your own personal Olympics, like you’re at the Superbowl and you’re the quarterback making the touchdown that wins the game. In order to have that kind of celebration, you must have the patience and the courage to start slow.
Do not bank time. Its’ easy to fly downhill in the early miles. Adrenalin swells. Everyone else is doing it. Your muscles are loaded with carbs. Your blood is awash in caffeine. Lots of people make this mistake figuring that they can “bank time.” This never works. They always run out of energy before they finish. Think instead about banking effort. The effort you save in the first few miles is energy you will have to spare in the final miles.
Do a shoe check. Double-tie your shoe laces. It can’t hurt.
If you gotta go, go. If you see a port-a-potty and the question occurs to you - “should I go?” the answer is yes.
Run your own race. Don’t chase another runner; you don’t know if he’s having the best day of his life, or if he’s three steps from a major bonk.
Do a body scan. When you start to feel tired, do a body scan. Unclench your jaw, your fists, unknit your brow, take your shoulders away from your ears. Breathe. The same pace will start to feel much easier.
Talk back to negative voices. Have a strategy for how you’re going to contend with the negative voices that will inevitably pop into your head at some point during the race. How are you going to shout down the murmurs of “I can’t” and the “I don’t want to?” or “I’m tired.” Pick a mantra that means something to you. And say it, out loud, when you need it. Have some vision or some mantra that you can say that will distract you from the negative voices. You might visualize a strong finish, or the people you love cheering you on.
Pick one time-keeping device. During the race, it can get very unnerving to hear everyone’s GPS watches tracking mileage and splits throughout the race, and trying to make sense of that information with the sideline clocks at various splits. Pick one-time keeping device to use during the race, and ignore everything else. It’s a good idea to use the sideline clocks; you don’t have to worry that they’ll lose their signals from a satellite, or run out of batteries. This will really reduce your stress on the race course.
Take time to celebrate. Take time to celebrate your marathon with the people you love. Finish feeling strong. Finishing any marathon is one of those highlight reel moments of life. You had the courage to test the limits of your body and mind. And that takes more guts and more grit than most people have. Take pride in all you accomplished. And don’t be shy about wearing that finisher’s medal around for awhile. We all understand.