Running a marathon requires commitment, both physically and mentally. Planning is vital, but those plans sometimes go awry. By sticking to a few fundamental points, most marathon runners will be able to conquer the creeping doubt that makes that restless night before the race even more anxious.
A runner’s goals likely dictate the volume and intensity of your training, but for runners hoping to qualify for Boston or reach a time goal, it’s crucial to log training runs beyond 20 miles. A single run of that distance might be okay to get first-timers through, but veteran marathoners need to test themselves. Some training programs advocate a final long run of up to 27-28 miles. Extending the last lengthy training run that far provides supreme confidence. Complete that final long run three weeks prior to the marathon, allowing ample time for recovery and tapering.
Sleep Well Two Night Before
Few runners sleep well the night before, and it really doesn’t matter. I awoke at three a.m. prior to a recent marathon I ran, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t go back to sleep. But I had satisfaction in knowing I had slept well the night before. If the marathon is Sunday, aim for a restful and long night of slumber on Friday night. Saturday night won’t matter (unless doing some very ill-advised carousing into the wee-hours).
The Middle Miles Lull
“The middle miles suck.” An accurate description I heard just past 12 miles in that recent marathon. The stretch from 6-20 is the worst. Fortunately, most runners mentally divide the race into segments, focusing on small goals-10K, 10 miles, the next water station, etc. But it’s like anything else. The middle of anything requiring effort is the most mentally enduring, whether it’s the workweek or a marathon.
Start Drinking Two Day Before
Like sleep, hydration should start 2-3 days prior to the race. Don’t until the night before, so you’ll spend that sleepless night before and the early miles of the race paying back that rented water. To avoid any concerns over hyponatremia, or water intoxication, try diluting sports drinks to obtain added fuel the muscles will need late in the race.
The Trial of the Last 10K
It’s the marathoner’s crucible, and it’s guaranteed to hurt. The level and intensity of that pain is determined by the course, weather, effort, and training. If all goes well, well-trained runners marvel at the number competitors they pass, many walking and otherwise falling by the wayside. Serious runners say the race begins at 20, but it’s not just about speed, rather attrition. When I’m running well, I find the most satisfying part of the race is clicking off those final miles and determining how much time I have left to reach my goal. However, I do start to fade by 25, but by then I have enough of a cushion that I’m close to my target times and the finish.
Don’t Turn Down the Free Food
After running 26.2 miles, the typical runner’s stomach doesn’t really desire food–at least not right away. Even if not into the mood for the post-race goodies, stock up at the food tent. The hydration and nourishment are vital later for adequate recovery. If nothing else, the quads will be thankful for it-though likely not for at least a few days.