Running with Ruth

Stories that Inspire & Motivate...Not for New Runners Only! By Ruth Gursky


Tips for Marathoners


Article 1:
Marathon Tips for New Marathoners (and Veterans)

Well, this is it! The week before the marathon; your date with destiny! I know you're nervous and excited, so I want to share a few things to help you get ready for the big day:

1. Maintain your regular, daily routines - sleeping, eating, workouts, etc. Don't change anything - don't try to throw in extra workouts…after 6 months of training, trust me: You're ready for this race!

2. Keep your suitcase open and when you think of something you think you might need for the race, throw it in! Go through the entire race weekend in your mind, from the time you awake in the morning through bedtime. Think of all the clothing and cosmetic/pharmaceutical needs you may have for each day of race weekend.

3. As for your running clothes, think of what you wore all season and throw them into your suitcase, including: sports bra, sneakers, orthotics (if you wore them), Galloway singlet, running shorts, socks and your watch-timer. Now think of what you may have forgotten: sunglasses, hat, scarf, running gloves, windbreaker, Vaseline, ibuprophen, sunblock, power bars/gels, water bottle holder, water bottle, throw-away camera (I used it during my first marathon - had others take photos of me along the route!). Throw in a long-sleeve coolmax shirt if the weather is supposed to be cool on race day - you're either going to wear the long sleeve shirt under or over your Galloway singlet (more on that later on) and find an old pair of sweatpants to wear if it’s supposed to be cold or rainy on race morning (to be thrown away before the start of the race).

4. Beginning the Wednesday before race day, start increasing the amount of water you drink each day. Keep a water bottle at your desk and go through it at least twice in the course of a day, and then feel free to have another few glasses at home.

1. If your race is on Sunday, go to the race expo on Friday! To avoid the crowds, go as early as you can and also, by going on Friday, you can be off your feet and away from the running masses the day before the race.

2. "If" you plan on packing a bag to check at the start of the race, find out at registration is you have to use the plastic bag they give you or if you can use a bag of your own. Generally, I don't use a race bag at marathons. I wear a windbreaker at the race start and tie it around my waist once I warm up. If I have friends meeting me at the finish (or if I'm going to a friend's house after the race), then I plan in advance and give them dry clothes for me to change into at their home or a restaurant (underwear, long-sleeved shirt, pants, jacket, socks, shoes if it was rainy on race day, etc).

3. Since it may be cold and/or windy on race morning, bring along an old pair of sweatpants to wear to the start - take them off and throw them away just before the race starts. Before I leave my home, I cut off the stretchy band at the bottom to make them easier to take off over my sneakers. You'll see a lot of runners sporting large garbage bags with holes cut out for head and arms. I did that once - when I forgot my sweats. It's not a fashion favorite, but it works, in a pinch!

4. If you and your running partner aren’t staying at the same hotel on race weekend, you need to arrange a specific meeting place so that you're together when the race starts -- do this in advance, and make sure you're both 100% clear on the exact meeting location, because if you don't plan this out well, chances are good that you won't find each other in the crowd of runners on race day!

5. If your friends are planning to meet you along the race route, make arrangements so that you know specifically where they'll be standing. It is much easier for you to spot them than vice versa. Tell them to be patient (and to dress warmly - it's cold when you're standing still)! Have them bring extra food (bananas, peanut butter crackers, etc) that you may want during the race (and that you’ve trained with in the months leading up to the race; don’t eat any foods you’ve not trained with on race day)!

6. Try to stay off your feet the day before the race. The rule of thumb is to rest for as many hours as you think it’s going to take you to run the race (you can figure this one out for yourself). Part of your rest time can be spent driving you along the course – doing this also reduces your “jitters” on race day because you’re somewhat familiar with the course. If the race directors offer a bus tour of the race course, try to book your tour for Friday. If possible, stay away from the race expo the day before the race – too many nervous runners!

1. Lay out everything you plan to bring with you to the race or wear the night before, so you're less likely to forget something in the morning. If it's supposed to be chilly on race morning, you may want to wear a long sleeve coolmax top either under your singlet or on top of your singlet. Wear it under your singlet if you think it's going to be cold all morning; wear it on top and either throw it away or tie it around your waist when you warm up, if you think the temperatures will warm up. Either way, you'll pin your race number on your singlet. Don't forget to put your race chip on your sneaker the night chip - no finish time! And don’t forget: stick with clothes and sneakers that you’ve trained in! The marathon is not the time to wear clothes you just picked up at the race expo!

2. Make sure you get a good night's sleep on FRIDAY night (2 nights before the race). On Saturday, you'll be too nervous and restless to sleep (you'll also be up all night peeing!). Have your carbo-loaded dinner on Friday and go to bed at a decent hour. Don't go pasta-crazy on Saturday night - just have a nice, balanced dinner with water. (Needless to say, no wine, beer, etc.!)

1. Have your regular breakfast on Sunday morning - do what you've done all season-long (cereal, bagel, juice, coffee, etc.) - don't go food crazy the morning of the race. But do bring a snack you’ve trained with to nosh on while you're waiting for the race to start (banana, bagel, energy bar, etc.). Also, find a waiting place near a port-o-john and plan to use the port-o as many times as you need to before the race because for most races, they're few and far between along the course.

2. Don't eat anything new on race day that you haven't already tried during your training runs. Spectators may offer you treats, like gummy bears, jelly beans or chocolate chip cookies. Don’t eat them – unless you’ve eaten them during previous training runs! Stick with the tried and true to prevent an upset stomach during the race.

3. A note on walk-breaks - we've been training with walk-breaks all season. Don't cut them out now. For the Marine Corps Marathon, the key is to make the bridge before the cut-off time! (Other races may have other time limits that you should be aware of prior to the race.) After passing the bridge, depending on how you're feeling, you can reduce your run-walk ratio or take extra walk breaks, as needed. If you're feeling good at mile 18, however, Jeff Galloway says it's okay to reduce the number of walk-breaks, or cut your walk-breaks down to 30-45 seconds.

In the nights leading up to the race, and as you wait for the gun to go off on race day, concentrate on how it will feel to finish the race and visualize how you're going to feel during its 3 parts: the first 10 miles, the second 10 miles and the last 10K.

You'll be feeling strong during the first 10 miles - you're running on fresh legs, the crowds are loud and you're running with others who are going at your same pace. Enjoy this part of the race - take in the scenery - feel how good your legs feel when they're running strong!

Between miles 11 - 20, you're going to start to feel tired. If you're lucky, and your endorphins kick in, the mile markers will start to go by quickly and your legs won't feel how far you're running! BUT if your "endorphin rush" hasn't hit, you may be in a bit of pain. But you can't give in - you must persevere, as you did during your training runs! You need to remind yourselves that you ran 22+ miles together in training runs - pain-free and injury-free - and you're going to do it again today, on race day! Keep eating the foods you brought with you and drinking water (or power drinks, if you trained with them in the past) along the route to prevent your “hitting the wall!”

Enjoy the thrill of starting the "negative countdown" -- once you've passed the halfway mark, you should start to feel it, deep inside, the tingling sensation that's slowly making itself felt throughout your body! That's the feeling of knowing you're going to do it! You're not quite sure how, but you know, deep down, that today's the day you're going to finish your first marathon!

By mile 20, you're well on your way to the finish line! Now, you can really start the "countdown to the finish" -- 6 miles to go. Well, the first time you ran 6 miles was 6 months ago -- that was a long time ago...and look at how far you've come!

5 miles to go - now, you should really begin to feel that the race is yours! You've conquered your demons!

4 miles, this race is so totally yours!

And before you know it, it's 3 miles to the finish – you’ve run 5K races before you ever dreamed of running a marathon – the rest is a piece of cake!

Then, it’s just 2 miles to go. The race is in the bag!

And when you reach the 25-mile mark, you know, in every cell of your body, that with 1 mile to go, YOU WILL DO IT!

And once you've crossed that finish line, well, there isn't anything sweeter than that! It's something that you've done for yourself! Something that no one can ever take away from trained for it - and you did it! Savor the moment forever!


Have fun! Enjoy every minute of YOUR RACE!