Wednesday, October 6, 2010

RRT 101: Things to Remember and Know on your Marathon race day

On Wednesday, October 6th, host Mark U. ( was joined by Chris Russell (, Colin Hayes (, Stephen Tarleton (, and Pete Larson ( This show was very topical with ongoing flurry of fall races, as the group shared our lessons learned concerning:
  • How to set a realistic, yet challenging goal finishing time;
  • How race-day weather and the runner's physical condition can - and should - change the goal time;
  • How the runner should adapt their pacing plan based on the course's elevation changes and their extent of "fade" in the late miles of the run;
  • Advantages/disadvantages of wearing an MP3 player during a race;
  • The panel's experience and advice with a number of fall marathons;
  • Key preparations in the weeks, days, and hours preceding the race.
Joining from the chat room were Craig Macfarlane, Joe Garland, MedScholarAdamL, Steve Melb, adamm9 and Guests 7, 8 & 9.

[Click Here for Runners Roundtable - Episode 101]_



  • Develop your personalized hydration, fueling and electrolyte strategy under a range of likely weather conditions, based upon:
    • Identifying what sports drink (and water) are being served on the planned course.
    • Identifying HOW MANY fluid aid stations that there will be on the course.
    • Training using both water AND the provided sports drink, such that you’re completely comfortable with it on race day.
    • Identifying and know the range of your “sweat rate” under anticipated marathon pace and temperature conditions. Through knowing the number of fluid aid stations along the course you can develop a tentative hydration plan.
    • Identify what sports gel (e.g. Gu, Roctane, eGel, etc.) that you can safely and comfortably imbibe.
    • Experimenting with different carbo-loading and race-morning fueling strategies. Goal is to be comfortable on race morning!
  • Study the topography - and elevation profile - of the course. Be sure to train in conditions which well prepare you for the course itself. Particularly if a hilly course, consider the excellent to guide you to develop a preliminary pacing plan.
  • Sometimes it’s a good idea to share your goal with a lot of people as through doing so it helps your level of commitment to your goal. This can help keep you focused and determined to carry through with your plan. Nevertheless, you know your body best, so if you feel that you've set an excessively ambitious goal, or that your physical fitness is not yet ready for the goal you've set, don't hesitate to revise your goals.

  • Check the weather, be fully prepared for the full likely weather conditions:
    • How does this affect your previously developed tentative hydration plan?
    • How does this affect your sports gel plan?
    • How does this affect your pacing plan?
  • Ideally visit the Expo (and do all of your shopping) two days - or more - before the race - so-as to be maximally rested.
  • If you’re planning to run with a pacing group, try to meet the pacing group leader(s) at the Expo so-as to be completely comfortable with their pacing strategy, level of experience, etc. Do NOT, however, abdicate to the pacing group leader(s) your personal responsibility for achieving your race goals.
  • It is probably more important to make sure you get a good night’s sleep two nights before the race rather than just the night prior to the race. Some runners also prefer to do their “pasta dinner” routine two nights before the race and then eat just a very light meal the night before.

  • Final check of the anticipated weather conditions; tweak your plans accordingly.
  • If visiting a new city, don’t cover it on foot the day before the race.
  • Implement day before fueling and hydration plan.
  • The night before the race set TWO alarms, and lay out your intended running outfit, shoes, race number, tag, socks, etc. such that you’re completely ready to go (and won’t forget anything!).
  • Try to rest mentally, as well. One strategy to stay focused on running, but not to stress about your upcoming performance is to watch running movies ("Without Limits", "Chariots of Fire", "Saint Ralph"). Memorize and internalize a personally meaningful running-focused mantra or inspirational quotation.

  • Don’t do anything new!
  • Based on your prior experience, but typically three hours before the race starts take in a comfortable breakfast.
  • Stay hydrated and comfortable.
  • Frequently visit the Port-A-Pottie.
  • If running with a pacing group get to the meet-up area early. Chat comfortably with your group. RELAX!
  • If running independent of any group line-up as recommended for your anticipated pace (i.e., if you’re a run/walker or slow runner, do NOT line-up at the very front of the starting area!)
  • Focus on your goal time and visualize success! Think of all the time and effort you put into preparing for the race and be determined not to waste it. Running a marathon is not only physical test, but also a mental test. If your head is not in the right place, you can defeat yourself before you start.
  • When standing at the starting line before the race starts, be thankful that you are healthy enough to even attempt a marathon!

  • Drink according to your previously developed hydration plan AND your thirst.
  • Take in nourishment (e.g. sports gels) based upon your proven experience.
  • Pacing:
    • Avoid allowing your adrenaline and excess enthusiasm to lead you to start the marathon at a quicker pace than you’ve planned! Follow your previously developed pacing plan;
    • Running a marathon is an exercise in energy management, so pacing yourself for a relatively even effort is a good strategy. Allow yourself to slow down on the uphills and speed up on the downhills, however be aware that you spend more energy going uphills than you gain back on the downhills;
    • As far as energy management goes, “attacking” the uphills is the equivalent of throwing a little speed-work into your marathon! For most people, this is probably not a good idea;
    • For extended downhill stretches, you should take advantage of the terrain and run a little faster than your goal marathon pace, but don’t fall into the trap of running too much faster unless you have done a lot of training on similar terrain. In general, the longer the downhill, the less you should speed up for a given downhill grade;
    • If your goal time is near the limits of what you think you are capable of (e.g. a new PR), you will need to get up to pace fairly quickly and plan for an even or slight positive split if it’s a relatively flat course. Planning for a negative split in this scenario is risky and very difficult to accomplish.

  • Celebrate!!
  • Rest!!