Logging 100+ miles per month for months in a row may be the hardest part of training for a marathon, and the part that most people focus on. But I think the final days leading up to a big race also offer valuable opportunities to ensure maximum preparation come race day.
A few days ago (technically last year!) I posted about my marathon must-haves. In addition to packing these essentials, here are my personal strategies for ensuring a smooth race day.
For me, for example, I’m running in the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon this coming Sunday, January 8th, which, at time of writing, is less than six days away.
So in preparation a few days before a big race, I recommend the following:
Make a list!
It is so, so, so easy to forget something incidental that you might need on race day. For example, in all the half marathons and full marathons I’ve done, I’ve always forgotten to bring a large garbage bag to the start line.
If you’re not familiar with this tactic, depending on the locale and weather, many runners will cut arm and head holes into a large Hefty bag to wear when waiting around at the starting line. This is because many large races require runners to line up in their corrals as much as an hour ahead of start time, which is often in the cooler pre-dawn hours. Once you’re running you’ll warm up, but if you’re standing dead still at 4 o’clock in the morning in 40 degree mist, it’s not so pleasant. A garbage bag is a cheap way to stay (somewhat) warm and dry while waiting for the gun to go off.
Anyway, this time I actually remembered to add it to my packing list!
Check it twice!
Sorry, lol. Couldn’t help myself with a cheesy Christmas joke. (Get it? Make a list … check it twice?)
Study the course map and elevation profile.
This is a tip I had heard when I first seriously got into long distance running, but I never really took it to heart because I kind of always thought “eh, what difference can it make?” Once I finally started running enough to repeat races, I realized what a positive impact knowing the course ahead of time can make, both mentally and physically.
Studying just a snippet of the map shown above, I can already mentally brace myself for a tough mental battle during miles 14 through 18: parking lot, road, nothing, nothing, nothing, and more nothing. And those are the miles in a marathon where I’ve run far enough to start feeling a little fatigued, but not far enough to feel like the end is in sight.
Start adjusting your sleep schedule
This of course only applies if you are running a race that will require you to be at the start line long before your normal wake-up call. I’m an early riser, but having to wake up at 1:30 in the morning to have time to get ready and board a bus to EPCOT is going to be no fun, so I am trying to force myself to continually go to bed earlier and wake up earlier in these last few days leading up to the race.
Relax and have fun!
I know it’s hard to relax before a big race, but just remember that the work has been done, so now it’s time to sit back, relax, get plenty of sleep, and stay hydrated.