We hit up Adidas Runners coach Lee Ryan – an elite athlete who is a veteran of 28 marathons – for his tips for how participants can set themselves up for a great race.
“It’s important to be proud of yourself for your accomplishment, no matter what happens,” he says. If it is your first marathon, embrace the marathon and remember that there is no such thing as a bad finish time. “Enjoy the process and the progress will happen. Remember why you are doing it.”
And if you aren’t running a race, but there is one in your city, consider turning out to support those who are. All that cheering, explains Lee, “gives motivation to people, it builds fire, it makes them accountable.” And it sure helps mentally. The Adidas Runners Club also made a big push on this front, too, with cheer points at the Dubai Standard Chartered Marathon across the course where spectators can gather.
Ryan cautions that the days before the marathon are not the time to be trying out new things in your general training. So stick to what you (and your body) enjoy and are comfortable with. You know how your body performs and you know how your body reacts, he says.
Food intake before a marathon
Most of the week before a race you should be eating clean, non-processed food, combined with a slow increase of carbohydrates. “Food should not be too complicated, save that for your reward that comes afterwards,” says Ryan. “Nice, clean food with flavor, it doesn’t need to be boring with no flavor. Some carbs, some vegetables, fruits to keep that immune system working efficiently.”
Two days before the run, on Wednesday, introduce a bit of carbs from what you have been eating, whether it is gnocchi, pasta or potatoes – but keep the portions reasonable. “Remember to not eat too much the night before as your body will want to get rid of it on the next morning,” says Ryan.
How much water should I be drinking for a marathon?
Water is essential for performance. “Leading up to race day, you should start to hydrate,” he advises. In general, staying hydrated in the week before the race is ideal. “We need everything to be lubricated internally, we need everything to be working together, so we need that water, it is the giver of life, so we need to make sure we have plenty of it during the day.” And even though there is plenty of water out on the race route, Ryan advises runners to remember to keep drinking all the way up to the starting line.
How much sleep should I have before a marathon?
“Sleep, sleep. sleep. Sleep is the recovery. We should alway be aiming for six to eight hours, six being the minimum, eight/nine/ten hours if you can,” says Ryan. “Let that body relax. We are not gaining any fitness this week, but you can lose it all if you overtrain. Your body will be fatigued, it won’t be focused, it won’t be on point, it won’t be able to react as quick as it should do.” The more sleep you have, the better your body can recover from training and be prepared for the long run ahead. “Before the run, you could be anxious, stressed and not sleep well, so it’s important that you’ve had those good sleep days before,” says Lee.
“Nothing new on race day, no new clothes, no new shoes, no new socks,” advises Ryan. Those brand new running shoes might look great, but make sure you are not trying out new footwear this close to the big day. Just because they look good does not mean they are the right fit for you. Go with what you have trained in and used. Consistency is the key when doing a marathon, so don’t change it all up now.
Dress for the finish line
Mornings can be chilly but do not make the mistake of adding extra layers you won’t be able to shed. Whatever the climate of your race, the rule is: do not dress for the start line, dress for the finish.
Mental preparation for marathon
In the days leading up to the race, when doubt and fear set in, “think about all those hours you sacrificed, all those early runs you have gone for when you didn’t feel like getting up,” says Ryan. Always remember the why. Why did you sign up? During the race, Lee recommends clearing your mind of all external thoughts – a sort of meditation to avoid breaking your concentration. So try to avoid running with regrets, or random thoughts about life such as e-mails and work. Lee’s technique uses a mantra of “relax, relax, breathe, quick feet” to keep other distractions at bay. When the going gets tough, remember again why you are doing the marathon. This can help to push you through to the end.
Mental challenge during the marathon
As well as the physical, there are many mental challenges one needs to overcome while running a tough event like a marathon. There will be times when doubt sets in and you feel like quitting. At times like these, again, think about why you started training, says Ryan. “Was it for a friend, a charity – or has it been a long-term goal?” Whatever the reason, make sure you remember it and use it to encourage you.
Be early at the race
Make sure you get all the information on the race you are running well before. It can be chaotic at the starting line, where there will be a lot of nerves and excitement. This can sometimes lead to mistakes, like not knowing your run time or forgetting socks. So make sure you get all those little things organized and arrive nice and early.
There will sports drinks and water distributed along the race. If you also use sports gels, either carry them with you or have someone prepped to pass them to you at preset locations. Lee personally uses four gels per marathon, taking one at the start line and the others every hour or 10km.
Dealing with bathroom breaks on a marathon
There are toilets on the race course and if you feel the urge, go as soon as you can to avoid discomfort. And keep your race watch going, as your quick break will be part of your overall time.
Featured photo: Adidas Runners.