Last-Minute Marathon Tips for Race Day

Pre-Race Warm Up

Given the size of many marathons, it's almost impossible to get any kind of a warm-up in. I get a lot of friction for even suggesting a warm-up before a 26.2-mile race, but I am a firm believer that just getting the muscles activated and your heart beating a bit is an important element of getting ready to race. Think of it as the physical equivalent of letting your car run a bit extra before you drive it to work on a cold morning.

Knowing that your goal is to have "all systems go" before the gun goes off should take some of the pressure off of you. A good 20-minute walk will do wonders, and odds are you'll have to do that just to get into the right starting place. Once you are in position you'll ideally have about 10 to 15 minutes before you actually start running. Here is a short ritual you can do to get—and stay—ready.

Do each element of the progression for 20 seconds each and this will take you three minutes to get through. Then you can chill out for two minutes and repeat:

  • Calf Stretch: Standing up, just weight one leg and bend that at the knee, stretching the calf area.
  • Quad Stretch: Pull one leg up at a time, heel to butt, keeping the hips forward.
  • Hamstring Stretch: Alternate touching your toes.
  • Trunk Twists: Hands and elbows up, rotate side to side slowly and deliberately.
  • Neck Roll: Side to side or around in a circle.
  • Bounce On Your Toes: Light vertical movement, nothing too high.
  • Knee Raises: A slow motion version of running in place, hands and knees work in motion.
  • Pull Knee to Chest: Bring your knee up, then grab and pull it into your chest.
  • Stand & Squats: Alternate standing with squatting all the way down to touch the ground.

Early Pacing

So much of your overall marathon experience rests on how well you pace the early miles of your day. It's important to plan the best way to pace your marathon. Instead of being surprised, be prepared.

Make sure your display has the lap mode set for each mile will ensure that you have that on the screen. Now you can manually hit the lap button and get instant feedback on your pacing.

Consider finding a pacing group/person to run next to as a means of benchmarking just how well you are (or aren't!) running those early miles.

Know your "hard" number for the first six miles. If it's 48 minutes, 54 minutes or something more random, know the total. Your total time to this point–from when you crossed the start line–is a great indicator of your overall day. You should ideally be at or slightly slower than this number; too far ahead and you could be burning precious resources you'll need later in your day.

Above all else, remember that being consistent with your pace in the first miles is the most important part of your pacing strategy. There are many ways to hit the six mile mark at exactly 54 minutes—you can do 6 even 9:00 miles, you can drop 10 seconds per mile from 9:30s to 8:30s, or you can bounce around and overexert yourself.

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