So you have been training for weeks to run your first marathon. I remember that feeling of tension and nervousness in my stomach a couple days before my first marathon. I knew that I had trained the best I could, but no-one told me what to expect or what final preparations were necessary. So here are some amateur easy to understand tips from an amethyst marathoner.
What you eat
What ever you do don't start changing up your diet the last couple days before a marathon. Seriously the time to have been eating healthy was during your prior weeks of training. If you have been introducing a good diet of fruits and vegetables all along then continue this diet through tell the end. However, a couple days before the big race is not a time to start trying new foods, and especially avoid new types of protein bars or electrolyte drinks or new kinds of energy shakes.
You have had your body on a schedule, keep things the same way you have trained. It is a good idea to find out what drinks will be handed out at the event you are planning to attend. For example if they will be handing out Gatorade during the race and you plan to partake, make sure you have been training all along with Gatorade. Myself personally I was a power aid drinker, so on race day if they didn't hand out powerade during the race I stuck with the safe bet, water.
A popular thing that is distributed in most marathons is little packets of energy gel. There are lots of brands. There is goo energy gel, GU energy gel. There is another called e-energy gel You could write a novel on all the different variations of energy gel's available. It is a super high charge carb boost. These packets of energy jell are great for raising the blood sugar back up and keeping you going.
However if you have not been training with them all along, race day is a bad time to introduce them to your system. Also different brands may affect you differently. If you have been training with the goo brand of energy gel and they are promoting e-energy at the marathon then you need to pack your own brand with you to be safe. If you have not trained with these energy gels then it is best to stick with the orange slices and bananas. These are typical staple items handed out at most marathons.
The night before the marathon, many events sponsor an all you can eat spaghetti dinner. The thought behind this is all the increased carbs in your system will help your performance the following day. I have gone to one, and the social aspect was fun, but the carb pig out didn't work for me. Ideally I was not used to pigging out the night before every long run I did during training. Also you usually won't see top performers at the spaghetti dinners, they are at there room resting. So again, as far as eating, eat the foods you ate when you trained.
Two Days Before The Race
Speaking of rest this is another important topic to cover. Every marathon I have run, I typically did not rest too well the night before. It was not because I was out partying or on the town, but just had the jitters. It is normal to be nervous. A lot of things are going through your head. Did I train well enough? Will I be able to meet my goal? If you are new to the sport and a virgin marathoner, then you will be wondering if you can even finish. Most Marathons begin early in the morning. If it is like the St. George Marathon, they bus you to the starting point. The buses start loading around 3:30 a.m. and quit around 5:30 a.m. There is no driving your car to the start, so if you miss a bus you miss the race. This sets up an instant fear for most, that they might sleep in and miss the bus. You know the feeling, when you have a big event the next morning, if you are like most you end up waking up every few minutes checking your clock.
So what do I mean by two days before the race? This is when you should get your best rest. Example: The St. George Marathon is on a Saturday. I would always go to the event two days before and make sure I got plenty of rest on Thursday night. Some really smart people have done lots of research that supports this theory. I just speak from experience, that you won't get hardly any rest the night before the race.
The Night Before The Race
You have worked hard all year for this event. Even if you don't sleep soundly, you need to be laying down and resting your legs and your body. The body is able to rest even if you don't log too many hours of sleep the night before the race. You should also make sure you lay out all of your clothes for the next morning. You will be up before the sun most likely. Pin your race number on your shirt. Check the event rules, however my experience is that most events want the number pinned on the front of your race shirt. This is an important thing. At the St. George marathon this race number is what gets you on the bus. No number no race results. Lay out your shorts, and sweats and everything that you need.
If you are carrying water,energy packets or anything with you, have that all taken care of the night before. Read over the vent rules. Make sure you have transportation arranged to the starting line. This may sound silly, but if you are with your family you will have to leave the car for them to come to finishing line several hours later. At the St George Marathon all the hotels in town provide shuttle service to the buses.
It is also a good idea to know what your breakfast plans are. Either have something ready in your room. Things like fresh fruit, granola bars etc. Some people can eat a big breakfast and get away with it. They know because they have trained this way. Remember plan to eat what you have trained with. Just have a plan the night before. Most hotels in city's that host Marathons, will have a runner friendly continental breakfast the morning of the event. This usually includes things like bananas, oranges, bottled water, bagels and pastries, hot oatmeal. Make sure that you are drinking plenty of liquids and beginning to hydrate yourself for the next day.
The Morning Of the Race.
Get up and take care of any business that you need too. This may sound crazy, but part of your training for a marathon should involve regular Bowell movement, that you are almost able to time. It is one thing to have to make a stop during a race to urinate, but having to stop longer could cause additional cramping and such. Immediately get dressed. Plan your morning so that you are not rushed. Allow plenty of time to grab something to eat. Begin sipping water when you get up, in order to keep yourself hydrated for the race.
Now get yourself to the starting line. The starting line for a big marathon can seem very overwhelming. The largest one I have been to is St. George, and there are around 6500 people at the start of the race. Porto potties are lined up for a half mile. As soon as you get to the starting line get in a line for the bathroom. It is not a matter of if you will need to go before the race, but when.
Unless you are very competitive, now is a time to just relax, socialize and have fun. Figure out where you are supposed to be standing. People are usually lined up in order according to times of previous marathons they have been in. Keep your warm clothing on until a few minutes before the race starts.
In a marathon it is not as critical to stay really warm, you are not running a 100 yard dash, you have a lot of miles to get warmed up. Stay relaxed and stretch a little, but try to avoid walking around a lot. You are going to be on those legs for the next 26.2 miles. Top contenders, definitely get warmed up, but they are not out walking around or doing bursts of sprints to warm up. The warm up for a marathon begins when the race start. Have fun and enjoy the race.