You already have the tools you need to run a truly amazing race. You’ve trained well, you’ve tapered well, you’ve eaten well. Since you can’t control weather or financial collapse, the focus should be on what you can control. Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll show up ready to run your best marathon. Here are a few reminders of what you should do (and what you shouldn’t) during your marathon week.
Behaviors to avoid:
1) Over-eating for comfort. Throw out the candy, clean out the refrigerator and make sure you have a good supply of healthy snacks on hand this week. Nervous eating accompanies nervous energy. Bananas are a particularly good food to have on hand as a nutritional alternative, which will directly benefit your running.
2) Looking for that magic pill by trying something new. The marathon expo can be an entertaining experience with lots of tantalizing products and services, all claiming to guarantee success on Sunday. Don’t buy it. Literally. If you want a souvenir, it’s fine to buy something for use after the marathon. Nothing that you buy at the expo should be used on race day unless you forgot to pack gloves, Body Glide, or nip guards before you left.
3) Losing focus after the race begins. If during the race you find yourself succumbing to your emotions and flying down the first descents, imagine a coach grabbing your collar from behind to gently remind you to hold yourself back. The excitement can be overwhelming. Keep it together.
Even if the love of your life and your soul mate passes you early on, as the saying goes, let them go. Adding a marathon spin to this phrase, you’ll catch them during the last 10K. Focus on running your own race. If someone you are running with or a pace group member goes rogue, suggest once that they should pull back. If they don’t, just let them go. Don’t be too hard on them when you pass them farther along on the course. Focus on your own race and do what you came here to do. Wear and set your own watch!
Behaviors to seek out:
1) Know the course. Spend a few minutes going through all of the available tools such as this interactive course map for this year’s Chicago Marathon. Visualize every mile marker, bridge, water stop and aid station, and where your family and friends will be. By knowing all of these things in advance you will reduce unnecessary anxiety. Notice the camber of the street, the angle of the hills, and the wind on the bridges. Then realize that none of these are any different than the conditions in which you have trained. After you’ve done this, stop thinking. Just let your mind go blank. There’s nothing more for you to think about. You are prepared!
2) Plan your run and run your plan. Maintain discipline and consistency. This is no different than the message you should have received during the first week of your training. Race day is not a time to get creative but it is a time to flexible, tolerant and patient. If you’ve trained with Race with Purpose, you have been trained to Commute, Warm-Up & Race. All that is left is to execute this plan. During this last week, don’t begin to mentally shave seconds off of your Commute Pace to try and hit a specific time goal. Remember, your Commute Pace is the most important pace of the run. Do it right and you will feel strong and empowered as you run your final 10K. Blow it and you will be like any other marathoner out there struggling through an excuse known as “the wall.” Your Commute is run at a pace at which you will run no faster, not a pace that you will try to stay close to. It flexes to keep your effort level constant. If you have been training for a 4-hour goal, you are not going to switch from 9:15′s to 9:00′s on race day. Even a 10 second acceleration of Commute Pace will only serve to guarantee your inability to Race at mile 20. Remind yourself that you are here to Race a 10K. Nothing else matters.
You have trained for this in real conditions, not in a laboratory. You have trained in heat, wind, cold, and rain. There is nothing that you will need to overcome on race day except your own negative thoughts. Turn it positive and you have nothing left to do but succeed.
3) Visualize your success. Every evening before going to sleep, see yourself standing at the start with your teammates. Then visualize yourself smiling and laughing with each other as you run along the course. Who will you look at when you hit the 16-mile marker, realizing that your Warm-Up is about to begin? What will you say to the other members of your running group when you enter the beginning of your 10K feeling strong and race ready?
Look at yourself right now. How do you look as you cross the finish line? Think of how you will answer each of these questions, and then relax and smile to yourself and be content with your preparation.
On race day, you will see all of the same faces that you have met along your journey and some smiling new ones. You have worked extremely hard to get to this point. This race is not your final exam but your victory lap. All of your coaches, teammates, friends, family, and spectators will be out on the course with one purpose: to celebrate your success. This race is your graduation ceremony. You’ve already earned all of the credits.