t’s finally Race Day morning. All those months of training have come down to this. When your alarms (one of my top Race Day tips – see below for more) go off, you’re gonna do exactly what you’ve done for your long runs. This is just gonna be a little longer! The nerves may be sky high, but hopefully you’ll know what you need to do from the previous Mock Race weekend. Up for breakfast, donning the kit & heading to the start line in good time before the race starts. This will be when it all really starts dawning on you just how amazing an experience it’s gonna be. As you head out and gradually see more and more people heading in the same direction, the butterflies and excitement can really kick in hard here. Through the shared love of running, you really never know who you might meet on your journey to the start!
Once you arrive in the start area, get your bearings. Then depending on how much time you have before the race, you may want to grab a seat somewhere (this is where bringing something disposable to sit on/warm clothes will come in handy!) and take the weight off your feet. At some point, you’ll need the loo too. Even though you will have obviously going before you’ve left your accommodation, you’ll no doubt need to go again before the race. For this, I’ve found that having a bit of a wander can be fruitful in terms of finding the shortest queues. Don’t just join the herd and get behind the first queue you see.
Calls of nature out of the way, you’ll then need to drop any bags off at the Bag Drop. Don’t leave this too late as it will get crowded. However, it’s a balancing act between not going too early so you are in just your race kit for ages, and leaving it too late that you’ll then end up getting to your starting pen too late. This is the ideal time to warm up. Do what you normally do to warm up those muscles, as you don’t want to start off the race with cold muscles. Having warmed up properly, this will help you get into your desired pace a lot easier than treating the first few miles as the warm up instead.
When that start gun goes off, hopefully you are all in the right starting pen so that those around you are of similar pace. This will be helpful in that hopefully, the majority are of similar speed to you and you’re not going to be bottlenecked in by slower runners in front of you.
Pacing wise, stick to your race plan. You’re gonna want to try and stick to the racing line/shortest route all the way round. Constantly changing pace or using up valuable energy by slaloming past people is a surefire way of burning out your legs and adding extra mileage that you shouldn’t have to run if you can at all help it. Watch out for any obstacles along the way and if you can, point them out to runners behind you too. Go through a mental checklist from head to toe as you get into your stride. Keep the breathing relaxed, loosen up any clenched fists/gritted teeth etc and keep the body as free from tension as possible as you glide along. Take in the crowds of supporters, have a quick look over your shoulder to admire how many other runners are out there with you on the course and try to enjoy the race as much as possible. You’ve earnt that right to enjoy it, after all the sacrifices you’ve made through training!
Nutrition wise, you’ll stick to what you know. Drinking small amounts but regularly, topping up your carbs at the allotted time & promising me that you’ll not be trying out anything new along the way. There may also be well meaning supporters along the course who hand out unofficial drinks and food. Not to be a killjoy, but I tend to stay away as you just never know what you’re getting from them. If you are stuck for nutrition plans then check out this Q&A with nutritionist James Collins.
Hills – when you come up against one, try and relax and make your way up them rather than into them. Think of running up them as you would a flight of stairs, so every push is to propel you up rather than into the hill. Maintain your pace then enjoy the easier downhill and allow your heart rate to come back down before getting back into your stride on ‘the flat’.
Hopefully the race goes well and the miles pass quickly for you. Try to break up the marathon into mental chunks. I like to think of it as 4 x 10k races with a little bit extra at the end. As you finish one ‘10k’, you’ve ‘only’ another 3 to go and can mentally pat yourself on the back with each passing marker. At some stage, the race will become more of a mental battle than it is physical. For most, this comes around the 18‐20 mile marker which is probably the furthest you will have run in training.
The body may be protesting by now loud and clear, as your legs feel like they’ve been filled with lead, your gazelle like glide has been reduced to a treacly plod and your inner voice is screaming out for you to stop. You may even find that it’s tough to concentrate on anything let alone getting your body to move forwards. However, what defines us marathon runners is how we prove time and time again that we’ve the determination to push through until the glorious end. It will end. You’ve done the training and have it in you to finish it. Wherever you draw your strength from; be it the support from the crowd, your own internal/external mantra (mine is ‘feeling good baby’), reminding yourself why/for whom you’re running the race or something else, it will feel like nothing else crossing that finish line!! I won’t describe too much in detail as to how exactly you’ll feel, as it’s a very personal experience. But what I will say is that you’ll treasure it forever.
Michael Phan is a personal trainer and athlete. He loves people looking and feeling great by helping them with Fat Loss & Running. A prolific motivator both on and offline, he founded Michael Phan Bespoke Personal Training and is creator of great inspirational past and present twitter challenges such as #Pressupathon & #MileChallenge http://ow.ly/2aU8lv, Michael is a keen marathon runner and triathlete.
Michael leads by example and keeps up to date with cutting edge training techniques. Coupled with his own experience, he is then able to hone each individual client's programme to their specific Fat Loss or Running goals.