The Last Two Days
If you're planning on running a marathon, the little things you do the last couple of weeks before the race starts can make all the difference between a good and a great experience. Here are the things that will make the most impact.
Learn the route. If possible, use part of the course as a "rehearsal" during one of your longer training runs. Concentrate on the last couple of miles to the finish. That's when you'll be the most exhausted and knowing how the course plays out will help you finish with greater confidence.
Don't run two days before the race. You've been training for months to get to this point. Take the two days off so your body is fully rested the day of the event. Besides, if you're not ready, nothing you can do 48 hours before the start is going to change that.
Enjoy the other festivities. Don't get so wrapped up in the race you neglect to visit any expos, booths or presentations being given. It's a good time to see what's available in new equipment and training techniques. Just be cautious of buying anything before checking it out first. Reputable companies will give you time to make an informed decision and generally offer any "event discounts" for a day or two after the race. Don't allow anyone to pressure you into buying right away.
Eat in moderation the day before the race. Many races have special dinners the night before. Don't use it as a chance to indulge. Your best bet is to eat small meals throughout the day so you have enough energy, but not so much you'll feel bloated or uncomfortable. Keep a log of what you ate before successful long training runs and eat the same thing before the big event.
Avoid alcohol before a race. It's a depressant that can dampen your performance. Worse, if you drink too much you might have to deal with the effects of a hangover when attempting to run.
Drink enough water to stay hydrated, but not so much you have to leave the course for a restroom. A good rule of thumb is to drink 4 to 8 ounces (one half to one full cup) of water per hour. The day of the race, drink 8 to 12 ounces of water two hours before the race and then stop drinking. That way, when it's time to start, you'll have already made your bathroom break. Once you begin running make sure to keep yourself well hydrated.
Remember that during long distance runs, sodium can be as important as water. Hyponatremia (low blood sodium) is a life-threatening situation that can develop if you only drink water. The more you sweat, the more you need the electrolytes sodium and chloride. Many sports drinks are designed to give you what you need. (Click Here for more information about drinking TOO MUCH water.)
Lay everything out the night before. Many races start early in the morning. If all your clothes and gear are ready it'll be one less thing to worry about when you get up.
Keep a regular sleep schedule even the night before the event. If it's your first race you may find it difficult to drift off. Do what you can by resting in bed, making sure all the lights are out and distractions like the television are turned off. Don't worry, many runners aren't able to sleep at all so don't stress over it.
Pick your starting position according to your abilities. If it's your first marathon you should be at the back so you don't get in the way of the faster runners. Your goal should be to finish the race, not worry about your ultimate time. As you get faster and more experienced, you can move closer to the front.
Walk it off after you cross the finish line. Give your muscles some time to cool down and be sure to drink another 4 to 8 ounces of water.
Eat something within 30 minutes of your finish. Your body has been severely depleted and needs nourishment. Avoid anything high in fat. Concentrate on a meal that's extremely high in carbs (70-80%) with the remainder in protein.
Follow these suggestions and you'll increase your chances of achieving something truly amazing. Successfully completing a marathon!
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