How to Prepare for a Marathon: Race Day Tips
If you’re running a marathon or a shorter distance race this year, you’re probably looking for tips on how to prepare for race day. Whether you’re training for your first 5K, your first marathon or are going for a PR in an upcoming race, the tips below will help you get in the right mindset and prepare your body to have a successful run.
How to Prepare for a 5K and Other Distance Races
While running should be your main form of exercise to prepare for your race, it’s important to include one or two days of low-impact cross-training workouts during each week of training. Doing so will improve your overall fitness level and give your bones and joints a much-needed break from the impact of running. Cycling, yoga, weight training, and swimming are all excellent cross-training options.
Eat Properly the Night Before and Race Morning
The night before your race, aim for a dinner that is rich in carbohydrates, such as pasta, rice, bread or potatoes. This will ensure you have enough carbohydrates stored in your muscles before your race, reducing the risk of losing energy before you finish your run.
Similarly, for breakfast, stick with carb-rich foods like oatmeal, toast, cereal, and bagels.
Prepare for Any Weather
Since you can’t predict the weather, do yourself a favor and save yourself unnecessary stress by packing different outfits for all possible weather scenarios. This way, you’ll be prepared with the best outfit for whatever the weather happens to be on race day and can run comfortably.
Keep Realistic Expectations
Yes, you want to get yourself pumped up and prepare to perform your best on race day. But don’t set yourself up for disappointment by having unrealistic expectations. As with anything else in life, there will be frustrating situations. Overcrowded starts? Check. Not enough port-a-jons? Check.
Mentally preparing yourself for these moments ahead of time and knowing that, overall, the experience will be rewarding, will help you tough it out during the not-so-great portions, and keep you positive and focused on your goal.
No matter what distance you’re running, you’ll want to plan on conserving your energy by not going too fast at the start and gradually building up to your race pace. By following this strategy, you’ll be much more likely to have a strong finish and feel better after the race.
Keep Your Warmup Short
Before your race, it’s important not to spend too much time and energy warming up. When you keep your warm-up short, you’ll conserve much-needed energy for your race.
But don’t skip warming up altogether! Warming up just to the point of a light sweat will loosen up your leg muscles without taxing them, helping you to run more efficiently during the race.
Specific Marathon Race Day Tips
In addition to the above tips, below are some additional suggestions for how to prepare for a marathon.
Taper the Final Weeks Before the Race
If you want to be able to run your best on race day, you should give your body the rest it needs before the race. Tapering (cutting back the number of miles you run in your last week or so of training) is essential for optimal muscle recovery and, therefore, optimal race-day performance. Read more about tapering, including when to start tapering and how much to taper here.
Manage Your Fluid Intake
When running a marathon, every ounce of fluid you consume is critical for helping maintain blood flow to your skin, heart, and muscles. Two key times to intake fluid are early on and toward the end of the race.
Since running hard for a long period slows the absorption of fluids from your stomach, you’ll need to begin drinking early so the fluids will be available when you need them later in the race.
It can also help to drink toward the end of the race, around the 24-mile mark, if you are doing a marathon. While there most likely won’t be enough time to absorb all the water and sugars before you finish the race, some can get into your system and really help you push through the last mile.
It’s also important to note that you want to be careful not to overdrink. A good rule of thumb is to drink when you’re thirsty and stop drinking if your stomach begins to feel uncomfortable.
Keep this marathon advice in mind and you’ll increase your chances of performing better and having a more comfortable race overall.
No matter what distance you’re training for, whatever you do, make sure you ENJOY the actual experience on race day! Soak up the energy surrounding you and revel in the camaraderie with fellow runners and supporters. Most of all, be proud of your accomplishment – and then get ready for your next race!
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