The Marathon: Tips, Tricks, and Lessons Learned (Part 2: 24 Hours Until the Start Gun)

2 Dec

I started this series with Part 1 almost two months ago, and I am finally getting around to Part 2. 


Choose your food (and drink) wisely. This is a lesson learned. Funny story time: Me, Coachy, and John (another one of our runner friends) met up at an Applebee’s in Charlottesville, VA for a late lunch the day before the Charlottesville Marathon (Coachy was running the full, me and John were running the half). We grabbed a couple of appetizers to share, and of course a couple of beers. Then we went to the expo, and scoped out their not too impressive pasta dinner, so we decided to find somewhere else to eat. The place we ended up at didn’t have much in the way of carb selection, so we all ordered burgers and fries. I couldn’t eat much, I have a strange thing with burgers – I either like them, or I don’t, and most of the time I end up not liking them. It’s a texture thing. And then we had a couple more beers. John quit on the beers early (he’s the intelligent one, obviously). Coachy and I managed 7 beers (each) from lunch through dinner. Whhooooooops. 

Fast forward to race morning – I overslept, probably from the beers, and was running late to meet up with Coachy and John. I met them in the lobby of the hotel with one of my homemade energy bars in hand and a banana. I chowed that down while we drove to the race, which we got to about 30-40 minutes before it started…? Something like that.  Needless to say, my energy bar (while good, they’re HEAVY, they’re not pre-long run energy – they’re more like, I need a boost in the middle of the work day energy…oats, nuts, dried fruit, you name it…) was not sitting well in my stomach. That and my food/beverage choices from the day before were not too bright. I felt ill for almost the entire 13.1 miles – and Coachy, being the awesome person that he is, ran the first half with me (and listened to me whine for quite some time). I’m pretty sure the unintelligent food/drink choices weren’t doing to well with him too, but he wasn’t whining like I was. 

I still finished the race in 2:18:42 – which was only 6 minutes slower than my first half, and this one had 800′ elevation gain (first one had 222 – but it didn’t feel like it, it was in Charleston, SC). 

I’m not a “don’t drink for days, weeks, or months before a big race” kind of person. I’m a firm believer in everything in moderation. I went a little overboard that day, and I learned that lesson. 

Stick with what you know – for food and for drink, 24-48 hours before a big race.

Be Organized: Another lesson learned. May be from the same race, because of the 7 beers. Yeah, actually I think it was. 

Lay out everything you need the night before the race. I know, you’ve all heard this a million times before. But, things happen. Better to be over-prepared. I prepare for a race by going through a checklist in my mind of what I need, and how I get dressed. From foot to head – and everywhere in between.  Also, make sure your race day fuel is set up and in your Fuel Belt or Spi-Belt or pockets or whatever it is you use when you’re running. That way on race morning all you have to worry about is getting dressed, eating, and getting to the start. And don’t forget the Body Glide. Trust me.

Something else I’ve learned – that can go with both topics I’ve discussed so far: If you travel for an out of state race, be sure you know where you can get breakfast, coffee, etc. I’ve been lucky with this – all of the hotels I’ve stayed in for out of town races have been very accommodating to runners. When I ran Mad Marathon, the hotel had order forms at the front desk for pre-race breakfast. Check with your hotel ahead of time, and if they don’t have what you’re looking for, make sure you get it before it’s too late.

Relax: You’ve eaten. You’ve gotten your clothes/fuel/Garmin/shoes/iPod ready to go. You set and double triple checked your alarm clock. Now there is nothing left to do but sit back and relax. You worked very hard to get to this day, whether it’s your first, fifth, or fortieth marathon. Get a good night’s sleep, and I’ll see you on race day.

Stay Tuned for The Marathon: Tips, Tricks, and Lessons Learned (Part 3: Race Day), which I hope won’t take me two more months to write. 

What are your tips, tricks, or lessons learned in the 24 hours leading up to a big race? 

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