Running any type of endurance race is terrifying and spectacular. The months of hard work and sacrifices will lead you on a run that will take you from “I’m not sure I am going to make it” to “I can’t believe I just did that.” The trick to calming those pre-race nerves is being prepared! Here are some tips to make the process a lot less scary and even more spectacular.
1. Practice Where You’re Keeping Your Energy Gels.
I was an energy gel disaster during my first 26.2. From not thinking ahead as to where I was going to keep them, to forgetting to take one before the start, I was a ball of nerves. Plan on taking a gel every 45-60 minutes of the race. This means you are most likely going to be packing around 5+ gels. That’s a lot of gels. This is me at my first marathon with a million gels stuffed in my sports bra.
Not the best look. I have friends who gave half their stash of energy gel's to family and friends and ended up not being able to find them on the course. Don’t be stranded at mile 16 with nothing. Plan ahead. Give friends and family extra gels as backup but keep everything on you, and not in your sports bra. And if you're running a half, you only need 1 or 2.
2. Try Gel Alternatives if Gels Don’t Sit Well With Your Stomach.
Gummy bears, energy chews, jelly beans, jelly bean sports beans, power bars, raisins, dried fruit, salted pretzels, fruit puree, fig newton’s, saltines, sweet tarts, honey, sports drink. The list goes on and on. If you’re someone who can’t stomach energy gels start early in your training to find your alternative. You are going to need the carbs and electrolytes to carry you through the race.
3. Bring Something Comfortable to Sit On.
Planning on getting to the race early? Bring an inflatable pool toy to sit on and some trash bags/space blankets and hand warmers to keep warm. Comfort is key if you are attending a bigger race where you may be hanging around in a start village for 1-3 hours. Bring a pool toy and lounge like a Queen.
4. Cover Your Body in Chafe Cream.
I’m talking SLATHER your body in body glide. I bring the little mini ones to the start village and re-apply right before I start. If you feel something along the course, stop at medical and get Vaseline. Only you can prevent chafing and bloody nipples. And that post race shower will burn like it’s never burned before. Slather your body. Slather it.
5. Know Where Your Spectators Will Be.
If you have friends and family out on the course, have them tell you their cross streets. During the NYC marathon I was getting so exhausted and out of it towards the end that I missed two different groups of friends AND my sister. During my first marathon my parents didn’t tell me where they were going to be and I spent 23 miles stressing about missing them. Plan ahead so you have something closer than the finish line to run towards.
6. Ask Strangers to Take Candid Photos.
This is my absolute favorite picture from any race I’ve ever run. My sister struck up a conversation with the woman standing next to her as they both awaited their runners and when I came by, the woman snapped this and texted it to my sister. Make friends with the people around and take candids of each other. Finding your family and friends on the course is one of the best parts of a race. Having a picture only sweetens the deal.
7. Have a Back Pocket Mantra (Or 12).
There's a point in any race where the excitement wears off and your legs start screaming, "ENOUGH!". Dig deep and reach for that back pocket mantra. That is the time to start telling yourself how amazing you are and how you are almost there. Just keep repeating “One more mile. I am amazing. I am almost there.” Whatever works right?
7. Ham It Up.
Marathon Foto pictures cost about a trillion dollars but you might want a picture from your first marathon. Ham it up pre-race, ham it up mid race, and then MOST IMPORTANTLY LOOK UP AS YOU CROSS THE FINISH LINE! DON’T LOOK DOWN AND TOUCH YOUR GPS WATCH OR YOUR PHONE! Look up and forward, smiling and princess waving until you’re well over the finish line! Smile for the camera and bask in your glory.
9. Have a Post Race Plan of Attack.
Not checking a bag? Have a friend or family member hang on to a change of clothes or at least a warm sweater. Know exactly where you are meeting people because for bigger races, cell service disappears. Go into it expecting that you won’t be able to contact each other. Better safe than sorry.
8. Keep Moving Post Race.
I know this is the last thing you want to do, but after you finish and collect your medal... keep moving. Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving! Go for a nice long slow walk. Take break to drink your chocolate milk and eat recovery snack but then get moving. You will be infinitely less sore the following week if you keep moving.
9. Eat Something Truly Delicious.
If you’re traveling for your marathon, think ahead and try to make a reservation for your post race celebratory meal. After I finished the NYC Marathon, my sister, our best friend Heather, and I went to our favorite Ramen place down the street from my sister’s apartment. The restaurant is known for 2 hour waits and doesn’t take reservations so my amazing sister played touch and go with me while I hobbled back to her apartment and timed it perfectly. By the time I got out of the shower, our table was ready. Try to pass the dinner reservation responsibility to someone else because you may be traveling in a post marathon drunken haze. Reward yourself with some incredible treat and go somewhere delicious.
10. Take Some Time Off.
It's going to be hard but take some time off. Ran a marathon? Take an entire week off from running. Do some very light cross training if you find it impossible to sit still. Most professionals say to take a day per mile off, that’s over 3 weeks. Do I expect you to take 3 weeks off? No. Listen to your body and take it easy for 2 weeks after your race. Take it easy. Recover. Avoid injury.
Otherwise enjoy every single painful and blissful second and share your tips! Any tricks you've learned along the way? Until tomorrow, #RunSelfieRepeat.