Top 5 Marathon Tips
by Luke Humphrey, Sep. 24, 2009
Top 5 Marathon Tips
My top 5 Marathon Race Tips
Luke Humphrey, MS, CCES 5. Carboload, but don’t pig out! Every year I receive a lot of emails and questions regarding this topic. The idea of carboloading involves topping off the stores of muscle glycogen (stored carbs) over the last few days before the marathon. Remember, by this time you are tapering, or running less miles, before the race. That means that your overall caloric needs will be more in line with the average person. Instead of needing 3,000-4,000 calories a day to fuel the fire, during this time, you may only need 2000-3,000 calories. Instead of overeating, you should focus on making your diet consist of mostly carbohydrates. Foods like whole grain breads and pastas, fruits, and vegetables should be the major substances of your daily food stuffs. The night before, you should again, not focus on the quantity of your food, rather, the quality (primarily carbohydrates) of your diet.
4. Be willing to strip on the run. Again, this is a big topic of discussion at my marathon clinics. One rule of thumb is this: Heat is the runner’s enemy. Dressing too warm for the marathon means that you will increase your heat regulation, i.e., you’ll sweat more. The problem is that the more you sweat, the more dehydrated you will become. Endurance performance is significantly affected after even only a 2% loss in water volume. A general rule of thumb is to dress as if it were 20 degrees warmer than the air temperature. In practicality, many people are standing in corrals for pretty significant amounts of time and if it’s cool out, shivering isn’t a great option, either. The solution, bring a throw away hat, gloves, and possibly a long sleeve shirt. After a couple miles, you’ll feel much warmer and you won’t feel bad for tossing the old gloves and hat.
3. It’s ok to feel easy. Every year I get this question, “How do you feel about putting time in the bank?” My standard answer, “You’ll overdraw that account every time.” There is no such thing. I don’t really know where the thinking comes from, but I have a theory. I think that most people start off with running shorter races, like 5 and 10k’s. We all know the feeling of these races. They are hard and the pace feels hard from the beginning. I think that we feel like that is how all races should feel. Well, that’s not the case. Going back to the 5k/10k race example, we all know how we find it easy to crash towards the end of the race. Now, imagine how that would feel if you extrapolated that out another 20 to 23 miles! Ideally, the race should feel comfortable over the first half of the race. Don’t make it harder on yourself my pushing the pace early and trying to withdraw from an account that has insufficient funds.
2. Begin the refueling process early. I have never quite understood why races put the “gel station” at around the 18 mile mark. From what I have gathered, it’s too late. Also, somewhat ironic, is that the guidelines on the packets are actually right in line with what has been shown to maintain performance. Simply, we cannot store enough carbohydrates to last the entire marathon race and we need to replace. I always tell runners to hit the very first aid stations and this goes in line with tip number three. If your pace feels easy early on, then you will be more likely to get more fluid and carbs in. If that’s the case, then you are more likely to create a buffer that will keep your blood sugar at a high enough level. The blood sugar dropping is “The Wall.” Once that goes, you will slow down, as simple as that. Let’s face it, when we get late in the race, we tend to not feel like drinking or eating. If you were waiting until the gel station and didn’t create that buffer in the early portions, then it will be too little too late.
1. Don't be afraid to be successful. You’ve done the work. You deserve to reap the benefits. Make a plan to be successful and develop a belief in your abilities. Whether it’s qualifying for the Olympic Trials, Boston, or just finishing your first marathon. I have had a lot of people talk themselves out of accomplishing great things, when they were physically capable. Don’t let negative self talk break your spirit!