10 Key Pre-Race and Raceday Tips for a Better Full or Half Marathon – by Coach Steve Mackel

LA Marathon 2013

1.) Prepare Mentally – You’ve done the physical work. You can’t do anymore training that will benefit you. But, you can prepare mentally.
• Visualize You Race – Find a quiet space, it is better to sit than to lay down (so you aren’t tempted to fall asleep), Visualize everything you are going to do on race day. From the moment you wake up, to crossing the finish line. Visualize yourself on the course, running at the pace you want, feeling good with a smile on your face. See yourself drinking and eating on the course. See yourself crossing the finish line with your hands in the air and feel that sense of accomplishment.
• Keep Your Thoughts Positive – Don’t let those little negative thoughts creep in. If you catch a negative thought, turn it around to a positive. “I am strong and prepared.” “I’ve got this.” “I did the work, I deserve this.”

2.) Prepare the Night Before Your Race – From eating dinner to getting in bed have everything prepared for the next morning.
• Use a Checklist – Lay all your clothes on the floor like a person, with your hat and glasses on top then your shirt, pin your bib on your shirt, shorts, put your timing chip on, socks and shoes. Then lay out all the other supplies you plan on bringing like: Watch, gels, belt, camera, tissues, gloves, money, etc. Lay out the clothes you are wearing over your race clothes to stay warm. Use your clear race bag for anything else you might want like water, banana (food) and dry, warm clothes for when you finish.
• Set 2 Alarm Clocks – Just in case.
• Have Breakfast Ready to Go – Have your coffee in the coffee maker so all you have to do is turn it on. Have breakfast out on the counter. Cook it and you are ready to go.

3.) Get There Early – Plan on arriving at the starting line at least 1 hour early. You’ll have lots of stuff to do like waiting in Porta Potty lines and finding your corral.

4.) Start Out Smart, Run Your Race – From starting pace, to drinking, eating, avoiding the “wall”, and finishing.
• Start Out No Faster Than Race Pace – Don’t get carried away by all the excitement and start out running too fast. This is a very common mistake. You should feel good but a full or half marathon is a long race and you need energy in the late stages of your race too. Get on your pace and stay there for the first half of the race. Pay attention to how you are feeling and you should have energy left for the last few miles. Maybe even speed it up.
• Stay Hydrated – Drink at the aid stations. A quick sip even if you aren’t thirsty is a good idea.
• Eat – Gels, blocks, jelly beans, bars, whatever works for you. You should take in at least 100 calories of carbs every hour. You may need more calories if you weigh more. Sport drinks have calories but usually not enough for an entire race.
• Avoid Hitting the Wall – The Wall is both physical and mental. If you have been eating, drinking and running a smart pace you should feel ok. Keep your thoughts positive. Stay strong and you can avoid the Wall.
• Finish Strong – Feel the energy of the crowd. See the finish line and rundown the final stretch and cross that finish line strong.

5.) Keep Good Posture – Have a solid core and straight spine. No hunching! You will lose lung capacity and you certainly don’t want to come across the finish line looking like The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

6.) Breathe and Relax – Breathe and work on getting in some deep breaths every couple minutes. Focus on your breath especially when you are tired. Work on relaxing into your run. Being tight and stressed requires extra energy that you don’t want to waste.

7.) Interact with the crowd – Thousands of people will be there cheering you on. Enjoy the support. High five people. Say “Thank you” to the volunteers. Smile and let their energy help carry you along the route.

8.) Make Friends – You are going to be out on the course for a while so you might as well make a couple friends out there. There are lots of interesting people, from all over out on the course, take a moment to say hello to the person next to you.

9.) Don’t Worry About Your Time – A lot happens over the course of a full or half marathon. You may have a difficult period then find out in a mile or two that you are stronger than ever. Sometimes you start out too fast and run out of energy. Full and half marathons are tricky and difficult but when you cross the finish line you are a finisher. Whether it’s your best race or your worst no one can take away the fact you did it!

10.) Be Thankful and Have Fun – Thank the volunteers, spectators and everyone out on the course. But, also be thankful for your health, your ability to take on a marathon. Be thankful for your family and friends that may have scarified to help you get here. Take a few moments and appreciate the entire experience. Smile out there. Enjoy the experience and remember it’s a race, so pass someone. Race focused.


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