Last minute marathon prep?
December 14, 2004 7:19 AM   Subscribe

Marathonfilter. In about 3 weeks I'll be doing the P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll marathon in Phoenix. This will be my first marathon... and while I'm not really that concerned about my time as long as I make it across the finish line, is there anything else a person can do in the final weeks to prepare?
posted by ph00dz to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I ran the London Marathon twice - once in 1998 and again in 2000. I was rejected in 2002, 2003, 2004 and two days ago for the 2005 one :(

Stay off the alcohol for a month, don't run any more than 13 miles four weeks before the race and don't train on the day before it. Ideally if the race is on Sunday, you shouldn't run on Saturday and go for a light (six mile run) on the Friday. Thursday should also be a day off and Wednesday should be around 10 miles. Go to bed early on Saturday and have a meal of pasta or similar.

When you're running in the marathon, don't be tempted to be swept along by the rush of people otherwise you'll kill yourself later on. Find your comfortable pace and stick with it - even if it means loads of people overtake you. If you pace yourself correctly, you'll find that you catch up and go past them ten miles further down the road.

Take water from every station and drink it. Even if you don't feel thirsty. If necessary, run along with it and take sips. The last thing you want to be is dehydrated at 22 miles. When drinking, put the water into your mouth and leave it there for 10-15 seconds for it to warm to your body temperature. Cold water in the stomach brings on cramps.

Finally, the .2 miles at the end is a killer, hang in there. Any time under 5 hours is good, if you can get it under 4 then it's superb. Pro's do it in sub 3 hours.
posted by ralawrence at 7:37 AM on December 14, 2004

What ralawrence said, although I disagree with his comment about water. Cold water is actually absorbed more quickly by the body, and cramping is usually another thing entirely. But everyone's intestines are different.

My advice would be to spend some time over the next couple of weeks thinking about the race itself. You've put in the training time, now is the time to start to think about what the run itself will be like. If you are going for any sort of time goal, it might make sense to develop split times and even write them on your arm. Don't expect a miracle in the race.

It can help to think of a marathon as three separate races. Ten miles, ten miles and ten k. The first ten you should just settle in to your pace, don't go out too fast, stay relaxed and keep moving. This is the base of the race, and you have to treat it as such, just as your training was the base for entering the marathon in the first place. In other words, keep yourself in check, and remember that you are setting up the rest of your run.

The second ten miles is the time to start to think about making your move. Pace goes up a little bit, start paying attention to who is running around you and what you want to do about it. Keep running with them? Let them go until later? Pick them off now? This stretch can be tough for people because it's hard to smell the barn, but work needs to be done. This is the meat of the race.

The last ten k is the race of the race. And it helps to think about it as such. What you don't want to do is to be so dead at this point that you are reduced to a shuffle. Stay focussed on your goal. Start counting down the miles. Pick people in front of you and run to them and past them. The two earlier sections were setting you up for the finish here.

Something we say in the races I do: If you feel good, don't worry about it, it will change.

The marathon is a great distance, and the first one is by far the hardest. Each next one gets to be more fun, so if you can preserve whatever spark made you want to run one in the first place, that would be great.

A few words on tapering, which is the phase of training you are now in: Use your three weeks to run 80, 70, 50% of your previous training volume. But keep your intensity where it has been. The research suggests that a stepped taper is the best way to preserve the gains of training and to rest for the race, but it also suggests that you should only taper one thing (IOW, volume or intensity), not both at once.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions. I love this shit.
posted by OmieWise at 7:56 AM on December 14, 2004 [1 favorite]

Oh, and best of luck. Upright is alright.
posted by OmieWise at 7:57 AM on December 14, 2004

Around mile 20 people hit The Wall.

Just don't stop.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 10:08 AM on December 14, 2004

a friend called me one day and said "HEY, WE'RE RUNNING A MARATHON NEXT WEEK."

my training consisted of quitting smoking.

i ran *just* enough before the marathon to get a nice case of tendonitis.

we got terribly drunk on the friday (the marathon being on sunday).

we still finished, no problem.

as long as you're in reasonable shape, you'll be fine. you'll just get a crappy time (it took us 6 hours -- lame, but pretty good for a couple of alcoholic smokers).

now, the things i wish i had done:

* avoided overtraining
* stretched A LOT before running (we were late arriving, so we stretched for maybe two minutes at most. we knew this was a mistake, but didn't care)
* figured out a good solution to the chafe issue

good luck!
posted by fishfucker at 12:41 PM on December 14, 2004

I haven't done a marathon, but I've done a few triathlons, including a half-Ironman. I second ralawrence's emphasis on tapering. Taper taper taper!

Start getting plenty of sleep (7-9 hours a day) now. Keep off the fats, sugars, and junk food and focus on complex carbs and nutrients--especially potassium, as it helps prevent cramping. If you hold a carbo-load dinner, hold it two nights before, as the traditional night-before-the-race dinner doesn't give your system enough time to make use of the food.

Don't start trying new energy bars or drinks now--you don't want to run into nasty stomach problems. Use whatever you used during training during the race. If you haven't used food or something while training, you might want to consider it. Carry along raisins or a granola bar in your running shorts or belt, or even a little bit of Gatorade powder to add to your water or eat off a wet finger. The important thing is that what you're eating has carbs and won't upset your stomach. There's nothing worse than hitting a blood sugar crash when you've got an hour or so of racing left.

And while you should start drinking lots of water now to keep yourself hydrated (8-10 cups minimum, probably), don't force it. It's winter, you're not going to be sweating as hard and you don't want to run into hyponatremia.
posted by schroedinger at 1:47 PM on December 14, 2004

Three time marathon finisher here - personal best of 3:40. Certified mid-packer.

No new shoes. No new gels, goo, beverages or foods. Don't go out too fast. Drink lots. Don't be afraid to take a walk break.

Oh yeah - have fun! It is a great accomplishment.
posted by fixedgear at 2:53 PM on December 14, 2004

Biologist Bernd Heinrich wrote a very interesting book about running (with a slant toward energy economics and biology) and his training for an ultramarathon. Summary: cranberry juice good, olive oil bad. :-)
posted by DakotaPaul at 5:07 PM on December 14, 2004

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