Day of Marathon Planning
April 24, 2006 8:37 PM   Subscribe

Day of Marathon planning questions.

In two weeks, I'll be tackling my first marathon, the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon and I have some questions about what to expect the day of the race and how I should best cope. I've put in a decent amount of training, have my clothes picked out and I've got a minimum amount of sane strategy about running the race. What I don't have a clue about is the stuff leading up to the race.

My major concerns are that the race starts at 6 am and realisticly I'll have to be awake by 4am in order to get my brain unclogged and get down to the starting line. Is my body going to revolt at running at this hour (I'm never up at this hour let alone running). What should I eat beforehand and how much? How do I make sure I poo beforehand and not have to do it at mile marker 14? I'm also considering treating myself to a massage for the next day...will this be a good idea or will the mere touch of a human being be too painful?

Thanks a bunch...
posted by mmascolino to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Thanks ericb. I should also add that the rules for the race say they disallow runners with headphones. This seems ludacris as 80% I see out running are wearing them. Is this something that is truely enforced on the course? Part of the joy of marathon training was the long blocks of time that allowed me to spin thru many an hour podcasts or NPR recordings.
posted by mmascolino at 9:28 PM on April 24, 2006

Have you thought about waking up earlier and earlier in the days leading up to the marathon? If you wake up a little earlier each day (say fifteen minute increments) you can acclimate yourself to a new schedule pretty easily. Also, if you plan it so that you wake up at the target time on the Friday (and maybe even Thursday) before the race, it should make getting up on race day fairly pain free.
posted by oddman at 10:19 PM on April 24, 2006

getting up early sucks, but it's not so bad when you're excited about something. hopefully you're excited about this, as a first marathon is super exciting. the story i've heard is the night sleep before something like this is not really as important as 2 nights beforehand. i ran my first (and probably only) marathon on like 3-4 hours of sleep and it wasnt a problem. the problem was that it was like 26.2 frickin miles long. have a good time, good luck
posted by garethspor at 11:26 PM on April 24, 2006

I've never run a marathon, but am a competitive distance runner (5k and 10k). The preparation beforehand is similar.

Garethspor is right about the sleeping and the getting up - it is usually never a problem for me getting up so early, as I'm usually nervous enough before a big race that the adrenaline cancels out any sleep deprivation. Good sleep the week before is much better than sleep the night before. It is the difference between being wired and being exhausted. I've run very well during races where I was so nervous beforehand that I didn't sleep more than a few hours.

Still, I regularly do and also suggest a race simulation morning, where you get up ~3 hours beforehand, eat your prerace meal (for me usually tea or a coffee, toast and a banana with some water), do your planned warmup, and do a workout where at least some of the running is at race pace. Ideally this would be done a few weeks before the race, but in your case I'm guessing that since it is now Tuesday you don't have that much time. Do it next Sunday.

I find that what most people really fear the most is the unknown, and when you have a ritual that you follow, it is calming and reassuring. I pretty much don't think before a race - I just go through the ritual. Thinking = second guessing = doubt = bad.

As for the bowels, don't change your diet drastically beforehand. This is a rookie mistake - eating all differently or like you're 'supposed to eat' before a race is probably worse than whatever you're used to. Eat whatever you do before a long run. Don't eat a massive amount the day before. Two days before is more important than the day before, but take it easy with the eating in any case. The cutdown in mileage that you've likely done will naturally load you up a bit with extra glycogen anyways, and marathoning relies more on fat metabolism than shorter races anyways. If you're well trained, that is. Everyone has more than enough fat.

If you don't think too much about having to evacuate on a run and haven't had a problem with it in the past, don't worry so much about it during the marathon. If it does happen and you're not in the hunt for prize money (sounds like you're not) there are usually pot-a-potties along the route that will cost you a minute at the most.

As for headphones, yes some races don't allow them. Haven't ever raced with them, but can't imagine that someone is gonna pick you out of the crowd and tackle you for doing so. It's more a safety/liability issue and, if you get hit by a bus while running it helps prevent you from suing them.

Good luck, have fun.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:17 AM on April 25, 2006 [2 favorites]

That's great, you'll have a great time. Just dropping in to suggest that the sleep two nights before is really kind of the money sleep. Even with a substantially long training run I'm frequently too anxious about it the night before to get a good nights sleep.

I make sure to lay out all of my clothes and anything else I need the night before a race so that I have nothing in that vein to think about. I eat what I normally eat, fatty meals are actually just fine as they raise the level of free fatty acids in the blood which is good in distance running. There will be portapots at the start, and the long lines are part of the joy of running a marathon. I've never run a race with headphones.

Best of luck. It's a great sport.
posted by OmieWise at 5:55 AM on April 25, 2006

I'll chime in as a former national class marathoner.

Forget about carbo loading, I've never done it, very few of the people I used to train with do it, and those who did had mixed results. I agree with jimmythefish about not worrying too much about lack of sleep the night before. Try waking up early a few times in the week leading up to the race and taking a short run at around 6-7 am so marathon day is not a complete shock.

If I were you, I'd make sure that I was up a bit before 4:00 am in order to have some bland breakfast (oatmeal, bagel, a tiny bit of protien. I preferred 4 frosted strawberry pop-tarts but I would not recommend that for everyone ) and a bit of coffee if you're used to drinking it. The important thing at that early hour is to get your muscles warm and avoid toeing the line with straight-out-of-bed stiffness. Your adrenaline will clear your mind and make you alert, it won't make your hamstrings loose. Walk around a bit.

Oh, and the headphones? It's a safety issue. The race officials need to be able to instruct you, and runners distracted by headphones are a liability to both the course officials and fellow runners. My advice is to leave the headphones at home and connect to the full experience of the adventure of what you are embarking on.

Good luck and have a great time!
posted by stagewhisper at 6:00 AM on April 25, 2006

Plan for plenty of travel time in the morning--parking lots may be very congested, there may be long lines for shuttles and portapotties, etc. Better too early than too late.
posted by magicbus at 6:20 AM on April 25, 2006

You'll have a blast.

Anything you do or don't do on the morning of your race won't make a lick of difference compared to the months of training you've put in thus far. Make sure to eat a good dinner the night before. Consume plenty of water in the week leading up, but don't get too crazy about it.

There are always bathrooms along the course, but you should assume that a very large percentage of the men running the race will peel off at the first convenient moment to take a leak.

Personally, I like to drink those Trader Joe's smoothies in the morning before I run... but I wouldn't start experimenting with these things right before the race. You might wanna try eating some food before you do your runs over the next week, see how it feels. I wouldn't stress about it, though.

You might also wanna check out that Gu stuff, if you haven't already. It seems like every race gives it out at some point around mile 17 or 20. I find it helpful, anyway...

Running these things first thing in the morning is the best. It'll be nice and cool, for one thing. Also, it'll take awhile for your brain to realize what you're up to. This is helpful, as it may become alarmed when it's been running for several hours and realizes that it has 13 miles left to go.

That's kinda weird about headphones, but I doubt anyone is going to tackle you out on the course if you're dead set on using them. Unlike those long boring training runs, though, there should be a fair amount of stimulation along the course.

It occurs to me that I'm not sure that I've ever really read the rules of the races I competed in. I wonder if that's just standard language.
posted by ph00dz at 6:28 AM on April 25, 2006

Thanks everyone for the helpful comments. I went sans headphones for the entire race and I finished at what I thought was going to be my stretch goal.
posted by mmascolino at 6:27 PM on May 7, 2006

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