How to Run Your Best Marathon
With spring marathon season about to start, for many, the prospect of race day fills them with equal doses of excitement and jangling nerves! With months of training all boiling down to just one day, it’s no surprise that many people feel unsettled. However, for those eager to dispel the anxiety levels, a tried and tested race day strategy could be the preparation they need to perfect their marathon mindset.
Whether it’s your first marathon or you’re an experienced racer looking to establish a new personal best, professional fitness coach Shaun Dixon shares his top tips for perfecting your marathon race day strategy, and to ensure that you make the most of those 26.2 miles:
- Control The Controllables - “It doesn't matter how experienced you are, racing is mentally challenging. To reduce pre-race nerves we need to control the controllables. Having a tested plan, from the timing of your breakfast to the length of your warm-up, allows you to focus on getting the most out of yourself in the race. Don't waste energy worrying about the little things!”
- Visualise To Boost Confidence - “Race visualisation has been proven to improve performance. Thinking through each possible race scenario and how you would react. It can help to write down a few potential pitfalls and then come up with a method of dealing with them. Visualise feeling relaxed, smooth and confident as you cruise around the course.”
- Get Your Kit Together - “There are a few things I always include in my race bag. A handful of safety pins, a pre and post run snack and a plentiful supply of warm, dry clothes. After the race, your body temperature will drop quickly so it's vitally important for your recovery to have some dry clothes to change into and something to eat.”
- Accept You May Not Be At The Training Point You Hoped For - “You can't change or control being 'undertrained' on race day, so you shouldn't worry about it! Celebrate the fact you made it to the start line in one piece, unlike those who pushed too hard and picked up injuries. I would potentially revise your goals slightly and start the race more cautiously, giving you a chance to pick up in the last third of the race. Remember- all you can do is give your best on the day.”
- Remember Your Recovery - “A recovery strategy should not be a new concept to you come race day - you should have practised it throughout your training. If you don't recover adequately from your training runs you aren't gaining the full benefit of your training. I would aim to eat a snack or drink a protein based drink within 30 minutes of finishing and have a good meal within 90 minutes (with a good combination of carbs and protein). It might not work for everyone but I think milk is an ideal, post-run recovery drink.”
- If You’re After A Personal Best - Practise, Practise, Practise - “Knowing when to push hard to hit your PB is a difficult question, the answer to which can only be gained with experience. With that in mind, practise! Practise your goal pace in training, and enter a few tune-up races in preparation for your goal race. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, try different approaches and see what works. Races are fantastic training!”
- Have Fun – “The most important thing about racing is it should be fun. If it isn't, do something different. There are so many opportunities to give it a go, so don't fixate too much on one specific race or event. Enter a few and experiment. You could discover you have a talent for different distances or terrains.”
Editor's note: This post was originally published in April 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.