Katharine Teeling, running coach and owner of Coast Road Runners gives us the final tips for a great race day Sunday!
With less than 24 hours to go until the start of the Dublin Marathon, your mind will start racing faster than your body ever will. Nervous energy starts to creep in. Like the night before an exam. You question if you have done enough. You have. Your body is physically ready. Now you need to get your mind geared up. There’s no better way of putting the mind over matter theory to the test than running a marathon. I am running my 6th Dublin Marathon tomorrow so have gained a few insights, both the easy and hard way. Hopefully, they will help you through the 26.2 miles road ahead of you, the easy way.
The Experimenting Days are Over
The days for experimenting with food, race nutrition and running gear ended on your last long run. Avoid the temptation to wear the new gear or use the new race fuel you bought at the Marathon Expo. Trying something new tomorrow will put both your body and mind under pressure, which could be the breaking of you. A new top could cause physical pain or mental challenges. Both equally damaging. So stick with what’s tried and tested to keep your body and mind together. It will be the making of your race.
Relax, Hydrate, Fuel, Prepare
Stay as relaxed and stress-free as possible. Avoid running around doing jobs etc., marathon-related or otherwise. Do not go for a run. Drink plenty of water. Eat and drink your tried and tested pre-long run meals. Eat your main mean early to avoid feeling full going to bed. Get your running gear and race bag ready early. Attach your race number to your top. Pack an old warm disposable sweater/hoodie for before the race. Warm clothes for after. And tissues for the portaloos. Confirm with friends and family where they will be on the route and when. Seeing them will make for your good times and get you through the tough times. Charge your race devices. Avoid updating software or playlists. You need an early night so don’t leave these final race preparations until too late as they always take longer expected. And don’t forget the hour goes back tonight.
Race Day – Sunday
Give yourself Plenty of Time
Depending on your travel time, get up about 3 hours before the start time to allow for enough time to wake up, eat your tried and tested breakfast, pre-race fuel and hydrate. Give yourself ample time to drop off your bag, find your start zone and use the Portaloos. Queue whether you need to go or not as you’ll be queuing for a while. Use this time to stretch as all of a sudden, you will be herded to the start zones where you’ll have limited time or space to stretch. And before you know it you’re off! Enjoy this moment. You have worked so hard to get here so savour and enjoy it. You will be like a hare bolting from a trap but with 20,000 other runners doing the same thing, be careful not to trip or fall.
Find your pace
With so many runners around you, it is very easy to start running much faster than normal. With all the race adrenaline pumping, you won’t even notice you are doing it. So pull back soon or you will realise it the hard way a few miles in. You should be settled into your normal pace by mile 2 or 3.
These are akin to an oasis in the desert. Don’t stop. Grab and run. Especially in the later miles (20+) as once you stop, your legs seize up. Never pass a water station without taking a bottle whether you feel thirsty or not. Even take just a few gulps. Otherwise you will feel thirsty the moment it’s behind you. The next water station will seem like a lifetime away. This doesn’t bode well for the mind or body. The water stations will be at miles 3,5,7,9.5,11,13,16,19,21 and 24.
You spent a lot of time putting your race plan together so follow it as much as possible. There will be times when you feel like you can’t stomach another gel. So keep remembering that you put the plan together with a rational mind, something you won’t have throughout the marathon. Sometimes things don’t go quite to plan so be prepared mentally for this to happen. Don’t despair. Keep going.
The marathon is a journey full of emotions. You will feel highs when you think you are unstoppable. And lows where all you want to do is stop. Don’t stop. Especially in the later miles (20+). I can’t stress this enough. One of the toughest challenges is to start running again after this point. You can run through feeling tired. Slow your pace considerably if necessary but keep running. Engage with the crowd. Raise your hands passing by them. You’ll get a big cheer which will give you and fellow runners the next high that you have been chasing after. If however, you need to use the Portaloo, adjust something you’re wearing/carrying etc. do so in the earlier miles.
If you hit the wall, do everything you possibly can to keep running. You can get through it. This is where your mind needs to go up a gear. Ignore negative thoughts. Think positive ones. How far you have already run. How much less you have to run to get to the finish line. Think about who is out supporting you. They may be just a few minutes away. Just a small adrenaline boost can get you over the wall. Take some race fuel. Think happy thoughts, the giant feed and long hot shower that awaits you at home. Think about how hard you have worked to get here. Not just today but over the last few months. Before you know it, the wall will be behind you. You will be back on track, stronger than you were before in the knowledge that you surmounted the wall. And when you reach the finish line you will fully understand why not stopping was the best advice you ever received! However, if you are feeling really unwell or are in great pain or anything, by all means, stop running.
Smile and Enjoy
The roads of Dublin are filled with 20,000 runners and you are one of them. The streets are overflowing with supporters, familiar and unfamiliar faces around every corner. Family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues old and new, an ex (look at me now!). Let the adrenaline, atmosphere and crowd carry you to the finish line. Where you will enjoy the well-earned marathon runner’s high, and be wearing a smile from ear to ear!
Most of all Enjoy it! See you on the road!