Hi! My name is Ken. I'm going to periodically write about running, writing, and a number of other topics. Please feel free to read my posts and provide your comments. If you have a question about any topic, leave a message and I'll try to help you get the information you're looking for. Thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you again soon.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Marathon Advice: Preparation and Race Day Tips

I recently gave some advice to a new member of the blogger group I'm setting up.  His name is Tom and he's running the Green Mountain Marathon this morning in Vermont. I hope this advice helps him and others run a great marathon. Good luck, Tom!

1) Forget about the racing flats. Run with the shoes you've been doing long runs with-the good pair-the ones you like that aren't worn too much, but are broken in so you won't worry about heal pain from rubbing etc.;

2) Start drinking electrolytes and other fluids several days before and up to race day;

3)Don't pee in public unless its during the race. Find some trees that provide some privacy or preferably use a porta-potty;

4)If you're doing this for the first time your goal should be just to finish. For more advanced runners, I recommend running conservatively for the first 14 miles. (30  to 60 seconds per mile slower than your goal pace) My experience has been that you lose most of your time in the last 10K if you go out too fast.  Plus, it feels good when you start passing people who didn't run conservatively;

5)Don't-I repeat-don't-I repeat-don't go out fast. Try running with someone who's going slower than you were planning to go and talk. In other words, just enjoy being out there. Does he or she have kids? How many do they have?  I think you get my point. This takes some of the stress of the race off and you will pass the time quicker than you would have thought. Get to the twenty mile mark and have something left because you conserved energy during the earlier miles;

6) Eat pasta the afternoon or night before the race, but don't eat too much;

7) You're probably going to sleep less the night before the marathon so rest a lot the day before the race. Don't spent the day walking around, cutting the lawn etc... Just vegetate and get some R and R on that day if you can.

8) This was specific for Tom, but you can adjust your times accordingly. He did some of his long runs at a 6:30 pace.  The 6:30 min/mile for long distance is pretty fast. That's a 2:50 marathon- a time that is difficult for even experienced young marathoners. I'd forget about that pace. Start out doing 7:35-7:45 min./mile and pick it up after 15 or 16 miles. That's a 3:16 marathon pace- not bad for a first time. If you can manage that and you have a lot left, try to run the last 10K in about 43 to 44 minutes. That's just over 7:00 min./mile pace. You'll negative split if you do that, which is always good.

9) As soon as you feel the need to pee, do it-don't wait. You'll save time in the long run by stopping.

10)For cooler fall marathons, wear tights if you have them, several coolmax layers on top, thin gloves, and a baseball cap. Old clothes can be shed if you get hot. Use Vaseline under your armpits, nipples and between your legs.

11) Borrow a more dependable car to get to the race if you can so that isn't a worry.  What I mean here is try to minimize anything that stresses you out prior to race day.

12) Take in fluids and gels every 30 minute or so during the race. It should be the stuff you've been practicing with-nothing new. Put some stuff you like in your pocket in case you want something and you're away from a water station.

Good luck!



  1. Awesome tips, thanks!

    It is my first marathon and I do have a time goal. People say "just finish" should be my goal like you said... but really, that' not good enough for me. I don't know. Maybe I'm taking the wrong approach. My goal isn't huge - just 4:30 or under. I need something to shoot for other than just finishing. To me that's like doing the bare minimum, something I don't do in life.

  2. I was going to mention your marathon quest in a later post, Michelle. But you bring up a good point about goal setting.

    If you are competitive, it's difficult to not put on your "game face" during races. I totally understand that. What I mean by "just finish" as a goal is that just to finish a marathon for the first time is a very good accomplishment. I always have what I call "secondary" goals like run the second half of the race faster than the first and break a certain time like 4:30 so that's okay.

    Thanks for my comments. We'll talk some more.


  3. Hey Ken!

    Just checking in again. I thought I'd let you know that I took some of your advice (i.e. peeing early in the game and sticking with the training shoes.) I might have even taken a different car up to the race, but I'm not sure where you live in CT and if you'd want to give me the keys. When it came to the pacing though I took a rather different approach from what you suggested, and actually ended up surprising myself.

    I thought I was going out quick and made a few attempts to cut my pace. The excitement was palpable out there. I had mentioned to one of my fellow runners that I had started the watch late (at mile 2) and he told me that one of the best things to do is throw the watch away. So I thought, "what the hell?" I'll just do what feels right. I'm glad I did, because even if I'd held myself to my earlier goal (sub three hours) I still would have been limiting myself.

    When I got to the half-way point, I was 1:24 and ended up dropping two minutes off of my second half, finishing in 2:46:05. It hurt like hell for those last six miles, but I was glad that I'd let myself go a little crazy. Plus, I scored third place, which meant that I got to take a shiny golden apple trophy home with me.

    I think Michelle has a good point about goal-setting. The trick is setting the right one. Sometimes it's hard to know, and you've got to be willing to accept the consequences of a faulty judgement. That's just part of the game. In the back of my head today I knew I could be setting myself up for terrible suffering and failure. As I mentioned in my last post, I have some experience with paying for pacing badly. It will probably happen again and I'll admit, bombing a marathon is one of the last things I want to experience. Still, I think that sometimes, in order to get truly satisfying results, you've got to risk a bad fall.

    Off course, there are plenty of different reasons to run races and different running philosophies. There is great pleasure in just finishing the course and I know and respect plenty of folks that take time to smell the roses. It is also true that on the first race, you will have a lot less experience pacing (something I was worried about.) But I did take a few measures to at least give me a ballpark idea about what I could do, including my 22.5 miler and also Yasso 800s,7120,s6-238-244-255-624-0,00.html

    I'll be writing up a nifty lil' post about my experience sometime soon.

    I still have plenty to learn about long-distance running, but I'm glad I ran the way I did. As with many things, it looks like there is more than one way to skin a cat.


  4. Tom,

    You did an awesome job!

    I look forward to reading your post-race post.


  5. Like it man! I'm planning on running the Canyonlands Half Marathon in March, and these are great tips. Thanks!

  6. Chris,

    How about we join each others blog. I have some other suggestions for running a half marathon that we might find helpful. Stay tuned for another post that provides that information. Feel free to share some of your experiences with other races you've done. Perhaps others in the group can benefit from it.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  7. I do not run, but a story on NPR this morning was interesting. Wanted to let you know of it. -MB

    Avoid The 'Bonk': Running A Marathon Scientifically
    "Bonking" or "hitting the wall" is that awful moment when marathoners run out of gas. They've used up all the carbohydrate fuel stored in their liver and muscles, and their bodies are forced to switch, painfully, to burning fat. Now a marathoning Harvard-MIT student has figured out how to calculate that point.

  8. Nice article. I especially appreciate the suggestion of finding reliable transportation. After putting in so much hard work training for a marathon it would be terrible to miss it due to a predictably unreliable car. Sometimes things just happen but if your car has 175,000 miles and frequently breaks down you might want to find an alternative way to the race.


Your comments are appreciated!