If you are running the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, right now you are either cool as a cucumber, a nervous wreck, or somewhere in between. At this very moment you might even be questioning everything you did in training. This is actually perfectly normal. The truth of the matter is you are ready. Yes, you're ready. Trust your training, even it was less than perfect. But in case you are one of those people that need to fixate on something, here are some tips for these last few (gulp) hours.
Note: I'm writing this specifically for the 2013 Chicago Marathon. If you are running a different marathon or reading some other year (perhaps you hopped into your Delorean, or are an alien anthropologist exploring our post-apocolyptic planet), you should still be able to utilize some of the more general tips below.
Go on Friday if you can. The Expo is huge and you will use a lot of energy walking around. Be sure to get your race gear first before you go shopping. Repeat: Get your stuff FIRST.
After you get your race packet, take a couple slow laps around the vendor booths. There is usually a lot of free swag to be had. Conventional Wisdom says don't buy new clothes or shoes for the race. The exception might be a pair of cheep gloves or a hat given the really cold forecast. In past years they have sold these tyvek style clothes that are easy enough to break off and remove while running once you warm up.
Disclosure: I've bought a new race singlet and I know a couple of people who had to buy new shoes and it worked out fine.
Day Before the Race
Sleep in but not too much, you might find it hard to fall asleep the night of. Eat a good breakfast and lunch and a light dinner. It's too late to carb load so don't over do it on the pasta. However, if you like pasta, by all means don't deny yourself.
Try to stay in and veg. Stay off your feet as much as possible. This is an excellent time to catch up on movies you might have missed or to clear out your DVR of TV shows.
Night Before the Race and Sex
This is your Last chance to get your race gear set up. Gather your race bag with what you will need pre- during and post race in mind. Think warm, dry, extra toilet paper, Neosporin, flip flops or dry socks. A little cash, a cell phone, a towel. Remember this year (and for the foreseeable future) you can only use the clear bag issued by the Chicago marathon.
Is it okay to have sex the night before? if you can get it, great. Just don't spend all night looking for it. enough said.
Race Day Morning
Do your usual long run morning routine with the possible exception of getting up a little earlier than you did for your LR during traing. Dress warm and plan to strip down pre-race or along the course. Take into account it will be in the low 50s at the start , so you may have to adjust with some additional clothes.
Just keep the wicking fabrics (coolmax) you've been wearing all summer as your first layer (closest to your skin) and add a warming layer (some breathable fleece or a jacket) over it, and don't underestimate the power of a hat and gloves in keeping you warm. Consider something you want to throw away to wear over everything to the start that you can toss as you warm up. It will be collected, washed and given to a homeless shelter.
Don't forget the body glide!
Running with someone during the race
Only other marathoners will be allowed on the course so if you are running with a friend, perhaps someone you trained with, have a conversation about how things will work. How will you stay together at water stops? Will you wait for each other for a bathroom break? What if one of you is feeling better or worse at some point? Will you stay together no matter what, or will you split up? Have this discussion sooner rather than later.
Also know that you can only start in your assigned corral, so if you are not in the same one, starting together may not work if one of you is in Wave 1 (A-E) and the other is in Wave 2( G,H, etc...).
Are friends and/or family going to be watching for you on the course? Make sure you know where they are going to be and which side of the street they will be on. It will probably be easier for you to spot them than vice-versa, at least on the first half of the course. And of course remember to have 4 marathon race goals.
Most Important Piece of Advice
Do Not Go Out TOO FAST!
Repeat: Do not go out too quickly. It seems impossible at the beginning miles of the course because you have a fired up crowd and you are full of energy. Trust me, my nickname is Icarus because of several marathons where I went out much faster than my planned pace and had to do positive splits on the back half of the course.
Instead, try to hang back and not waste energy dodging people. It will be tight on the corners for the first few miles until your running lanes open up. There is plenty of time to gradually increase you pace.
Resist the urge to Bank Time because this seldom if ever works. The best races are steady and even, or bonus if you can run negative splits. Run the early miles conservatively and enjoy passing folks at mile 23 who have nothing left.
After you cross the finish line
Let people help you at the finish. If it means letting someone help you get your warm up pants on or help you walk back to the hotel. You'll be spent. And don't refuse the refreshments even if you aren't hungry, you will be soon. Keep the Mylar blanket around you to stay warm as you cool down.
Also, don't be a spoil sport. My the Running Gods grace you with awesome PRs. However, If you have a crummy race, you are still a rock star for doing it. Boasting like crazy or Crying like the world is ending (Tears are okay--and often unexpected) on end is kind of a drag. Be proud of what ever you do and then let it go and get ready to celebrate the accomplishment.
Thank your friends, family, pets and anybody else who made everything possible. And if you like, share with us your tale of a great victory or blood, sweat and tears in the comments.
Remember your training and you will cross the finish line!
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