You did it. You’re registered for your first marathon. You’ve paid your race fee’s, booked your hotel near the starting line and your pace for 26.2 is close to 4:45—but what’s next? Use this checklist to have an enjoyable and injury free race.
Some races provide hydration systems at check in like waistbelts, but it’s best to practice with your hydration system during your weeks of training leading up to race day. Consider the following types of hydration systems for your marathon.
Over-the-shoulder Packs: Great for long trail runs or distance, these packs are also great for distance running. Be sure to select a small pack with a narrow profile that fits a one-liter bladder. Anything larger could feel unnatural or slow you down. Most of these packs feature pockets and storage with plenty of room to keep snacks and essentials.
Handheld Bottles: Carrying a bottle throughout your entire race may not sound appealing, but innovative new designs have allowed for the bottles to be carried effortlessly. The bottles are held in the palm of your hand and feature adjustable straps to loosen or tighten your grip on the bottle.
Waistbelts: This hydration system is great for long distance runs with the benefit of running totally hands free. Waistbelts can carry multiple bottles, so you can bring different types of fluids for your run and most belts feature additional space to store your keys, phone and performance nutrition gel packets.
Your marathon will also have hydration and aid stations to refill your system. Check out your course map to find out where your aid stations will be located prior to your race.
Chafing—a runner’s worst enemy. Put a stop to these uncomfortable hotspots before they appear. Use a lubrication like BodyGlide on your irritation-prone areas (between the legs, armpits and bra line) to avoid painful skin rubbing. If you’ve already got the chafe, you can remedy your irritation with diaper rash ointment. Be sure to wear wicking fabrics during your training and on race day in order to battle chafing too, but we’ll cover more of this later.
Compression clothing is great for a number of reasons—protection against the elements, swelling, and it keeps you warm. When choosing compression clothing look shorts, leggings and tops made with breathable wicking fabrics. Have you been running with socks that wick away moisture? You should be. Socks made from wicking material keep feet dry, comfortable and blister-free.
Distance running can tax your body, and staying hydrated may not be enough. During your race you will be losing glycogen—the sugar stored in your liver and muscles that fuels you. During long distance runs your body can experience glycogen depletion. Your body will start to slow down and you could experience “bonking” or “hitting the wall.” I know you want to finish your race strong, so be prepared and bring an energy source to keep you fueled.
Performance nutrition like Jelly Belly’s Sport Beans contain carbs, electrolytes and vitamins like B1, B2, B3 and C, to keep you fueled. They are also made with natural flavors and fruit juices. GU Energy Gel supplements runners with 100 calories in the form of a carbohydrate blend. And, GU also includes electrolytes to ensure proper hydration and can prevent muscle tissue damage and fatigue. Take your performance nutrition 45 minutes in to your race, no sooner. These energy sources contain high amounts of simple sugars that can lead to side cramps if not consumed correctly.
Most glycogen depletion begins after 20 miles, so there is no need to take gels or beans if you are running a 5k or a short race. During your training, be sure to practice your nutrition plan as often as you can.
Your favorite training accessory should be on your wrist come race day. Use your watch to track your distance, pace and some sport watches like the Timex Run Trainer can even monitor your heart rate. Wearing a lightweight watch instead of bringing your phone with your favorite running apps and GPS maps will give you more room in your waistbelt for nutrition packets.
Image courtesy of Steven Pisano/Flickr