There is so much that goes into training for a half or full marathon! So much time and effort goes into completing the miles on your training schedule, getting new shoes, eating healthy, drinking water, and so much more! When faced with a daunting challenge like a marathon (especially when it is your first) it can be just as challenging figuring out the do’s and don’ts, as it is completing the actual race. Everything you do leading up to the race is so important, but so is what you do during and after!
I conducted a lot of research preparing for my first marathon. I also got some great tips from seasoned athletic friends of mine. I have tried to compile some of the do’s and don’ts I found most helpful! At the end is a list of website links I pulled some of this information from for your continued reference. I hope this helps you or at least gives you a starting point to help you in future races. This list is not all-inclusive, but a starting point. Happy Running!
Practice your long runs with the fluids and gels
you plane to use on race day to make sure your stomach responds well. You
should fuel your body the exact same way during your training as you would on
You should also experiment with what you eat for
breakfast for your run longs so that you know exactly what you should eat on
race day. Everyone is different, so you need to know what your body needs!
Follow your training plan/calendar for mileage
and keep your long runs slow! No need to create an injury due to overtraining.
Make a mental note of the clothes you wear
during your long runs and the temperature outside. Which shorts, pants, shirts
you can run long in with the least amount of discomfort. Also how many layers
you might need based on the temperature. Remember, your body will produce heat
on it’s own so don’t overdress!
Plan your outfit for race day, and possibly a
“back-up” for changes in weather.
Do not, I repeat Do Not, wear anything you have
never worn before on race day. That applies to new shoes too, even if they are
the same brand and model. You need several weeks to break in a pair of shoes
before attempting to race in a long distance event.
Pack your favorite running socks that you have
trained in before. This also goes for compression socks, race day may not be
the best day to ‘test’ out the full sock version if you are used to the sleeve
(or vice versa).
Start packing several days ahead so you don’t
Make sure to cut your toenails so you don’t have
any sharp edges! Ouch!
Drink plenty of water and sports drinks during
your training and in the days leading up to the race. Your urine should be a
pale yellow. If too clear or too bright you should adjust accordingly.
Avoid high fiber, high fat and high dairy foods
at least 3 days prior leading into the race and replace with easy carbs like
breads, pastas, potatoes, and fruits. You should continue to eat the same
amount of calories per day, just replacing calories that would come from fats
and fibers to those from carbs.
Begin your carb loading 3-4 days prior to the
race. What you eat the night before will probably not help you too much during
the race, rather it will contribute more to your post-race recovery by the time
your body can process and break down the food. You want to make small
consistent “deposits” of carbs into your muscles over several days which will
allow your body to burn those carbs for energy during the race and it will also
allow you to stay better hydrated since carbs help to retain fluids.
Don’t risk forgetting something the morning of,
you’ll have a lot on your mind (never mind your excitement)! Lay out your
clothes and gear the night before. Pin your bib onto your shirt, pack your GU,
etc. Set more than one alarm too!
You probably won’t sleep much the night before!
Being in a comfortable bed will help.
Trust yourself! See it and believe it! You are
During the Race:
Drink about 16 oz of fluid the morning of about
2-3 hours prior.
Drink 3-6 oz every 15-20 minutes during the race.
Ideal running temp is in mid-50’s, when hotter, increase fluid intake. Especially
If you take gels (like GU) with a sports drink
you risk putting too much sugar in your gastrointestinal tract at once, which
can cause stomach cramps or diarrhea.
Alternate drinking water and sports drinks at
every other water stop. The sports drinks will help refuel your body with
essential carbs and electrolytes your body has lost. Be careful of only
drinking water without the use of sports drinks and/or gels. This could lead to
hyponatremia (a disturbance in your salt level in your body) and could be
- For more information on hyponatremia: http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/hydrationandfluid/a/Hyponatremia.htm
You should consume about 200 calories every few
miles during the race. This could come from sports drinks, gels, and foods like
bananas or grapes.
If using gels or gummies like GU, it is better
to keep a constant schedule of consumption rather than wait until it is too
late. Typically a GU is taken at mile 8 or so and maybe again at mile 20. You
don’t wait to drink water/sports drinks, so why wait to replenish your muscles?
If you wait until you feel thirsty or hungry, IT IS TOO LATE. Instead, try
taking “sips” of gels every 2 miles or so. I find it easier to do this with the
gummy version of gels. GU sells gummy balls called CHOMPS, but there are many
different brands. Find the ones that you like best. You can easily grab a gummy
or two and eat them as your run. Think of your muscles and body like a bank
account. You have made many “deposits” of nutrition in the days leading up to
the race, continue to make “deposits” during the race so that you never fall
into the negative. Remember, your body is burning lots of carbs and losing much-needed
If you have trained using music, then you might
want to have your iPod with you on race day. Unless you have run your long runs
without music and like it that way, you might wish you had your music if that
is what you are used to.
Use positive self-talk! You are ready! You can
do this! If you believe it you will do it!
After the Race:
Take the space blanket; your body will cool down
quickly after the race, even in warmer climates. Your body is vulnerable and
will go into shock if you are not careful.
Get into dry warm clothes as soon as possible to
help your body temperature return to normal
Keep walking for about 15 minutes after the
race. This will help to reduce lactic acid build up in your muscles. This will
also help reduce cramping and blood build up in your lower extremities.
Remember your heart is still pumping lots of blood to fuel your muscles and recover.
Keep drinking fluids, If you haven’t urinated
within 6 hours following the marathon, seek medical help, you may have had
kidney shutdown. Eat some high carbohydrate snacks and salty snacks. Potassium
sources such as bananas are good.
Gentle massage and stretching only, nothing too
strenuous for 24-48 hours. Your muscles are already stressed!
Get a massage about 48 hours post race to help
remove the lactic acid from your muscles. This can help reduce soreness faster.
Eat or drink about 200 or 300 calories of
carbohydrates and some protein within an hour of finishing the marathon. The
carbs refuel your muscles with glycogen, and the protein will help repair your
muscles. Eat a full meal as soon as you are able to continue the recovery
It takes 2-3 weeks to recover after marathon. The
guideline is 1 day per mile completed of no hard running: 26.2 miles = 26 days
The training you do in the three weeks following
a marathon should be a near mirror of what you did the last three weeks before:
in other words, a reverse taper. Your eating after also should mirror your
eating before, since a diet high in carbohydrates can help refuel your
muscles as well as fuel them.
No running for 48-72 hours post race, then only
light easy running, depending on your fitness level and recovery process after
- Examples of a reverse taper can be found here:
Don’t Be Alone: You may experience fainting,
gray-outs, etc. after the marathon. You should not drive alone or be alone for
the first 12 hours. You need a buddy after the marathon to monitor you for
medical problems. Even if you are a medical professional yourself, you have no judgment
after the marathon, you need somebody else to do that. Symptoms of stroke and heartbeat
irregularities are especially serious. Disturbances in your body salt level
during the marathon (hyponatremia) can trigger heartbeat problems and perhaps
lead to sudden death. People can and do die alone in their hotel rooms after
No hot tub for you! A hot bath may further
damage already lactic acid-soaked muscles. A lukewarm bath or shower is good.
Use a whole box of Epsom Salts in a lukewarm bath for a body soak to help
relieve pain and soreness. Ice is also helpful to reduce soreness and
Get plenty of sleep! Your body is tired and
immune system compromised. Getting plenty of sleep before and after the race is
important for full recovery and to reduce the likelihood of getting sick.
Keep your eyes on recovery but also near future
running goals to keep you motivated