By Sean Fortune of Central Park Coaching:
There’s already plenty of great marathon advice out there that’s easy to find and extremely useful. From “Top 10” lists, to the “Dos & Don’ts” of marathon day, to “26 Tips for 26 Miles.” These little nuggets of info can make your race day easier, get you through it in better shape, and maybe even help you run a personal best. With this article, I wanted to share some uncommon wisdom, that isn’t already out there. If one piece of advice gets through to someone that hasn’t heard before, then it was worth it.
I’ll also take you through the month AFTER the marathon to ensure your recovery goes smoothly so you can start running again as soon as possible. But, before we get to the big day, let’s make sure we have the week leading up to it covered:
THE WEEK BEFORE
The main objective during the week leading up to the race is to restore your body to optimal levels for marthoning after your long training block. By manipulating your diet, training, and stress-levels, you can ensure your body will be ready to perform at its best on marathon Sunday. Below are some markers and best practices to keep in mind that I find works best for majority of runners.
M – Reduction of daily mileage. Continuation of emphasis on daily hydration throughout the week – 80-100oz a day is a range that works for most people. Increase daily salt intake but lightly salting one meal a day.
T – Light sharpening speed workout to keep your legs fresh and your mind and body feeling good, NOT TO BUILD FITNESS. Sample workout that I like is 3-4x 800m at your LT pace on 60-90sec jog.
W – Short, easy recovery run: 20-30mins. Make a list of all your marathon day needs and make sure you have them. Race outfit, gels, body glide, extra clothes to keep warm at the start, metrocard or emergency $20, etc. If you don’t, today is great day to get them. 45min -60hr leg massage. 15min Ice Bath.
T – REST DAY:
1. From today through Saturday night, begin emphasis on a greater percentage of easily digestible carbs on your food plate e.g. If your plate of food is normally 50-60% carbs, add more so your plate is 70-80% carbs. You’re not eating an over abundance of carbs, just more of your normal meal is carbs. Pasta, bread, rice, cereal, oatmeal, are all winners.
2. Start reducing stress in your normal life as much as possible – get off your feet, get down with the expo before the International and work crowds, start getting into the sleep pattern that you’ll be doing Saturday night into marathon morning.
F – REST DAY – One last checklist to make sure you have everything you need for race day. Chill out as much as possible.
S – Pre-race shakeout, stretch, and strides: 10-15min jog, followed by your stretch routine and a few striders. Again, this is simply for keeping the legs, body, and mind feeling good, NOT TO BUILD FITNESS. Clip your toenails very short. Take 15min Ice Bath.
S – Race Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Basics: Use body glide; take a gulp of water at each station if possible; take a full cup of water with each Gel; don’t take Gatorade with Gel.
• Warm-Up: Spending a couple of hours in the cold isn’t the best way to start a race. Make sure to do a warm up starting with 5-10mins of dynamic stretches for both legs and arms. This will loosen you up and help raise your core temperature. 5-10mins of light jogging (in a short circle if you have to) with a couple of short, quick strides will loosen you up before lining up in the corrals. It’s not ideal, but it will help ease the transition from being sedentary and cold and also help with aiding your digestive tract for an last minute bathroom break.
• Don’t Get Antsy: At the start of the race going over the Verrazano Bridge. It’s easy to get frustrated with the crowds and want to start surging. Don’t bother. Think of the first mile as a continuation of your warm-up and stay as steady and comfortable for as long as possible.
• Hold Back: The marathon is an exercise in patience for the first 15 to 20 miles. There should be a sensation of holding back your fitness until you’re making your way over the 59th Street Bridge. Once you’re on 1st Ave. you’ll feel great, so be careful you don’t overdue it on 1st going too fast. You won’t even realize it so be careful. In Harlem, that sensation will quickly change into a feeling of fatigue or pushing your fitness to the limit.
• Anticipate: Fueling needs and situations. Taking in energy during the race is crucial, so don’t be caught off-guard about when you’ll need it, stick to your plan and execute. There’s a delayed reaction to feeling a benefit once you do, about a 10-15min window, so if you’re planning on picking it up once you get back into Manhattan, take your energy gel as you’re going into the Bronx.
• Rhythm: Even pacing throughout the marathon is ideal, but a fluctuation in perceived effort is a reality. Smooth out your rhythm as much as possible but staying in the zone once you find it. Limit distractions as best you can and nurture the good rhythm as much as possible. If you lose it, recommit again by connecting with your body’s stride and breathing and finding a pattern that feels smooth and efficient.
• Remain Economical: You may already know about the many hills along the marathon route, but there’s also a ton more of rhythm-busting 90 degree turns. Combat this costly combination of hills and turns by remembering to stay economical – crop your stride slightly while easing into an increased turnover can help you through all the bumps and curves. Not neglecting the arms is also beneficial. Helps create torque accessing the power in your core.
• Stay Positive: When the going gets tough, remember that once you get into the comfy confines of Central Park, you’ll smell the finishing line. Get yourself there, and the crowds in CP will bring you home.
THE MONTH AFTER
Immediately after the race you should start hydrating once again and begin taking in calories any way your body will let you. When you get home try to do a little stretching and foam rolling. Definitely take an ice bath before your shower, as this will greatly reduce inflammation in the legs. A good rule of thumb for full recovery from a marathon is about a month – a day for every mile of the race. That doesn’t mean you should be inactive if you don’t want to be, I just wouldn’t recommend trying to run hard for about 3 weeks to 4 weeks.
Monday through Wednesday: in replacement of your normal run, do a dynamic stretch routine to move your legs around, loosen up the joints, and work up a little sweat. Then foam roll, stretch, and spot ice sore spots or Ice Bath. Leg massage on Wednesday or Thursday will help recovery.
Thursday through Sunday: do dynamic stretch routine and then add a cross train – light swimming, elliptical, or spinning on the bike. Foam roll, stretch, ice.
Monday through Sunday: do dynamic stretch routine. If body feels good, can do easy jogs for 10-20mins. Building towards 30mins + towards the end of the week. Can add in cross training to supplement the lower amount of running. Foam roll, stretch, ice.
Monday through Sunday: normal running routine, but no hard runs or fast speed. Keep longest run under 1hr 15mins.
Monday through Sunday: normal run routine, can introduce controlled faster paced runs. Keep long run to no more than 10 miles.