Anything can happen in 26.2 miles; sun, rain, cramps, injury and an avalanche of other variables you can’t control. As your biggest fans, here's our definitive list of factors you can anticipate. Aspiring marathoners: step through these 26.2 training tips and gear picks to be ready for every mile this fall.
When we talk marathon tech support, don't visualize a crew of computer nerds arguing over binary code. This is about the science behind the sport, technical knowledge to complete the arduous task at hand (or at foot). Everything from electronic gadgets, race-day fuel and pre-race training programs are essential to your technical preparation. That's because a well-rounded, mathematical approach makes the difference between failure and a finish.
A rocket ship without fuel is simply a cosmic hunk of metal. During the final 72 hours before your race, there should be a noticeable shift in energy intake. Concentrate on eating carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta, potatoes, bread and fruit. Increasing the percentage of your calories that comes from carbs will sustain you during the hardest miles.
Should you slow down? Speed up? Checking splits during a race is essential to gauge your pace. Runner’s watches now condense the data of a plane’s cockpit on your wrist. Track distances, splits, elevation and even your heart rate in a flash. One must-have accessory for novice marathoners is Garmin’s Forerunner 220 GPS Running Watch with its intuitive controls and programmable data feeds.
Should you run the full distance of your race beforehand? How long should you taper? Look online for a good training plan with positive feedback that is geared for first-timers, and then follow it religiously. Topography is far from trivial. A flat course appears less challenging, yet it means you'll be using the same muscle groups the entire race. If you're a flatlander with a hilly race ahead, run on a treadmill and alter the incline throughout. Or, train on stairways or stadium steps. Technical preparation goes beyond electronics; fine-tune your body, too.
26.2 is a daunting number. Think in 3- or 5-mile increments instead. Looking at the race in smaller chunks can make the distance more manageable and provide benchmarks for progress when you need them most.
Race day nerves may kill your appetite, but you still need fuel. Stick with something simple and familiar. We aim for a few hundred calories of carbohydrate-rich foods, knowing training diets shouldn't be jettisoned immediately before the race for odd caloric intake. Have bacon and eggs fueled your 20-mile training runs thus far?
Don’t try a new gel, electrolyte drink mix or bar on race day. It might leave you doubled over and searching for the nearest bush. Stick to what’s worked in training and you should be golden. If you’re still searching for your new favorite that's Active Junky approved, we recommend Honey Stinger for a natural energy boost.
If you’re new to the game, tapering may seem counterintuitive. Why would you lessen your output approaching race day? The average marathon training plan has you running less and resting more two or three weeks before the race in order to store both physical and mental energy. The taper is all about rest and renewal.