Marathon Advice - On The Day
Provided by Cork AAI Webmaster
If you are feeling unwell or have
just been ill - DON'T RUN!
Most medical emergencies in the Marathon are with people who have just
been or are unwell.
Cork Athletics Homepage
Marathon Advice - The Last Two Weeks
Marathon Advice - Afterwards - The Recovery Phase
Cork City Marathon - Relay and Marathon Routes
Last Minute Preparations
It's not these 26.2 miles
that are the test. It's the 500 miles leading up to them!
- Wear clothes that you've worn before
- Eat food that you've eaten before
- No new things the day of the marathon!
- The sleep you get two nights before the marathon is more
important than the sleep you get the night before the marathon
- Don't be afraid to smear vaseline on your thighs
- Take it slowly at the beginning - run the second half of the
marathon faster than the first half
- Plant supporters along the route - it gives you something to look
forward to (esp. around mile 22).
- Afterwards, soak your legs in ice-cold water - does a world of
- Protein: Burns dirty. Eat very little protein in last 24 to 36
hours, same goes for high fibre foods, otherwise you will probably need
to stop for a (p)it stop in the first 10 miles or so.
- Pack your kit bag the night before.
- Don't forget any old clothes or bin liner to keep warm before the
race, ready to be deposited.
- Also don't forget some goodies for when you finish the race.
Eating & Drinking
Get up early and eat as soon as possible - probably best to eat about 2
to 2 1/2 hours before the start. Don't eat something which will "go
through you" - like brown bread. If you've hydrated and Carboloaded
properly, you need very little on the day. I'll eat about 6:30/7am and
I'll have exactly the same as I have before my long runs - weetabix
& yoghurt, with a very small amount of fruit, and a small bit of
liquid. Eat about 300 calories that morning, 2-3 hours before the
starting gun. Toast and bananas are other options. Make sure you've
practiced this routine before several training runs. Beware of some
sports drinks, as you will need to dilute these heavily, or you'll be
making a pit stop for a crap long before you're finished.
On the morning, don't have more than a glass or two of water/isotonic
drink beforehand...or you'll be making an early unscheduled pitstop
Before the Race
Make sure to have a crap when you wake up!! If you've eaten early,
peristalisis will set in about an hour after eating and you will have
to visit the loo for a dump, so timing your eating will be very
important. Don't leave it too late!
- If you're prone to chaffing it'll show up before 20 miles and you
would have probably had "issues" before this point. Weather (wind,
temperature and humidity ) greatly affects the liklihood of chaffing.
Lots and lots of Bodyglide. I layer it on my thighs and in areas below
my armpits where I regularly chafe.
- Use vaseline on your toes to prevent the blisters you get when
they rub against each other. It also helps prevent blisters when it's
rainy or your feet get wet for other reasons (sloppy water station
- You might also want to use vaseline in 'crevices' where you might
prefer not to use Bodyglide.
- If you suffer from chapped lips or cold-sores, use Chapstick. I
use it on every run.
- Don't do anything that you haven't done in training.
- Don't wear brand new shoes (but don't wear super-old ones,
either). You should have run at least 50 miles in the shoes in which
you plan to race.
- Many novice marathoners don't heed to the advice "don't try
anything new on race day!" This means socks, cloths, shoes, gels and
other products. Wear acrylic fiber socks (as cotton socks get wet and
can cause blisters faster than acrylic fiber socks) and use Vaseline on
any areas prone to blisters.
- Make sure you bring layers for race day, especially clothing you
can discard, including a second pair of socks, gloves and a hat.
- Wear disposable layers before hand - hat/cap, raggy t-shirt,
light gloves/bin bag. Keep your gloves, hat and t-shirt until you're
well warmed-up, maybe for the first few miles.
- Don't forget your terry cloth headband, if you normally wear one.
Don't wear anything that hasn't been through the wash a half dozen
- Try not to wear cotton. Find some of that moisture-wicking
material for race day socks, shorts and sportsbra. Less chafing and
- Put your name in large letters on the front of your running vest.
The crowds will encouragement! Don't over-dress for your race
- While it's crucial to stay warm and dry on the start line, once
you get moving you won't want to be wearing too much clothing. Having a
rain jacket and a long-sleeved top tied around your waist for over 20
miles definitely won't help your race time! Instead, wear layers that
you can peel off and throw away as you get warmer during the race.
- Sweet Jesus don't "start fast" due to the adrenaline of the race,
as you'll regret it around mile 20. Start slower than you think or feel
you should. Your first mile should be NO FASTER than your average
intended pace. Don't be tempted to start the race quickly or waste
energy weaving through the slower runners. However many you overtake,
there will be many more in front of you - all for a few yards. It is
better to go slow for the first mile and use this as a warm up.
- Try to get a feel for the correct pace beforehand. It is vital
not to go too fast, and it is very easy to be dragged along if the
initial hysteria & euphoria of the first mile or so. You can wave
to your friends and supporters after the event - if you've any energy
- Try to get the first mile as near as possible toyour AVERAGE goal
pace. No faster!! If you are significantly slower, either sacrifice the
lost time or make it up slowly. Remember the marathon is a very
unforgiving race - you can't "bank" time. Go too fast and you'll pay
for it. If you've something left in the tank, you can pick it up for
the final few miles. In the latter stages, concentrate on picking off
bodies, not miles.
- When you set off, don't think about the marathon being over 20
miles long. Break the distance down into manageable 'chunks' instead
and focus on 'biting off each one as it comes. Once you reach the end
of a chunk, congratulate yourself, take a drink, and a stretch if you
need to, and then focus on the next chunk. This makes the distance feel
a lot more achievable.
- You'll be Overdosing on adrenaline for the first five miles. This
will tempt you to run faster than you want. Don't! You'll regret it
later. You CANNOT 'bank' time in a Marathon! Make your goal to run the
second half faster than the first
- You don't want to get stuck behind a mass of slower runners. If
this happens, don't panic. Just consider it a forced moderation.
Whatever you do, don't weave between slower runners. That's an
excellent way to trip, or pull a groin. Be patient. Holes will
eventually open up.
- Go out slow, slow, slow. You can always pick it up later on.
Make sure you bring layers for race day, especially clothing you can
discard, including a second pair of socks, gloves and a hat. If you are
running the correct pace, it should feel like you are loafing for the
first 6 miles or so.
- Follow the shortest course!
That's where it's measured - there little point in unnecessarily
running 26.8 miles!
- Although you may be sharing the course with thousands of other
runners, you can still use the course to your advantage. In many of the
major marathons there will be a line on the ground that measures the
exact race distance. Follow the course line wherever possible to ensure
you are taking the most direct route to the finish line! If it's very
windy out there, tuck in close behind a group of runners, so that they
act as a windshield for you!
- Watch your running step! This applies particularly to the first
mile when the road is littered with discarded bin liners, plastic
bottles and clothing - and to drinks stations, where people move
erratically. I've seen many a bruised and bloodied runner being tended
to by the first aid teams before they've even got into their stride!
It's quite a challenge to run in such close proximity to other people,
and you need to keep your wits about you. Try to stick your hand out,
like an indicator, if you intend to move sideways - and always check
before you pull out in front of someone or stop.
- If you can, grab your drink and run through the water-station. If
it's in cups, you'll need to get it down quickly or it'll spill. If
it's bottles, get away from the mayhem of the station and drink at
leisure. You can 'make time' by breezing thro' like this
- Work the course - (Dublin City Marathon - see the course
description at the end of this article.) If you've done the work, most
of the Marathon effort is in the mind. I after a 90 hour working week,
ending on the Sat afternoon before Dublin, I once got thro' the race
repeating to myself (not aloud) "Long, cool and easy", and visualized
- Get some support. Know where your supporters are, and put your
name on your t-shirt.
- Think while you run
- Try to stay present in your running. If you drift off into a
reverie, or get too caught up in the carnival atmosphere, you may
forget to hydrate properly and may not notice your pace quickening (or
less likely, slowing down) until you suddenly reach the halfway point
in a time that's way off target. Staying focused means you can do
something about it if you do make a mistake, whereas getting so carried
away that you don't even notice you've made a mistake is hard to
- No matter how independent you are, it really helps to have some
supporters out there on the course. Whether it's a charity that you are
running for, or for yourself, or for friends, family, or work
colleagues - try to get as many spectators out there as possible on the
day. Be very specific about where you want them to be. Remember to tell
them not just at what point on the course (for example right by the
seven- mile marker), but also at which side of the road. Also, them as
accurately as possible at what time you expect to get to that point on
the course. And the advice about putting your name on the front of your
t- shirt might be old hat, but it still holds true - so do it! Hearing
your name called, even by someone you hardly know, is hugely heartening
when your spirits are beginning to flag and your legs feel heavy.
- If you take nothing else from this article, remember this: Learn
to body scan. All you need to do is cast your mind's eye from head to
toe, looking for any signs of unnecessary tension or tightness, any
muscles that could do with a stretch, and any joints that could do with
loosening up. I often find it's my jaw that is set solid, with a frown
across my forehead. Try a smile - it's impossible to be tense and smile
at the same time. I suggest doing a body scan every ten to 15 minutes,
to ensure you are as relaxed as possible and not wasting energy.
- Even if you are hell-bent on breaking three, four or five hours
in this race, don't keep your mind focused entirely on the finish line
throughout. Instead, try to enjoy the journey as well as the
destination. You've put so much into preparing for this big day, the
least you should do is try to savour it a little!
- Drinking / Gels / Power Bars
- DON'T drink or eat anything that you haven't tried on your long
runs - No matter how much others tell you how great they are! I did it
once and, in spite of perfect training and form, blew up due to nausea
from the "you've gotta take - it's brilliant!" isotonic drink.
- You have been warned! You have too much riding on this race to
blow it on an untried drink/gel/bar
- Drinking: If you've followed the advice on hydration, then you'll
be pretty well hydrated and will only need to drink very little on the
run, just enough to keep your mouth moist. Remember if you drink too
much — if you can feel water sloshing around in your stomach — you are
creating a problem also = too much water is toxic! Learn to take water
on the run, how to run through the water station and sip as you go
- Remember to drink before you get thirsty, and eat your energy
bars (or gels or whatever you're carrying with you) before you think
you need them.
- Drinking on the go can be tricky if you haven't practiced it
before. Most people have success folding the cups into a V. But don't
be afraid to walk through the water stations
- Drink at least a bit of water or isotonic drink at EVERY drink
station. Don't wait until you feel dehydrated, or it will be too late.
- Unless you're really dehydated, or it's really hot on race day,
don't stop for water in the last 2-3 miles. Your body won't absorb it
fast enough 'to help much, and it can be hard to start running again
once you stop.
- Watch out for idiots wearing headphones!!! - they won't hear your
calls and generally cause mayhem at the waterstations!
If the weather is hot, you might want to slosh water over your wrists
and thighs. Beware, if pouring water over your head, as too much will
run down your back and into your shorts, with risk of chafing.
- Keep your head up. Protect your back, neck & confidence, by
keeping eye contact with the crowd. Keep your head up while running. As
you get tired, you may find that you are spending most of the time
looking at your feet rather than up at the road ahead. This not only
throws your spine out of alignment - putting you at risk of back, neck
pain or shoulder tension it can also make your spirits flag, as you
aren't making eye contact. Keeping your head up gives you a much more
confident stance and sends a positive message to your subconscious mind.
- Resist the urge for a toilet break Talk to yourself while you run
- Give yourself a bit of a pep talk as you go along. Tell yourself
how well you're doing. Tell yourself how strong you are - in mind and
body. You may want to have a mantra, which you can repeat to yourself
with ease as you are running. I have used 'I am running fast and
strong' in the past, which has a nice rhythm to it (even if you're
doing anything but!)
- Have fun! Smile and respond to the crowd. Stay focused on your
race target Your target is to get to the end!
- Break the distance down into manageable 'chunks' and congratulate
yourself when you finish each one.
- Wind (A): If it's windy, then shelter as much as possible; run
behind someone as much as possible.Maybe take turns at breaking the
- Wind (B): If you feel bloated, then FART!! If you keep it in,
then it will tend to act as a sort of liquidizer on your intestine -
resulting in the need for a pit-stop. So....ladies especially don't be
afraid to fart - If it's noisy, blame it on the men around you -
"Aren't they terrible!", if it's quiet, blame it on the men anyway!
DO NOT STOP YOUR WATCH AT THE FINISH LINE. You will look silly in the
photo. Run through it (with your arms raised in triumph if you like).
Stop your watch after you pass the cameras.
SPR: Shortest Possible Route - Everywhere you can, run the SPR. That's
the way the course is measured. If everyone else is taking the long way
round bends, don't follow - unless you're sheltering from the wind. Why
run, say, 27 miles - 26.22 is long enough as it is!