Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.
I’m running my first full marathon and am very nervous. Is there anything a first-timer should know and do during these last two weeks before the race? My one and only goal is to finish. Thankfully, the course stays open for seven hours.
The most important thing for a first-time marathoner to know is that absolutely nothing you can do during the last three weeks will make you any faster on marathon day. The hay is in the barn, so to speak. That’s why I tell runners to taper: meaning, dial back on everything. Rest, so that you will be ready to run fast marathon morning.
Hopefully you have been following a high-carbohydrate diet. If so, continue your regular eating habits. Nothing different. The night-before pasta dinner is part ritual, part stocking your muscles with carb-based glycogen, the most efficient fuel for those of us who dare to challenge the 26.2-mile distance. Also, make sure that you are well-hydrated, but not over-hydrated so that you waste precious minutes standing in porta-potty lines before and during the race.
Get a good night’s sleep the night before the night before. Reread that sentence so you understand exactly what I said. Friday night more than Saturday night before a Sunday race. On the actual night before, you may be understandably nervous, and also will need to get up early to head to the starting line. Since your goal is to finish somewhere between six and seven hours, position yourself far back on the starting grid. You do not want to start ahead of faster runners, because it is no fun being passed during the early miles. Pace yourself so that you can pass others during the closing miles. If there is a pace team for your pace, join them. Most of all relax, because if you trained properly the last several months, success definitely will be yours.