Thursday, September 29, 2011

McMillan's Marathon Manual

Below, you will find the instructions I use with my coaching clients who are getting ready for a marathon. These general guidelines and tips will help you get to the line ready for a peak performance. As always, you should have practiced much of what is in this manual in training. Race day is simply a celebration of all the hard work you have completed and a chance to let your performance shine!

First, pat yourself on the back. Training for a marathon is not easy and often does not go smoothly but getting to the line shows your dedication and determination. The race is the icing on the cake. As this week of nervousness proceeds, take time to remember to thank those who have supported you in your marathon quest.

The two weeks prior to the marathon is what I call the 'great marathon freak-out' that occurs during the peaking process. Questions abound. Self-doubt creeps in. Fear is present. The marathon becomes monumental. Don't worry. Everyone feels this way. We put so much into the training and want desperately for the race to go well. Use this peaking time to reflect on all your successes in the training. Think good thoughts. Run strong in the remaining workouts and focus on relaxing the body/mind. Negative thoughts will creep in but just push them aside and focus on the positive. Don't over rest or overeat but just relax and smile.

A few general tips for marathoners:

1) Pack your race gear in your carry-on baggage. You can always buy new casual clothes but you don't want to have to buy new shoes and race clothes for the race. Lay all your gear out on the bed and make sure you pack everything you need in your carry-on bag. Don't forget band-aids, chafing prevention, nutrition, etc. And remember, new TSA security requirements can sometimes limit gels, rehab tools like The Stick and foam rollers in carry-on baggage, so you may have to put those items in your checked baggage or buy them at the race site.

2) Carry food with you at all times. In the peaking phase, you never want to get hungry (especially the last 3 days before the race). Again, don't overeat but just be prepared in case a meeting goes long or you are late for a meal. Always have a good snack available. In addition to your race gear, pack some good food in your carry-on bag. You may want something to eat on the plane/train/car. The final week before the race is also a good week to have fluids with you at all times as well. Don't over drink but just be prepared. Have something available at all times. Variety in beverages is good as well - water, Gatorade, juices, etc.

3) Book your pre-race dinner before leaving home. You will not be alone in wanting a proven pre-race meal the night before the race. Plan ahead by making a reservation before you even leave home. The concierge at your hotel can recommend restaurants near your hotel or you can do some research online to check menus, etc. Nothing is worse than arriving at the race site and all of the desired restaurants are booked so don't leave your meal to chance. Find a relaxing place and enjoy a nice, enjoyable dinner. I usually try to eat close to my hotel so I can take a leisurely 10-15 minute walk after dinner. Don't eat too early or too late.

4) The first thing you should do after settling into your hotel is find a grocery store. Ask the front desk for the nearest one or call ahead to expedite the process. Go immediately to the grocery store and stock up. Buy the foods you like and you know prepare you for successful running. I buy bananas, Gatorade, water, instant oat meal (though usually brought from home), bagels and spread, peanut butter and jelly, energy bars, etc. Again, you never want to get thirsty or hungry prior to the race. Being stocked will help avoid this. Don't just eat out of nervousness but have food available if you need a snack.

5) You'll likely need to visit the expo to pick up your race number, chip, etc. Enjoy the expo but don't spend all day there. It's too much time on your feet. Browse through it, pick up what you need and get out. The expo is where many runners get dehydrated and hungry so carry fluids and fuel with you to keep this from happening.

6) Race morning will be exciting but you need to plan your morning ahead of time so you just follow the routine and don't have to stress about anything. You'll be keyed up but you shouldn't need to panic about what to do when. Plan your wake up time to allow for your morning breakfast and digestion. Your marathon-specific long runs have provided ample opportunity to figure out your pre-run routine so follow it. Have a good breakfast, get your bowels empty, get dressed and get to the starting line. Plan all of this out for timing. Count backward from the race start and document each minute up until race time. Have breakfast with you or know where you are going to get it. Stay relaxed. Use your hotel bathroom as much as possible because the portajohns always have a line. Have your gear laid out the night before so you can just go through the motions getting dressed and ready. Keep fluids and easily digestible foods close at hand up until the start.

I always have a banana (they digest easily) with me up until right before the race. If I ever feel that breakfast is 'wearing off', I can have a few bites of banana. I also keep a Gatorade bottle in hand all the way up the start. I chuck it with a minute or two before the race. I don't constantly drink but just have it in case I feel the need to drink something or wet my mouth. Lining up for the race can be stressful so plan ahead. Know where your corral/pacing area is and how to get to it. (You may want to scout this the day before the race if the start is close by.) Don't think you can arrive 10 minutes before the race and step on the line. Plan ahead and you'll be feeling great because you got into your spot in good time, got a good spot in your area and have your nutritional and fluid needs met. Monitor the weather the rest of the week so you will know how to dress. I always have some 'throw away' gear on hand in case it's cold. You should have a hat, gloves and t-shirt that can be peeled off and tossed aside if not needed or to toss after warming up during the race. You may want to have an old t-shirt available to wear while waiting in your corral. Again, the better planning you do for race morning, the less stressful it will be.

7) Most runners on most courses run best when they run even splits (the first half-marathon and the second half-marathon are run in the same time). I like to start out a little slower than goal pace for the first few miles to warm up but then settle into goal pace. Always think about running as efficiently and relaxed as possible and don't let your mind think about really racing until 22 miles in the marathon. Remember, what you are doing is not something new to you. You've done this time and time again in training. The race is simply a fun long run with a bunch of other folks along a route with crowds cheering for you. Don't over think things. Just let your body do what it's trained to do. (Get out of your own way!)

Relax in the beginning and get ready to run fast like in your fast finish long runs. Run strong from 22 miles in the marathon to the finish just like you have mimicked in practice. There will be plenty of pacing groups so you should be able to find others who are running your pace. Form some friendships and work together.

8) There will be plenty of fluids on the course (usually Gatorade Endurance Formula). You've had plenty of time to work out your nutrition/hydration strategy for the race. During the race, simply implement it. At fluid stations, I usually try to grab a cup as I enter the aid station and another as I exit it. This way, I get two opportunities for fluids since most of it gets spilled. Take your time in the aid stations and get your fluids. Think "Sip and Carry" not "Grab and Gulp".

Monitor your hydration as you go. If you start to feel full or 'sloshy', skip a station and get the next one. No problem. You know your schedule so just do what's been working for you. In all of this, I never want to try something new. Just do what's worked for you. It's not magic. It's just doing what you have been trained to do.

9) The most important thing to remember about running a marathon is to have FUN! I assume that you run primarily because it's fun. The race must be as well. Don't stress about it or get too caught up in it. Just go there to have fun.

I've also posted two pre-marathon articles on the Running University page of my website. Be sure to scan those as they may be beneficial in your preparations.

Best of luck!
(Follow me on Twitter @McMillanRunning for more tips)

PS: Post Race Tips

You'll want to celebrate after the race so here are a few tips to make your post-race fun more fun.

1) Runners always think about what they are going to wear to the starting line but rarely what they are going to wear when they finish. Far too often, I've seen marathon finishers wrapped in the finishing blankets freezing cold as they walk back to their hotels. If there is a bag drop at the start (where the race will bring your bag to the finish line), remember to include some warm, dry clothes for after the race. If there is no bag drop but friends/family will greet you after the race, give them some warm clothes to bring to you. Believe me, you'll be so glad you prepared for your after-the-race clothing.

2) While you may want to hit the bar for a celebratory drink, I recommend your first drinks be your recovery drinks. Before leaving for the race start, place two smoothies, shakes or other recovery drinks in the hotel fridge or ice bucket. When you get back to your room after the race, down as much of it as you can. Sometimes your stomach isn't ready for a meal but these post-race drinks go a long way to helping you recover and be ready for your celebratory drinks. As you unwind, shower and rest, continue to drink as much Gatorade as your stomach will tolerate to help rehydrate yourself. As with training, your urine frequency and color will let you know when you're rehydrated.

3) Also before you head to the starting line, fill your hotel room bathtub up with cold water. Hang the sign on your door to not clean your room. Then, when you are heading back to the room after the race, stop by the ice machine and fill a bucket or plastic bag up with ice. Get in the tub and add the ice. Sit and relax for 15-20 minutes in the ice bath (perfect time to drink your recovery drink) and reflect on your race. This quick ice bath can really help with post-race recovery. You'll be stiff from the bath when you stand up (you might need some help standing up) but then simply drain the bath, turn on the hot water and take a nice hot shower. I'm always amazed at how fresh I feel after this ice bath/hot shower combo post-marathon.

4) You need to get some proper food in you so either head to a restaurant very, very close by or (my usual option) order room service. I'm usually not interested in a big meal post-marathon so I pick something that will be satisfying and easy to digest. Relax as you eat and keep rehydrating.

5) Now that you are refueled, moving toward recovery with the ice bath/hot shower and cleaned up, REST. I know the inclination is to go celebrate but trust me, rest now and you'll enjoy your celebration more. I recommend resting for 2-4 hours post-race just to make sure you get refueled and rehydrated properly. You give you muscles time to relax and recovery. You may not be able to nap (preferred rest) but I recommend you take some time to just chill out and let the body and mind recover. You just ran a marathon so respect that your body needs some down time before party time.

6) Now that you've done #1-5, it's time to go celebrate. I find that if you give your body a few hours to recover from running 26.2 miles, you can then really enjoy your accomplishment with a good meal and fun time with friends, fellow runners and family.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


A 5 km Road Race for female runners and walkers (aged 16 +) of all abilities and fitness levels

Sunday 25th September 2011

1.00 pm – at St Mary’s GAA Club
Registration on the day from 11.00 am

Enquiries/Registration: Terry Hayes 0872274622

Entries by post or online to before September 23rd 2011 will be guaranteed a T-Shirt.
By post Terry Hayes, 16 Rathanna, Sligo

Prize Categories: (Prizes based on category entered)

Senior 1st 2nd 3rd
O40 1st 2nd 3rd
O45 1st 2nd 3rd
O50 1st 2nd 3rd
O55 1st 2nd
O60 1st 2nd
Junior (16yrs – 20yrs) 1st 2nd 3rd
Walkers 10 prizes

Entry Fee €10 on line or by post. €15 on day of competition


Club: (if any) Runner:  Walker: 

Age on Race Day (Runners): Category: