Day 3: Count-Down to the Marathon

By Colleen Yorke
Navigational Artwork and Directions By Colleen Yorke, © 2015.
While most of us have probably done more than enough research and received hands-on advice from elite runners, the Los Angeles Marathon is less than 3 days away, and some things are worth repeating.

During the Three Days Before the Marathon
  • Sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, monitoring our hydration  
  • The running shoes are broken in by now, and we have test-run our marathon gear.
  • Self-pick up the race packet at the Expo this Friday or Saturday with photo ID
  • Due to limited finish line access, coordinate a spot to meet loved ones post-race 
  • Details, details: Sunblock, hat, sunglasses, chapstick, and we will clip those toenails
  • Share runner's profile:

During the Hours Immediately Before the Marathon
  • Wake up early, allow enough time to get ready and get some breakfast
  • Check the weather forecast and expected weather conditions
  • Depart for the race site early, take care of any last minute details
  • Stay off the feet as much as possible prior to the race
  • Continue to drink fluids up to 15 minutes before the start of the race
  • Eat a final snack no more than 30 minutes before the start of the race
Issues to Consider During the Marathon
The Start Line and Corrals
Line up according to the expected pace, and sign up with an experienced pace setter 

Running the correct pace to our own abilities is crucial in the marathon, especially for the first time marathoner. It is so easy to start the race with all guns ablaze (and believe me, I speak from experience) and then pay dearly for the mistake in the later miles. Yes, there will be some 7,000-8,000 runners ahead of us. So what? In the world of marathoning "putting the fast miles in the bank early in the race" and then holding on in the end most assuredly will lead us to visiting the dreaded "wall". A much better plan is to start out slower than what we hope to average, run the middle miles at our chosen hopefully realistic pace and to pick up the pace (if we can) during the final miles. During the marathon we should monitor how we are feeling and adjust our pace, if necessary. Race time predictor charts are good guides in determining what pace we should theoretically be able to maintain during our 26.2 miler.

Aid Stations
We should not pass up fluid stations on the marathon race course. Staying hydrated is important. Water is usually offered at the first tables with sports beverages served near the end of the stations. At my first race, I spilled more than half of my share because I attempted to drink and run at the same time. Squeezing the top of the cup into a "v" shape allows for a smooth delivery of fluids directly into the mouth

Many runners take advantage of gel energy supplement products  - shots, power gels and GU packs - as these provide an immediate source of carbohydrates. Some runners have told me they keep power bars, orange slices, jelly beans or Skittles in their fanny packs for the needed energy kick.

Staying Loose and Relaxed
Shaking out arms and shoulders throughout the race help avoiding muscle tightness.

To Socialize or Not?
Sometimes we will encounter other runners running our pace, who may wish to engage us in conversation. It is entirely up to each one of us if we wish to stick with them and chat along the way. Many friendships have been started this way, and talking to others is a great way to take our mind off the physical discomfort we may face later in the marathon. When I ran the longest training run of my life, I was grateful for the runners from the DTLA Running Group, who motivated me in completing a 23-miler. On the other hand, talking may rob us of valuable energy that we may need later.
Psychological Issues and Injuries
Undoubtedly psychological issues will arise. 26.2 miles of running is quite a feast. Mental and physical capabilities are put to test. An increase in pain should be taken seriously. No race is worth the risk of hurting ourselves. Some helpful things to keep in mind:
  • Take time to enjoy the scenery of the course.
  • Stay positive. 
  • Think about loved ones, who are waiting for you at the finish line.
Issues to Consider Immediately Following the Marathon
Recovery from the demands of the marathon begins right after we cross the finish line. Some helpful take-aways: 
  • Determine if there is a need to visit the medical tent. No problem is too small.
  • Grab something to drink, but suppress the urge to consume alcoholic beverages.
  • Pick up something to eat.
  • Stretch thoroughly
  • Do not even consider the thought of lying down... keep moving!
  • Get a post-race massage (if available).
  • Soak the legs in some cool water within an hour or two of finishing.
  • Later in the day (3-4 hours after the race), spend a few minutes in a warm whirlpool.
  • Have a nutritious lunch. 
  • Do not take a nap or lay down too long later in the day (it makes us very sore and nauseous); Instead, keep moving to minimize leg muscle soreness.