Mimic the course
If at all possible, start doing runs on the same topography as the marathon. If you live in a flat area and are preparing for a hilly marathon, do several runs on a treadmill, and alter the incline throughout. If you donít have access to a treadmill, run on stairways or stadium steps. A flat course might seem less challenging, but its lack of variation means youíll be using the same muscles the whole race. You will also need to prepare for this.
Drink on the run
Practice your long and semi-long runs with the sports drink and energy gels with which you intend to refuel during the race. Remember that sports drinks do triple duty when compared with water by providing fluids, carbohydrates and electrolytes, the most important being sodium. Find out how often your marathon will have aid stations and practice drinking at that rate.
Dress the part
Donít run the race in a cotton T-shirt. Youíll be a lot more comfortable in something such as a dry fit tee. Once youíve picked your marathon outfit, wear the getup on at least one long run to be sure it does not irritate you. For colder weather, dress as if it is 10 degrees warmer than the temperature on the thermometer. Wear layers that you can easily peel off and wonít mind leaving along the race route.
Carbo-load, donít fat-load
During the last three days, concentrate on eating carbohydrate-rich foods, such as pasta, potatoes, bread, fruit and fruit juice, low-fat milk and yogurt, low-fat treats, and sports drinks. Itís the carbs, after all, not fat or protein, that will fuel you on race day. Whatís important is increasing the percentage of your calories that come from carbs, not simply eating more of everything. Since youíll be tapering and expending fewer calories, you donít have to consume a great deal more food than usual. Rather, make sure your food choices are carbohydrate-rich, not full of fat ó for example, spaghetti with red sauce, instead of Alfredo sauce, or a bagel versus a croissant.
†Two to three hours before the start, eat a carbohydrate-rich breakfast, even if that means getting up at an ungodly hour and going back to bed. The reason: As you slept, your brain was active and using the glycogen (stored carbohydrate) from your liver. Breakfast restocks those stores, so youíll be less likely to run out of fuel. Aim for a few hundred calories, such as a bagel and banana or toast and a sports bar. Consume a sports recovery drink, or a bland, well-tolerated liquid food such as Ensure or Boost.
Donít do anything new on race day
If you follow no other rule, be sure to follow this golden one! Race day is not the time to test out a new breakfast option, that cute little tank you bought at the expo, or even a new energy gel flavor. This is the day to do exactly what you have practiced all of those long training runs. Eat the breakfast youíve been eating all season long. Wear the shoes and socks youíve been training in all season long. Wear the outfit youíve been training in all season long. Donít do anything new! The slightest change in your routine could lead to disastrous results.
Listen to your body
Although consistency is very important when training for a marathon, if your body feels particularly tired one day, heed its call and take a rest. Training for a marathon involves a lot of wear and tear on your body, therefore getting adequate sleep and rest during this period is essential so that you donít burn out before the race.
Runners have their obvious strengths ó power, endurance, tenacity. But within those strengths lies the potential for weakness: quads that overpower our hamstrings, neglected upper bodies, and poor flexibility, qualities that could lead to problems. Supplement your running by doing another kind of fitness workout such as cycling, swimming, a fitness class, or strength training. It builds strength and flexibility in muscles that running doesnít utilize. It prevents injury by correcting muscular imbalances. And the variety prevents boredom and burnout.
When itís cold outside, consider running multiple laps of a short course, rather than one longer loop. This ensures that youíll never be far from home in the event of an emergency. Running a short course also ensures that you wonít be heading into bad weather for an extended period of time, which, aside from being extremely unpleasant, can significantly lower your body temperature.
Use Vaseline or BodyGlide wherever things rub. They will help prevent blisters and chafing (guys donít forget the nipples). For long runs, you can also put it between your toes to prevent blisters.