With marathon season just around the corner, we thought we’d share some common training and racing no-nos that will get you into trouble come your marathon race day.
1. Not Training Enough
This is a marathon people and it’s pretty crucial for your health and safety that you did the adequate training. Here are some minimum training standards (to get you to the finish line and not necessarily to reach a PR):
- Been training for 16-20 weeks
- Have run at least one run between 2-4 hours (depending on your pace) or have done at least a 16-mile run (18-22 miles would be better).
- Running 30-40 miles per week for at least 6-10 weeks of your training cycle.
2. Running in Old Shoes
The rule of thumb is when your shoes reach around 300-running miles on them that it’s time to get a new pair. If you have had the same shoes for 16 weeks and you have averaged 30 miles per week, this would mean you have 480 miles on them! Old shoes could definitely be the culprit of some nagging pains and aches you have been having recently, so go to your local running store and get a new pair at least a couple of weeks before race day.
3. Wearing Brand New Gear or Shoes Race Day
Now while I just told you to get new shoes before your race, I didn’t say get them the day before the race. This is the same thing for new running gear and outfits. I see nothing wrong with you having some cool duds for race day, but simply wear them a few times to make sure there are no chaffing or fitting issues come race day.
4. No Hydration/Fuel Plan
While the physical training is the most critical part of your marathon plan, please don’t overlook what you will be eating/drinking on race day. I would suggest practicing on your longer runs with the certain type of fuel and fluid you plan on ingesting during the marathon. It’s better to find out on your 12-mile training run that x-brand of fuel makes your stomach queasy, then find out on race day. And as with new gear and shoes – don’t try any new type of fuel or fluid replacement come race day.
5. Not Following Your Pace Plan
I wish I could tell you that come race day, due to the excitement and your adrenaline, that your goal of running 8:30 min/mi place will be smashed and you’ll end up running 7:30 min/mi pace the whole way through; but that’s just not going to happen. You have trained your body over the last 4-5 months to run at a certain pace for 26.2 miles. Unless you have been sandbagging every workout, the idea that you’ll run a 3:30 marathon, when you’ve been training for a 4:05 is not going to materialize. Stick with your pace plan, which means really looking at your watch the first few miles to make sure you’re not running 20-30 seconds faster per mile – believe me, it’s easy not to even notice this huge drop from your normal pace; but, be patient and good things will happen at the finish line.
6. Staying Up Late
This goes for both your training cycle and the few nights leading up to your race. You can easily get sick when you don’t sleep enough. If you’re trying to burn the candles at both ends by running at 5 a.m. every Sunday, but going out until midnight every Saturday, this will catch up to you sooner or later. Rest is another crucial element in your marathon training, so don’t short-change yourself on those zzz’s.
7. Eating & Drinking Poorly
While it’s true you will be burning most likely more calories than you usually do once you start your marathon training, this isn’t carte blanche to eat and drink everything and anything. More than ever, you need to make sure you’re eating and drinking a healthy diet. Personally, I find that I just want to eat better food when I’m training harder; but, if you’re not having this same dietary transformation, then find out some good food choices for runners.
8. Training Too Much
Yes, you can train too much for the marathon. What I mean, is that you can ramp up your mileage or intensity too fast, too soon. The basic rule of thumb is not to increase your mileage by more than 10% of the previous week. So if you ran 30 miles this week, don’t sky-rocket up to 50-miles the following week and then try to run 65-miles the week after; generally, this is going to lead to injuries for the majority of us after some time. Also, don’t start doing 4-5 intense runs a week (intervals, tempo runs, hill repeats, race pace workouts, fartleks, etc.) because you think that running harder more often will make you faster. This simply isn’t the case.
9. Not Changing Your Race Plan When it’s Really Hot
I know you’ve worked your running legs to the point where you are a fine-tuned machine and are ready to run a Boston Qualifier or new marathon PR, but if the temperature spikes on race day, you will need to change your pace. If you look at the RunnerAcademy.com graphic on the increase of pace with rising temperatures, you’ll see that on an 85 °F day your pace can increase by as much as 18-20%. Or simply, an 8:00 min/mi marathoner now becomes a 9:31 min/mi runner due to this temperature change.
10. Not Knowing Logistics on Race Day
You don’t want to miss this race, which you’ve trained so darn hard for. Make sure you know:
- Where to park your car or get dropped off
- Traffic closures
- How long it will take to get to the starting line
- Where to check your bag
- Where to pick up your number (which is usually at the race expo the days leading up to the event – usually NOT ON RACE DAY)
- Places to stay warm (or cool) before the race
- Locations of restrooms or port-a-potties
- Start time of your race
- What corral you’re in
I think this is a good list to start with. If you have any other no-nos to share with the rest of us, I’d love to hear them.