Running a marathon is one of the most satisfying accomplishments you can achieve. All the hard work will have been undertaken in the weeks and months before the event but there are some things that can give you an edge for the main event. Here are ten top tips to ensure that you rule on race day.
The night before your race, eat a meal you enjoy and you are familiar with, ensuring it is rich in carbohydrates. Foods like pasta, rice, bread, potatoes are all good options. This will ensure your carbohydrate stores in your muscle and liver are stocked up before race day. Your carbohydrate stores are essentially the petrol to the engine on race day. We all know that an engine cannot run on an empty tank, so stocking up these carbohydrate stores will delay the onset of fatiguing during the race.
Try not to eat too late in the evening the night before the race. Make sure you plan your pre-race meals in advance so that you have time to relax. Eating at a reasonable time will give your body time to digest it and help your body wind down for a good night’s sleep. A lack of good quality sleep may impact your performance the following day!
Similarly to the night before, priming the body with carbohydrates at breakfast is one way to ensure that your stores are topped up before the start of the race. Stick to breakfast meals and products you have used in the build up to the race; porridge, toast, cereal, bagels and fruit juice are all great choices.
Keep fibre and fat to a minimum in your race day breakfast as we know these can cause an upset stomach during the race. Stick to what you have practised and comfortable with. This simple tip will ensure you’re in top condition for the challenge ahead.
Being hydrated before the race starts is important. Keep a bottle of drink with you in the build up, little and often is key. Dehydration may result in a decline in endurance performance. Even a 2% reduction in your body weight through sweating has been shown to negatively impact performance, reducing the intensity that you are able to sustain.
Our bodies are like cars – they can’t run on empty. Our carbohydrate stores will start to deplete during the race. To combat this and delay fatigue, consume some carbohydrate during the race. It is important to replicate what you have practised in training and what works for you, everyone will have their own strategy. As a guide, it is recommended to consume between 30g-60g of carbohydrate per hour, equivalent to one or two Lucozade Sports.
During the race, it is best advised to drink little and often. Consuming large volumes of fluid in one go can cause stomach discomfort meaning you are likely to need to slow down or visit the toilet during the race, resulting in a slower time. This also allows a steady rate of carbohydrate to be delivered providing you with energy for the duration of the race.
Recovery starts as soon as you cross the finish line. The race may be over but your body still needs to get back to its best. Consuming carbohydrates and electrolytes in the hours after exercise will ensure rehydration and replace your likely depleted carbohydrate stores. Again, drinking little and often after the race is key.
Make sure you reward yourself by eating a meal you enjoy but do not neglect carbohydrates. The meal should be rich in carbohydrates to top up the stores in the body which are likely to be low having just completed the race.
It is not just carbohydrate that is important after the race. Combine it with some protein to support muscle maintenance. Treat yourself with around 20g of high quality protein, this is equivalent to a palm-sized amount of protein on a plate of food such as meat, fish or dairy.
Following these guidelines come race day will help you be at your best to rule your run. Good luck and make sure you follow the most important rule of all – enjoy it!