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Training Tips

A Dummies (ok, Michael’s) Guide to Marathon Race Prep

By April 26, 2018 No Comments

This is especially useful to all you first time marathoners. A quick preface is that my approach to prepping for the marathon goes like follows: there are many things that are out of your control (i.e. weather), so make sure everything you can control, you do leading up to race day. Most of it will be done the day before, but there are a few things you can do in the next two weeks.

One to two weeks out:

Go to Goodwill and buy throwaway clothes. Get a warm jacket and sweatpants and it’s probably a good idea to pick up a rain jacket too. Get them early and wash them a couple of times. You don’t want to be getting a rash mid-race. Wear right in the corral – Goodwill picks up all the clothes shed at the start. And you can even wear them and shed a few miles into the race if need be.

Think about your race plan. If you are running with a group, ask your pace leader what your splits should be. If you are running alone, create a pace band – or Mark usually has some for your expected finish time. Check out the course map and think about where the hills are (https://www.lamarathon.com/event-info/the-course/course-map/), and where the aid stations are.

Make arrangements to have friends and family see you on the course. It’s a great morale boost. Try to tell them where you want to meet them rather than the other way around. Spread out over the course of the race is best, rather than bunched together, and it’s really nice to have someone there for you late in race – after mile 18. You should be looking for them, rather them looking for you, so know the side the street they will be on. Also, it’s a good idea to give them anything you might need (i.e. water, nutrition, or even a change of hats or shoes if it rains). And don’t forget the SBRC aid station too!

One week out:

Start hydrating. At least 8 cups of water per day. This isn’t just the day or two before, but all week.

Figure out how you are getting to the start line. Shuttle? Someone dropping you off? It’s not a difficult thing, but if you don’t plan for it, you don’t want to be all nervous thinking you won’t make it to the start line in time. Also, if you are a first timer, note the shuttles have their own special entrance to Dodger Stadium. By car you have one entrance off of the 5 freeway. It gets busy early and can take well over 1 ½ hours from the South Bay.

Three or four days before:

Start increasing you carbs. This does NOT mean eating a huge bowl of pasta and a loaf of bread. Instead, try to eat the same amount of calories you’ve been eating but up the percentage of carbs – meaning lower the amount of protein and fat. Remember, as you taper, your body is still probably craving food from all those build weeks. Be cautious as with the reduced mileage, you can easily add weight the final few weeks. Feed your body, but be smart. Also, the last few days is when you should be eating more refined carbs. Here’s when it’s OK to choose white flour over whole wheat flour. You want your body to process what you’re eating, and at this point, the extra nutrients are not as important.

If you are going to carb-load, do it on Friday night, not the night before.

Trim your toenails. You don’t want to do it the night before, just in case you cut too much. But your toes will thank you.

Two nights before:

Get some sleep. You’re probably not going to sleep the night before. Don’t sweat it. Very few people do – and running a marathon on only a few hours of sleep won’t affect your race. It’s more important you get a good night’s rest on Friday night. Go to bed at a normal hour, and try to sleep in as long as you can. Turn your phone off – as I’m sure you’ll be getting a bunch of texts and calls.


You might do this on Friday or Saturday. Either way, if you aren’t excited about the race before then, you will be once you get to the expo. Have fun. Don’t spend all day there on your feet (especially if you go on Saturday). And don’t start trying every new product because they are giving out free samples.

The day before:

Go for a run. 10 minutes at race pace. Your body has muscle memory so it’s a final chance to teach your body what it will need to do the next day. Try to spend the rest of your day as much as possibly off your feet.

Eat simply. Nothing new. Not a good day to try out a new sushi restaurant. Again, do not carb load – just keep your percentage of carbs higher than normal. A good idea to incorporate some salt – perhaps a handful of pretzels.

Hydrate. Again, at least eight 8-oz glasses of water. You can substitute one glass of an electrolyte drink (i.e. Gatorade) if you want.

Pack for the race. Take out everything you will need for race day. Sample packing list below.

Prep your breakfast. You should have figured out what you are going to eat on race day morning when doing your long run. The general rule is to eat 1 ½ to 2 hours before the race starts. Thus, you will probably be eating on the ride to the start, or even at Dodger Stadium. So plan accordingly. And when I say race starts, I mean when your race starts. If you are in the back of the open corral, it could take you 20-30 minutes longer than if you are in corral A.

Charge your devices. Phone, watch, MP3 player, HRM… whatever you are going to use, make sure they are fully charged.

Set an alarm – even 2. Granted, I doubt you’ll need it as you’ll be staring at your clock wide awake waiting for it to be time to get up. But you never know.

Fill out bib or shoe tag with emergency contact info.

Make your flat “your name here”. Lay out everything you will be wearing for the race. Hat, shirt, underwear/sports bra, shorts, socks, shoes, paceband, hydration belt, if using, etc. Attach your bib to your shirt.

Lay out your throw-away clothes. Whatever you got from Goodwill. A garbage bag, holes cut for head and arms if it rains. One of those mylar/foil blankets you got from a previous race – it’ll keep you warm, or a dry place to sit.

Take out a jar of Vaseline/body glide/band-aids. Anything you will need on race day morning to prevent chafing. Sunscreen if it’s going to be sunny.

Put your name somewhere on your clothes – hat, shirt… Steve Cho can tell you how awesome it is. The STEVE shirt is infamous. Spectators are looking to cheer for someone, so they might as well cheer for you.

Pack a bag that you will bring into the Dodger stadium/corral. A note to bring your breakfast. A bottle of water (drink up until an hour before the race starts). Race nutrition (ie. gels/bloks/shots). Some toilet paper and wipes, if that tends to be an issue for you. For the men, an empty bottle of Gatorade.

Pack a bag that you will gear check (if desired). A change of clothes – especially if it will be raining. Flip flops are nice. Body wipes. Post race nutrition (if you are not going to be eating until well after the run and you don’t want the stuff the race hands out). Please see me if you want a bottle of Muscle Milk. You can pack your cell phone and some money, if you are not running with it.

Race day morning:

Apply body glide/Vaseline/sunscreen… Get dressed. Make breakfast to take with you. Fill water bottle/hydration belt, if using. Unplug your electronic devices you were charging. Remember to bring everything you packed (see above).

But most important. Relax. Breathe. It’s going to be an unforgettable day, but at this point, you’re hours away, so don’t get over anxious or over excited.

Post race planning:

R.I.C.E. = Ice bath – have someone get you a big bag of ice to soak in after the race. 15 minutes in 55-60 degree water. You might feel worse than during the marathon, but your body will so much the better for it.

Compression gear. Now is the time to wear those compression socks/tights.

Medicine. If you’ve had good results with these in the past (disclaimer, I’m not a doctor), you can take anti-inflammatory meds like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Check the label for dosage.

Foam roll. Enough said.

Massage. There are differences in opinion here. Some say it helps. Others say that if you are injured it could make it worse. Leave it up to you, but no deep tissue massages. Go to someone that specializes in sports massage.

Eat, drink and celebrate. And post lots of photos on Facebook. You’ve earned it!