For the past few days I’ve been reflecting on my Marine Corps Marathon experience.
For a race that I went into not feeling as well prepared as I would have liked it ended up being the perfect day! I decided to think about what really worked for me during this run and came up with a few race day takeaways. I’m sure these will be helpful for me to look back on as I’m training for future races and I hope you’ll find something useful in them as well!
On Trying Something New On Race Day
I have a confession, I broke the cardinal rule of marathon running – NEVER TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY.
In fact, I may have broken it a few times…
1. I wore new pants. Well not totally new, I wore them on a run once. A 3 mile run. The day before. What can I say, I really liked them! And, they had good pockets which was important because…
2. I ran without my fuel belt. I always like having water with me while I run, I use my hydration belt for anything over 5 miles and I’ve only ever run 1 race (a 7 mile race) without it. Recently my belt has been making me CRAZY though so I made the (questionable) decision to leave it behind.
3. I ran with my “short run” sneakers. I have a pair of sneakers that I’ve never particularly loved, so I’ve only used them on runs up to 5 miles. I wore them during the MCM bRUNch run the day before the race and for some reason something clicked and I was in love with them! I made the (again questionable…) decision on race morning to wear them for 26.2 miles.
Fortunately this all worked out perfectly for me on race day and while I’m glad I went with my gut on these I still wouldn’t recommend trying anything new on a race day!
Takeaway – make an effort to test out all possible race day scenarios, outfits, etc. to avoid doing anything new or different on race day!
On Dressing for the Weather
For some reason I really struggled with figuring out appropriate attire for the race day forecast of around low of 37, high of 55 (maybe because it’s been so long since I’ve felt 37 degrees??).
The night before the race I read something that said most people have a tendency to overdress for a race. It suggested getting dressed, looking in the mirror and then taking something off.
So glad I followed this rule! I had been debating a long sleeve shirt, but ended up going with a tank and arm sleeves which I could easily shed and had a throwaway sweatshirt pre-race. It was perfect because it certainly did warm up quickly!
Takeaway – Always wear less than you think you’ll need, you warm up VERY quickly running!
I have to admit I’m not the best at fueling during a long run. I take a sports drink with me and I’ll usually loop back to the house at the halfway point for some pretzels and orange juice. It works fine for me and I make it through my run, but not with much energy to spare.
During this race I had a pack and a half of sports beans, a pack of Honey Stinger chews, 3 orange slices, pretzels and orange juice, lots of Gatorade and water and a munchkin (well the munchkin was more for fun than fuel!)…and let me tell you I felt GREAT right through the end of the race!
Takeaway – Take in more fuel during training runs, not just races!
On Running a Negative Split
I’m just going to go ahead and pat myself on the back here for a second – I rock at negative splits.
I have negative split every race I’ve run (MCM was a 9 minute negative split!). That being said, I have to admit it’s not something I do on purpose or something I actually try to do, it’s totally natural for me to slowly pick up the pace over the course of a run. I think it just takes my body a little bit to wake up and come to terms with the fact that I’m going to keep running whether it likes it or not!
I do often feel at the beginning of a race that I’m going slower than I should be, but I’m starting to really embrace that and realize it’s a GOOD thing! Especially in the marathon distance there is nothing worse you can do than go out to quickly – to run a negative split you need to have energy left in the tank for the second half of the race!
Takeaway – it’s OK to feel like you’re going too slow at the start of a race, it means you’ll have the energy you need later on!
What lessons have you taken away from races?
Do you struggle with any of my race day lessons above?
I’ve never worn anything new on race day unless it is a short race such as a 5 or 10k. I also always start my longer races slowly and build my speed….during Goofy Challenge last year, if you break it down into 3 halves, my fastest was the last half of the marathon! I don’t try to negative split either, although most coaches love that! Congrats again on a fabulous race!
You know what, now that I think about it my last “half” of the Goofy was probably my fastest too! We’re definitely lucky that building speed comes naturally for us, the whole going out too fast and “bonking” thing doesn’t sound like fun!
I struggle with the negative split, while my body definitely needs at least 2 if not 3 or 4 miles to warm up, I still haven’t had the training for my body to be able to fatigue and speed up at the same time. For my half last weekend I started with a pacer that was faster than I could hold, and It helped me get a faster time than I had in June! I still preach starting slow, but testing the alternative worked for me!
Interesting that starting out “too fast” worked for you and you didn’t get too tired after keeping that pace. Good for you, keep working on it, it’ll come!
Good advice and write up.I avoid new things on race day, though once I had Turkish food for breakfast for the first time before a race. It was rice and stuff in grape leaves. After I ate a few I thought I was crazy, but rice seem to be my body’s favorite form of carbohydrate. It worked out.
Rice probably is a great pre-race food! Hmmm…maybe I’ll try it sometime!
The grape leaves and spices had me worried. Rice is good fuel. I think Cliff bars are made with rice. I love being able to eat what is essentially a nice big cookie before a race. No guilt what so ever.
I definitely try and test out all of my gear before big races. My biggest mistake has been in the food department, not clothing. New food has destroyed me in a race before. Lesson learned!
Congrats on the negative splits! That’s the way to run it!
Thanks Lisa! I have to say (knock on wood!) that my stomach really isn’t too picky when it comes to different foods so I’m not really all that cautious about eating/ drinking new things on race day (let’s hope I didn’t just jinx myself!).
You ran in different/untested shoes?!?! What were you thinking!!!!
Hahaha. I ran the hydration belt thing by you, but I figured if I asked anyone about the sneaker thing you’d all be logical and tell me it was stupid so I just went for it : )
I accidentally negative split on my 20 miler, and I finished with my last mile the fastest–I thought, “this is great!” and then I never did it again.
Haha, oops! Honestly, the key really is to feel like you’re going waaaaay tooooo sloooooow at the start. It feels kind of ridiculous, but then towards the end you still have all this energy!
You totally rock!! Awesome–even if you broke the #1 rule of racing “nothing new”. But rules are made to be broken! 🙂 I learn so much every single race I do. My favorite is learning to stay on the inside of the turns!
Oh yes, I totally need to try to do a better job at staying on the inside of the turns! It’s harder with a crowded course, but really saves you from a decent amount of extra running!
What brand are your pants? I have never seen pants with pockets on the sidelike that.
They’re actually Lululemon! A bit on the expensive side, but I really do love them! There is a deep pocket on either side – I had sports beans & honey stinger chews in one side and my phone in the other (and my phone didn’t bounce or move at all!) and a small zip pocket on the back which I used for chapstick, tissues, and tylenol!
I have to give credit to my husband who picked these out and came home with them for me one day, they’re my favorite running pants now!
I forgot to say what an awesome job you did on the marathon! It sounds so amazing and memorable that I am inspired now to put this one on my bucket list. 🙂
Can we talk about what a badass you are? You look so hardcore in these photos – love it! Trying new things for race day, particularly a marathon is a bold move, sister! You handled it well 🙂
Haha, why thank you!
These are all great takeways. And you definitely deserve to pat yourself on the back for running such a killer negative split. It’s so much better for you as a runner. I’ve definitely learned some hard lessons on race day. Like be sure to eat enough the night before and morning of a race but not too much. That’s something I struggle with. Finding that balance. I’ve got GERD, so I try to eat as little as possible before a big race or run, but sometimes I’ve taken it too far and not had enough fuel in the tank. It’s a balancing act. Great work!
Fueling really is such a balancing act! I’ve gotten it down pretty well for a morning race, but I really struggle with those night races!
Normally I’m a Nothing New on race Day gal- but I’m there with you- I did a lot of stuff for NYCM that thankfully worked out. It’s very hard to plan and train for a 40 degree race when it’s still hot out.
Exactly! For fall races the majority of the training is done in the heat of the summer, so it’s difficult to prepare for the cooler temperatures!
I am probably the queen of trying new things on race day. And as I do it, I know that I shouldn’t but I can’t help myself. But so far it hasn’t caused too many issues. I am so jealous of your negative splits!! I have the opposite problem and start out way too fast.
Haha, well I’m glad it’s not just me! I’m usually good about not trying new things, but I really just wasn’t feeling my “old” things for this race! Glad it worked out!
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