The marathon can be a daunting effort. At 26.2 miles, it takes months of focused preparation and training to feel confident on the starting line.
Race day is when all that training is put to the test: the countless miles, the tempo and marathon-pace workouts, and the weekend long runs that inspire confidence in covering the marathon distance.
But while all the hard work is already done, you’re not quite finished yet! Many runners who have put so much time and effort into their marathon training put virtually none into their race day planning. A successful marathon demands advance planning so there’s as little stress as possible the morning of the race.
4 Ways to Have a Stress Free Marathon
With smooth travel and race prep, you won’t have to worry about details like your pre-race meals, fueling strategy, gear, and the course itself. Instead, precious energy is saved for the marathon itself so you can accomplish whatever goals you’ve set, like finishing the race or maybe even qualifying for Boston.
Tip #1: Plan Your Race Morning (no improvising!)
There’s a lot to do on marathon day (like running 26.2 miles!) so it’s vital to plan as much as possible beforehand to reduce your stress levels. The less you have to think about, the better. All of your focus needs to be on the big task at hand, not smaller details like where did I put those safety pins for my race bib?!
Before the marathon, you should plan everything:
- Accommodations the night before the race
- Travel to the starting line (Is it provided? Are you getting there yourself? Is a friend or family member driving you?)
- Warm clothes before you’re ushered into the corral. Most marathons start early and it can be chilly, so bring warm clothes you don’t mind discarding right before the start
- Know when you’re getting up in the morning (and set two alarm clocks) and allow extra time for traffic, long restroom lines, and warming up
- Pack your race bag the day before with breakfast, in-race fuel, extra clothes, hydration needs, and anything else you need
An extra half hour the day before a marathon can provide peace of mind that everything needed is packed and ready to go. Nobody wants to stress out about where their socks are the morning of a marathon!
Tip #2: Be Boring
Variety is the spice of life, but certainly not on marathon day. There should be no surprises on race morning if your goal is to run a fast marathon.
Everything you’ve used during training should be there for the marathon, like the exact gels or other fuel you plan to eat, water or the specific sports drink you’ll be drinking, and even your shoes and socks should be gently worn in.
A marathon should be tackled as closely as possible to a challenging long run, including a familiar breakfast and warm-up routine. If you normally drink a cup of coffee before a long run, do the same before the marathon.
Experimenting with new shoes, fueling strategies, clothes, and breakfast choices are for training, not race day. Be a creature of habit so that you won’t experience any surprises on the course.
Finding out that a new type of gel doesn’t sit well with you is the last type of stress you need at mile 18 of a marathon!
Tip #3: Familiarize Yourself with the Course
Every marathon has a different type of course. Some have grueling hills but are relatively straight, while others are flat with lots of sharp turns. Each presents different types of challenges that you need to be comfortable with on race day.
Those who always run on flat terrain will have significant trouble on a course like Boston, which is a net downhill race with legendary hills where it hurts the most: miles 18-21.
Runners therefore need to train on similar terrain and routes so they’re both physically and mentally accustomed to the race’s unique challenges.
Study the course map and elevation profile so you can mimic those demands during marathon training.
Tip #4: Leave Anxiety at Home
Everybody gets nervous before a big race. It’s normal – and even expected. In fact, 3-time winner of the New York City Marathon Alberto Salazar once said:
“I had as many doubts as anyone else. Standing on the starting line, we’re all cowards.”
While pre-race anxiety is normal, believe in your ability. Don’t sabotage your race with self-defeating thoughts.
Trust your training; you’ve done the hard work to prepare yourself for today so believe in that!
After all, any race is simply a logical extension of your training.
With the right preparation and organization, you can cut unnecessary marathon stress that will only derail your race goals.
Focus on the race, plan in advance, and go after your goal time with confidence!