I’ve received a lot of well-meaning advice as my inaugural marathon approaches (“Walk through the water stations!” “Don’t weave during the first half!” “Have a friend join you at mile 22!”) as well as some less-than-constructive suggestions (“Don’t run an f-ing marathon!”) but the tip that’s been most often recited to me by marathoners and skeptics alike is this one:
Don’t try anything new on race day.
The horror stories I’ve heard from runners who haven’t heeded this sage advice are gruesome. How gruesome, you ask? I haven’t seen SAW, but I have seen the super-terrifying 1982 thriller ET, and it’s scarier than that. Well, on par. Nothing’s scarier than ET.
From new-shoe blisters to new-fuel side cramps, the results of breaking from your tried-and-true routine on race day can be disastrous. Most coaches go so far as to even suggest calling the marathon committee before race weekend to find out what flavor Gatorade they’ll be distributing along the course. (MCM runners: lemon lime.)
“Don’t buy new race clothes.” “Don’t try new gel flavors.” “Don’t even switch peanut butter brands on your pre-race toast,” they say. I like Michael J. Fox’s voice acting as much as the next guy, but when it comes to running 26.2 miles, it’s best not to leave anything up to Chance.
(In case you didn’t get it, that was a clever word-play reference to the 1993 Disney film Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. But you got that, right? Of course you did.)
Unwilling to throw away four months of training because of one simple race-morning mistake, I decided to use this past weekend’s half marathon in Central Park as an opportunity to test all my race-day variables ahead of the big day. And I’m oh-so-glad I did.
Sunday’s race, Grete’s Great Gallop, kicked off at the glorious hour of 10:30 a.m. and took 5,947 runners around two+ loops of the park for 13.1 miles of hilly competition. I ran with my co-worker’s speedy husband on partially tapered and surprisingly fresh legs and — surprise — knocked back a new PR of 1:51 flat.
But it’s not the PR that’s important. The real accomplishment here was getting to test out all my marathon-day constants, from breakfast (toast/peanut butter/banana) to shoes (new but expected to be broken in by race day) to GU flavor (chocolate outrage) to hydration strategy (lots). Not everything performed quite how I’d hoped, but I now have two weeks to work out the kinks in hopes that Oct. 28 will run smoother than I’d ever imagined.
The only parts of Sunday’s events that need no further tweaking? Posing with non-sweaty spectators and stuffing my post-race face with a BLT and sweet potato fries. That — my friends — went off without a hitch and will be replicated in all its glory at the end of the month.
Any other race-day tips to pass my way? Extra points if they involve BLTs.