The run season is here, and just about every week, there is a run that you may have signed up for. It’s doubly daunting if it’s a marathon, and sometimes, it can leave you doubting yourself. Here’s what you can do to thoroughly prepare yourself before that marathon (full or half) with tips from our local experts.
1. Don’t push it
Relax. It’s all about staying rested and letting your body heal. Prepare mentally instead of physically. Aim to sleep eight hours a night and stay off your feet as much as you can. Marathoner Teh U Mei says that reducing stress on your body will allow it to top off its glycogen and maintain adequate hydration levels. Schedule movie nights, start a new book, or visualize races you’ve enjoyed. Reduce your running to just four days this week. New marathoners may run no more than three or four miles at a time while advanced runners can do a couple of six-milers early in the week. “A very light, race-pace workout earlier in the week can help you to stay sharp. So, run one to four miles at marathon pace with a one-mile warm-up and cool down,” says Mei.
2. Eat healthy carbs
You’ll need to maximise the glycogen in the muscles and liver when you run for more than three hours. Glycogen is your body’s most easily available form of energy although it’s not the only source. During a marathon, your body burns both glycogen and fat. However, your body needs to work harder to convert fat into fuel. That’s why when you run low on glycogen during a race, your body ‘hits the wall’. When this happens, it has to slow down to turn fat into energy. Smart Athletics Club Malaysia head coach Edan Syah says it is good to load up on carbohydrates (carbo-loading) a week before a race. “Carbo-loading works for those who are training for a full marathon as it can take up to hour hours to finish a race,” says Edan, adding that a runner’s pace also determines whether he should load up on carbohydrate. “If you’re planning to finish a race in eight hours, then you may not need to carbo-load but if you have a faster pace, carbo-loading helps,” says Edan. According to Mei, you should get 60 to 70 percent of your calories from carbohydrates such as wholegrain pasta, rice and bread, 20 to 30 percent from fat sources like oils, avocado and nuts, and another 10 to 15 percent from protein like fish, meat, chicken, and beans. “It’s wise to mind your micros and macros,” she says.
3. Study your route
This week is also for you to understand the race route for a more confident run. If you live locally, you have probably run at least part of the race course. But if you haven’t, study the map provided by the race organizers. Better yet, run, bike, or drive portions of the course. It will be helpful to know the locations of the hills, aid stations, and toilets.
4. Create a playlist
If you don’t already have a playlist, this is the time to create or update the one you have. For some runners, listening to music is a major way to relax and focus during a race. “Some prefer fast-paced songs while others love to listen to more mellow beats – it’s all really up to the individual so stick to whatever works best for you. Try music with a fast beat though, it works to keep your adrenaline pumping and gets you fired up. It helps with your tempo, too”, says Edan.
5. Pack early
Don’t procrastinate, and do pack early. If you leave it to the last minute, chances are that you’ll forget things that are vital for your race such as your energy gel. “Pack all of your race stuff first. That way if you do forget something, it won’t be something that will affect your race,” says Nike running coach, Sue Teoh. Creating a checklist also helps, especially if you tend to be forgetful. Edan adds that when running overseas, it’s important to understand that you may need different running gear, so be sure to include them when packing. If you’re racing in another state or country, pack your race essentials in a backpack and carry it with you. “Sometimes, luggage go missing. Keeping your race essentials in a backpack with you is safer and more convenient,”adds Edan.