With training and tune-up races coming to its end is the undeniable truth that you have indeed signed up for the marathon. Let not your productive weeks and months go to waste by forgetting something essential on race day. To some, these essentials are a bit mundane or petty; for others, it may mean the world to them. Humans that we are, there always be commonalities in the way we do things, even before a landmark marathon.
Assuming you have taken cared of the non-tangibles…
- tapering & rest – Typically, I start to taper a week before the race and make sure I have 3 days of complete rest (no running or any workout that stresses the legs). My philosophy and experience dictates that this is the amount of time and recovery my body needs to come fresh on race day.
- transportation arrangements – This is relative to the “odd hours” for the marathon and half-marathon guntime. You wouldn’t want to break sweat over a hard-starting engine, or make last-minute arrangements with the shuttle service, or, worst, have to contend with the never-ending weekend carmaggedon along EDSA.
- sleep patterns – Unless you’re on night-shift at a call center, you have to start orienting your body to sleeping EARLIER, which will be inevitable the eve prior the race. I’m almost sure the impact of sleep deprivation on your performance depends a lot too on your fitness level. I remember attending a highschool reunion on the night before the 2013 Condura; I was completely alert and bullish during the entire race. As expected, I ‘crashed’ 2 hours after the race due to lack of sleep. Don’t do this unless you know and understand your body.
- foods and diet – I’ve abandoned the strategy of carbo-loading days before the race, simply because I believe stored carbs cannot last longer than a few hours in our system. I focus more on incorporating good carbs into my regular diet, especially for the last pre-race meal. My indulgence normally comes AFTER the race, when 2,400 calories of me begs for replenishment.
- bowel scheduling – Like sleep, we have to reschedule the ‘ritual’ to avoid the risk of desperately racing and looking out for the next portalet (which will be, expectedly, far and in-between). Cutting back on fiber the day before is sensible, but personally, I take in more fiber two days before just to make sure I feel cleansed and light on D-day.
…here then are the tangibles!
race bib AND timing chip – These two imperatives are deliberately accounted for as a pair. The race bib is one’s official entry-pass into the race corral, as checked by officials prior to gunstart. In some races, you could be automatically barred from joining the race without a bib, so it’s almost unthinkable that one could lose or misplace this. at the pain of getting disqualified. However, while the race bib is a must-have, it’s unlikely that you can get booted out of a race for not installing your timing chip (eg B-Tag, D-Tag). The timing chip, therefore, becomes a personal look-out. The timing chip tracks your running statistics, to eventually be complied in what we know as “race results”. No race results, no bragging rights.
safety pins or bib belt – Never remove these pins from the holes of the racebib, until you’re ready to use them. I’ve seen countless runners stressing over safety pins a few minutes before gunstart and this is certainly no way to start a race so important. Oldies like me opt for the time-tested strategy of pinning the bib on the front of the singlet/raceshirt days or a day before the race. This helped ‘align’ the bib so you don’t pin it crooked or way too high or too low. I have to admit this was ceremonial on my part. The night before the race is solemn, almost meditative (read as: to calm nerves) and clearing away the cobwebs of the mind.
race belt or water belt – Again, it pays to organize what stuff to bring and stash away in those tiny pockets of the belt. Unless you have the memory of an honor student, it’s highly recommended that one do the stashing way ahead of time, particularly those that would be likely forgotten: ID, money, band-aid, carbo-gels)
GPS watch – Make sure it’s fully-charged the day before the race, with personalized details where you want them to be. Don’t be tempted to borrow a GPS watch the night before and then fumble over the controls and keys on race day. You’d rather just run by feel and anticipate signages and distance markers along the route. Some runners cheerfully ask for the current time or current pace so make sure you bring lots of patience and courtesy on the road.
MP3 player – Great if you have weaned yourself from using this gadget, but even if you haven’t, try to start the race without music and only use it to really perk you up at the second half of the race. As with GPS watches, do ensure you are adequately powered to last your marathon time. Lastly, if they are small enough (mp3 player and earphones), better to tuck them away inside the race belt than take a chance at forgetting altogether, by dangling them on your neck pre-race.
cell phone – Like the MP3 player, bringing a cellphone is a very personal decision. But it you are like me who’s never used one in practice runs or races, this is probably the message it’s imparting: I’m TOTALLY focused on the race and I want to read and listen more to MY BODY, so I can happily and strongly cross the finish line. Of course this also means I am totally dependent on official race photographers for souvenir shots.
race attire – Whatver you plan to use on race day must be neatly folded in a hanger, ready for the dress-up. Of course, this tip largely assumes you have test-run and broken in your gears, with particular attention to running shoes, relative to the type of socks that squarely goes well with it. It would be clearly a waste of time and energy to be mix-matching shirts/shorts/shoes/socks in the last few hours prior to gunstart.
petroleum jelly (or other forms/brands of lubricant) Until now, I have not completely deciphered the root cause of chafing but there’s no single sportsbrand that will certainly guarantee against it. My take is if you have a tendency to chafe (i.e., skin-to-fabric, skin-to-skin), it will happen – it’s just a matter of time. And so I go largely by prevention of chafing on my so-called hot spots. In possible areas of chafing, generous application of petroleum jelly helps until they are completely washed out by sweat. In sure-fire areas of chafing (in my case, its the sports bra strap line between my breasts), putting on waterproof band-aids have saved the day for me!
* notes on sanitary pads and chafing Don’t do it! Running a full marathon with even the thinnest of sanitary pads WILL CHAFE along the padlines. Not only will you scream and curse during bath time, the chafing on the sensitive areas will make sitting unsettling for days. The best option is to crash-tutorial the use of tampons. If you must go back to the pads, be prepared for numerous pitstops at changing pads and re-touching slabs of petroleum jelly – just to minimise degree of chafing.
sunscreen and sunglasses – Nowadays, marathons begin midnight or in the wee hours of the morning, as organizers hope that more than 50% of the category-runners would have finished by the first ray of sunlight. UV-protection is as important as being fashionable with your branded running optics.
change of clothes – Walking along, post-race, drenched in your sweat is an invitation to colds or a chill, especially if you are racing in the colder months of the year. Get into dry clothes as soon as possible and make sure you dab on some cologne because you never know if your crush will just come up to you and give you a congratulatory hug! By the way, this is funny, but some women forget to bring a change of underwear as well. No scrimping on laundry, please!
change of footwear (slippers) – Post-race, the famous duck-walk distinguishes marathoners from other runners in the race. Marathoners don’t actually care, for as long they can change into slippers and unravel the aching feet from the bondage of shoes.
My running buddy Mark Terrado used to remind me that having a goal to break a PR is tricky business. In order to break one, all the factors that are required must come into play, like a symphony. And to which I counter, “that’s a tall order.” I guess that was the day I started to just do my very best at each race and leave the rest to the Divine Marathoner in heaven.
I really believe that the best thing that can come out of a good marathon is the feeling that you want to do another one again. Enjoy the skyway and live to tell that story forward!