After months of training in wintery weather, of dealing with blisters and chaffing and aching muscles, and of pushing the body to new limits, finally, race week of the Auckland Marathon 2013 has arrived.
Compared to the work you’ve already done, this last bit is actually comparatively easy. Still, there are many snags to be aware of, so I’ve put together a diary of what to expect and when to expect it.
Three Days to Go
Pick up your race pack from the expo (161 Halsey Street) and go over the schedule for race day. Check you have your race bib and safety pins, the timing chip, and go over all the gear you’ll be wearing on the day (you should have practised running a long run in this gear—race day is not a time to try out a new pair of shoes). Do a light, short run today.
Two Days to Go
Check the weather forecast. If rain is scheduled find a rubbish bag or cheap poncho to keep you dry before the race start (you can discard it once the gun goes). If heat is scheduled, review your pacing goal and include a little more salt in your meals. If wind is forecast, review your pacing goal again and take note of the sections of the course particularly exposed to the wind. If cold, pack an old jumper that you can discard during the race. No running today—a short walk should suffice.
One Day to Go
No running today and try to keep off your feet. Pack your gear bag (these official bags are taken from you at Devonport and are available for pick up at the finish) and lay out your race kit, making sure you have everything you need for when you wake up (race bib, timing chip, gels, lube, water bottle, sunscreen, clothes to suit the weather). Eat a healthy, balanced meal and then head to bed slightly earlier than usual (if you go to bed too early you might just lie awake dreading the day to come!). Set multiple alarm clocks and put your GPS watch on charge.
Four Hours to Go
Wake up and get a light breakfast down you as soon as possible. This shouldn’t be too fatty or harsh on your stomach (no bacon and eggs). Oats and banana, peanut butter on toast, a bagel with jam, Weetbix—essentially any medium-to-high GI carbohydrate is ideal so long as you’re used to it. Drink enough to be in a hydrated state (over-hydrating and under-hydrating are both significant risks that strangely present with similar symptoms).
Three Hours to Go
After visiting the loo at home, double check you’ve got your race bib, timing chip, watch, shoes and so on. Then head to the race start or bus/ferry terminal. Remember marathon participants need to catch the services before 5am and half marathon before 6am. Stay warm and hydrated and visit the loo again. Meet some new people and allow yourself to enjoy the experience.
One Hour to Go
Deposit your gear bag, visit the loo again, and find a starting place that fairly represents your goal time. Look for the pacing groups (for example, if you’re aiming for a 4:20 marathon place yourself just behind the 4:15 pace team leader). While you wait, go over your goal splits again and make a deal with yourself once more to not go faster than that for at least the first 30km (or 13km for the half).
10 Minutes to Go
Do some arm swings, leg swings, ankle circles, and other dynamic stretches to warm up. Double knot your shoelaces and tuck them away. Set your GPS watch so it has a satellite connection. Remind yourself what goal pace will feel like and do one final promise to not go faster than it.
Don’t panic. The gun will go and you probably won’t move because of the crowds. Remember that your official time is not taken until you cross the start line. Click ‘Start’ on your stopwatch when you cross the line, then aim to find your goal pace, paying no attention to those around you who have blasted off too fast.
Start times: 6:10am (full marathon), 6:45am (quarter), 7:00am (half), 9:45am (5k), & 10:45am (kids’ marathon).
Having started conservatively, look for this marker (which should be at the side of the road). Even if you’re 30 seconds too slow here, you’ll easily be able to make up that lost ground over the many miles that are to come. Just be patient and enjoy the buzz of running in a massive crowd.
This is the first aid station. Be sure to take some water and/or Powerade on board at every station (every 3-4km), especially if it’s hot/windy.
For marathoners, you should be warmed up by now and the pace should still be feeling very comfortable. Your pace practice should mean that you nail your pace goal very accurately here. Also, start consuming carb gels/lollies from here (if not earlier) in order to top up your glycogen supplies, so they don’t crash later on.
Half marathoners will be about to go through halfway. You’ll be starting to feel a little fatigued, but remember to not start pushing the tempo for at least another 3km.
Half marathoners, this is where your work really begins. Stay strong. Break down the remaining 6km into 1km chunks and focus on maintaining good form. Remember that in your training you’ve been banking away fitness for this very moment—now is the time to cash those metaphorical cheques. This is also the beginning of the big downhill giving you a welcome boost.
Marathoners should still be relaxed and in control. Chatting to those around you helps a lot at these stages.
Half marathoners should start kicking for home. Well done on a great even-paced race and enjoy the feeling of finishing strong and greeting friends and family at Victoria Park.
Marathoners, the preliminaries are over, you’ve crossed the foothills and now you’re heading to Basecamp ready for the assault on the summit of your 42.2km Everest. Don’t be tempted to pick up the pace here. The marathon is not simply two half marathons joined together. The real race begins at 32km.
When you visit the Mission Bay aid station for the second time, on the way back to the city, you’ll be 10km from home. This is where your race begins.
Break that 10km into five 2km pieces. Dedicate each one to a family member, friend or charity and run it with them in mind. Use mental cues to help maintain good running form like standing tall, keeping a fast leg turnover (180 steps per minute), and using your arms powerfully.
The final drink station is in the city, just a few blocks from Victoria Park. You’d wander down to the park from Queen Street for an easy stroll at lunchtime, so tell yourself that 3km is nothing. And it will go by fast if you stay focused on the task at hand of putting one foot in front of the other, driving with the arms, and keeping your breathing relaxed.
If you’ve paced yourself well, you’ll be overtaking many people. Use each runner as a marker to pull you along, dragging you to that new PB.
You’ve done it! This is a feat that only a small percentage of humans being have ever achieved. Welcome to the select marathon-finishers group. You’ve earned a good lunch with friends and family. Take a relaxing bath (ice and then hot works best), go for a gentle swim, and rehydrate well.
Go for a walk the next two days to help flush the legs out and then aim to go for a short jog on Wednesday. After this run you should be able to do a good stretching session (I find the day after a major race I’m actually too locked up to do much constructive stretching). Finally, have a massage booked for Monday or Tuesday and enjoy it!
This article is an entry by Hayden Shearman on his training blog at Stuff.co.nz (published 30 October).