26 Ways to Run a Better Marathon

The things to do besides training

Clearly, in order to be able to run a marathon, you have to do the training. But that’s not all. There are a whole host of things you can do to make sure that you run the best race that you are capable of. Here are 26 of them!


1. Trust your training.
You’ve logged a ton of miles, consumed a lot of GU, woken up at ungodly hours. You’ve trained your body, so allow your mind to believe that your body is capable of running 26.2.

2. Prioritize your sleep.
If there is one single thing you can do to improve your marathon performance without doing anything, it’s sleep. Over the next six weeks, aim to get into bed just 30 minutes earlier. Shut it down, turn it off, and go to bed. As marathon day approaches, consider choosing a few minutes of sleep over a mile of running. For example, if your schedule suggests that you run 6 miles on a Thursday, but this would require you to wake up at 5:00, consider running 5.5 miles to wake up at 5:15. It won’t make a bit of difference in your performance to run that ½ mile, but the benefits are cumulative. Try and capitalize on that.

3.  Rest is best.  
Now is the time that you start to feel worn down, achy, and a little fatigued.  If you need an extra rest day after that 20 miler, even if your schedule says otherwise, take it.  Similarly, if you have a little ache or pain, take an extra rest day.  This will also thwart off potential injuries.

4.  Hydrate.  
You’ve been hydrating all summer; but the cooler temps now may not prompt you to drink as much. Drink a lot. Drink often. Not only is it good for recovery, but helps lubricate those muscles and joints that may be feeling sore from all that pounding.

Photo by Flickr user Emily Goodstein. License.

5. Visualize. 
Study the map of the course over the next few weeks and periodically visualize yourself running it.  Even better, find a youtube video of the course.  Visualize each segment of the course—I like to divide the course into four parts:  1-8; 8-16; 16-20; 20-26.2.  Visualize yourself running strong and passing the landmarks and monuments.

6. Practice Drinking. 
Drinking along the race course is a bit of an art. Slow down, make eye contact with the volunteer, grab a cup, squeeze at the top to make a small opening, slow to a jog or walk, tip it back like a shot glass and drink. This takes practice, and if you can, perfect it so you are hydrated. If you can’t consider bringing your own water so you aren’t stressed; Similarly, practice with Gatorade. The last thing you want to do is to shock your body on race day.

marathon tips

“Raisins” by Flickr user Cary Bass-Deschenes. License.

7. Practice Eating. 
Now is the time to experiment with your nutrition.  If you are struggling with the GU during training runs, consider something else, such as raisins, but you must practice with these before race day.  Practice taking nutrition every 35-45 minutes.

Marine Corps Marathon Training Tips

Photo by Flickr user Dawn License.

8. Shoes. 
About 3 weeks before race day, replace your shoes. Don’t wait until the week before.

Marine Corps Marathon Training Tips

“Candy Corn” by Flickr user Fred Rockwood. License.

9. Limit junk food. 
You are likely hungrier than ever right now with all this running. It’s also getting close to Halloween. What better way to satiate your hunger than a giant bag of candy corn! Don’t. Aim to eat whole foods, high quality protein, few processed foods, good fats, and healthy whole grains. These adjustments will help you recover from runs and improve your race performance.

“Beer Trio Horizontal” by Flickr user Lindsey G. License.

11. Limit Alcohol
No explanation necessary.

12. Trust Your Taper
A good taper is one that reduces your mileage, but not intensity. Two to three weeks before marathon day, mileage should be reduced about 10-20% of your overall mileage. One week prior to race day, mileage should be reduced by 50%. Avoid cross-training and weight training. Use the extra time to sleep and visualize your race and come up with a mantra.

13. A Positive Mantra
Speaking of a mantra, this may sound cheesy, but a positive mantra can really help you during your race. Write the mantra on your hand, think of it when the going gets rough. Perhaps a simple word, such as “believe,” or “One mile at a time.” Whatever it is, make it a positive mantra, not a negative one, such as “Don’t stop.”

Marine Corps Marathon Training Tips

“Quinoa Recipes” by Flickr user Meal Makeover Moms. License.

Click here to see the rest: Number 22 is important