An hour before the start, find a quiet place, and spend five minutes reviewing your race plan and motivation. “Remind yourself of why you’re there,” says Rodgers. “Take confidence in the months of effort behind you. An exciting and satisfying day is just ahead of you!”
If you’re running the race with a training partner, make it a group session: Share your goals with each other for mutual reinforcement.
LINE UP LOOSE
Fifteen minutes before the start, begin some gentle stretching. Concentrate on the muscles of the back side of your body–your calves, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Remember, your goal is to start the race comfortably, not to audition for a yoga video, so go easy. Try to keep stretching after you’ve been herded to the start area. Jog in place as well, to keep your heart rate slightly elevated.
Run the first two to three miles 10 to 15 seconds per mile slower than goal pace. This preserves precious glycogen stores for later in the race so you can finish strong. When Catherine Ndereba set a world record at the 2001 Chicago Marathon, she eased into things by running the first 5-K at just over 5:40-per-mile pace, and went on to average just under 5:20 per mile for the race.
“Because the pace feels so easy, I get antsy in the early miles,” says Heather Hanscom, a 2:31 marathoner. “But I make myself stick to my game plan and don’t get carried away. I know that to run well later, I need to feel really relaxed the first third.” Hanscom checks her early splits to make sure, no matter how good she feels, that she’s starting conservatively. “In the first 10 miles, I look around at the surroundings, the fans along the way, and enjoy the changing scenery,” adds Wells.
THINK LAPS, NOT MILES
“Instead of obsessing about each of the 26 miles, I look at each three-mile segment as a lap,” says Dowling. “That makes it more manageable mentally. To concentrate on every mile would be like paying attention to the odometer throughout a five-hour drive.”
DRINK EARLY & OFTEN
Take sports drink at the first aid station and every one after. Taking in carbohydrates and fluid early will help postpone or prevent serious dehydration or carbohydrate depletion later, so you’ll be a lot more likely to maintain your pace. “During prolonged exercise, our thirst mechanism doesn’t keep up with our actual needs,” says Girard Eberle. “Then, as you become dehydrated, less oxygen and fuel is delivered to working muscles, and you run slower.”
GO HARD LATE
No matter how much you’re raring to go, keep things under control until well past the halfway mark. Then you can start racing. “If you feel relatively good at 18 miles, that’s the time to get aggressive,” says Dowling. “You’re down to eight miles to go, so if you’re still fresh, you can approach it mentally like a shorter race.”
For example, focus on a runner who is 100 yards ahead of you, pass her, then move on to your next victim. Wells, who took the lead in her National Championship victory at the 25th mile, says, “It’s an incredible boost to pass people in the last six miles. Sure, you’re hurting, but think how bad they feel!”
TALK TO YOURSELF
At around mile 23, says Arthur, “my head grasps the fact that I am actually going to finish. Yes, I’m really tired, but I tell myself, ’I will finish somehow, some way.’ I say this to myself over and over and it helps me recognize that the pain is just temporary.” And, as we all know, pride is forever.
Article Credit – Scott Douglas (https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20808326/26-tips-for-running-your-best-26-2)