Lessons from a Novice Marathoner: Last Minute Tips for Marathon Day

By Julianna LeMieux — Oct 30, 2017
Marathon Day in New York City is almost here. After months of training, the light is at the end of the tunnel. Here, in our last article in this series, we look to our friends (who know much, much more about running marathons than we do) for their sound advice.

In preparation to write my fifth and final article in the "Lessons from a Novice Marathoner" series, I looked to my friends who know much, much more about running marathons than I do.

I asked a few people I know, who have run dozens of marathons between them, to give me some last minute advice as I approach the big day. Some of the advice is practical while some is sentimental. But every single piece of advice is very good and will be very helpful come marathon day. 

There was one topic that everyone mentioned - making it seem more important than the others. It was - do not start out too fast at the start! In the same vein, an emphasis on pacing was on everyone's list. 

Another hot topic was when (and how much) to eat on race day. Basically, the advice boils down to "Eat something. But, not too little and make sure you do not overeat." Oh, and eat only things that you normally eat. As far as when to eat and stop eating? People seem to agree that eating too close to start time is a bad idea. That said, there is a lot of waiting around before the start, so it's a good idea to keep eating up until about an hour beforehand. 

Here is a list of other advice that was shared, both general and specific to the NYC marathon (at the end). 

General advice - Preceding the marathon 

  • Avoid walking around too much the day before 
  • During the week leading up to it, try to get a little more sleep than usual 
  • Make sure to put your name on your shirt.
  • Wear some warm clothes that are recyclable to the start. They put boxes out so that you can shed them at the last minute and everything gets donated to Goodwill.
  • Share the tracking app with friends and family so they can easily find you.
  • Set realistic expectations and goals. Have an A goal - what you could do if everything goes perfectly, a B goal - something realistic that you feel confident you can do, and a C goal - a baseline goal for the day which could just be “I want to finish.” Be prepared to abandon all goals if something goes really wrong.

On marathon day  

  • Nothing new on race day - no new clothing, no new gear, no new shoes, no new food. Everything should be tried and tested on your long runs before race day.
  • Drink early and often.
  • Don't wear headphones so that you can hear the bands and crowds and everyone who says your name and cheers you on.
  • Make sure to visit the bathroom before heading for your corral.
  • If you carry a pack of salt for cramps, make sure to wrap it in something waterproof.
  • If registering that morning, register early so you are not rushing.
  • While running, think your most delightful thoughts.
  • Embrace a feeling of gratefulness that this is something your body can do. 
  • Don't be afraid to walk.
  • While running, think about what meal you want after the race.
  • Relax and enjoy it.

New York City Marathon Specific Advice 

  • Run with the attitude that it's one of the best tours of our beloved five boroughs
  • On the hills in Central Park, speed up down the hills rather than braking
  • Listen closely for the roar of the crowd as you come off the Queensborough bridge and turn onto 1st ave - the depth of the crowd and their support makes it all worth it. 
  • That said, don't speed up too much on 1st avenue - there is still a long way to go. 
  • If you are on the lower level of the Verrazano bridge, be prepared to get peed on from the people on the upper level. Yes, gross. No one ever said marathoning was glamorous.

Everyone that I spoke with had the same sentiment at the end of their list of advice - they all say that it's worth it. Maybe I'll believe them in a week from now, after I've completed it (and cleaned the urine out of my hair).

Wish me luck! And, thanks to everyone for the great advice.

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