A week before the race
Basic rule: Don’t try anything new on race day. Stick to the methods that worked for you during training.
Training: From the day you read this article, till the big day, avoid long runs. Most injuries among marathon runners happen in the last week.
Route: Get familiar with the route on the map and how you need to get to the starting point.
One step at a time: The 2010 Mumbai Marathon. Hindustan Times
Food: Your meals need to be carbohydrate-rich for three days leading up to race day. There is a tradition among marathon runners to have a pasta dinner the night before the run, but our very carbohydrate-rich foods, such as pulao, biryani and potatoes, do the job as well.
Running kit: Nothing you plan to use on race day should be new, especially your T-shirt, socks and shoes. Even if you are part of a corporate team, either wear your team T-shirt on top of your running shirt, or try it on a few of your training runs.
Sleep: You need to rest well the night before the big day. I suggest you try to sleep for at least 8 hours.
On race day
Alarm: Get up at least an hour-and-a-half before you plan to leave home and spend enough time in the loo relieving yourself. You need to plan to get to the race location early. Do take into account road blockades because of the marathon.
Also Read Rajat Chauhan’s earlier articles
Pre-race breakfast: Eat what you are used to. Don’t try something new just a few hours before the run.
Waiting time: Stay hydrated while you wait for the race to start, but don’t overdo it either. It’s always a good idea to drink in sips rather than gulping gallons of water in one go.
Your location at start point: Don’t get into a pulling-pushing competition at the start line. Your race time only starts from the time you cross the starting line.
Starting: It’s always recommended to start slow and keep it that way for the first couple of kilometres. There is a tendency to go with the flow. Most folks at the start line of marathons have no clue how to pace themselves, so it’s a good battle to lose.
4–5km mark: By now you would have figured how you are feeling that day and you can pace yourself accordingly.
Food: If marathon runners have not topped up with extra energy, mainly in the form of carbohydrates, they suddenly experience a complete loss of energy and their speed falls drastically, which, very appropriately, is called “hitting the wall”. You need to start eating power gels/bars, cereal bars after about 20 minutes into the race. You need to keep yourself topped up to help you finish strong and probably in your best time.
Water bottle: If you have a running-specific bottle, that’s great, otherwise look for the 200ml water bottles that are available on flights. Refill them at each water station or when you need to; 1 litre bottles are too big.
Water stations: These should be there every 2km, but last year at the Mumbai marathon, there were no water stations from the start of the sea link at the 24km mark till the 32km mark, exactly the distances where the much dreaded wall hits you.
At the finish: Don’t suddenly drop down on the ground. You need to keep moving for the next 2 minutes to cool down slowly. As soon as you get your bag, you should change into dry clothes.
Drink: You need to keep drinking in small amounts to replace the water you have lost, but don’t overdo it either. It’s fine if it takes you as long as 24–48 hours to rehydrate completely.
Food: Proteins are building blocks and need to be replaced within an hour of finishing a marathon. Have a good lunch.
Massage: Pamper yourself with a massage to calm the muscle aches you’ll have.
Dr Rajat Chauhan is a practitioner of sports and exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine, and CEO of the Back 2 Fitness chain of clinics specializing in injury rehabilitation, rehabilitation and performance enhancement.
Write to Rajat at firstname.lastname@example.org