Categories: Training

10 last-minute tips for the New York City Marathon

November 4, 2016

The New York City marathon this Sunday is one of the six marathon majors held around the world every year, with the other five being Tokyo, London, Boston, Berlin and Chicago.

Running a marathon is one of the most satisfying accomplishments you can achieve. All the hard work will have been undertaken in the weeks and months before the event but there are some things that can give you an edge for the main event.

Really quick tips for the NYC Marathon

Only have 18 seconds to spare? Flip through these tips.

Nutrition

Carbo-load before the race.

Hydration

Drink little and often just before the race.

Recovery

Smart recovery starts with proper hydration and plenty of carbs.

Below are some top tips that can make a huge difference on race day, but first is a bit of background on a couple of marathon topics to set the scene…

Hitting the wall

What does it mean and how do you avoid it?

Hitting the wall, also known as ‘bonking’, is the term used to describe running out of energy.

The human body has a limited store of energy which will run out if carbohydrate is not consumed during prolonged exercise. Participants in endurance type events describe a sudden feeling of fatigue, lack of energy, heavy legs and/or sudden drop in pace.

What should I do to avoid it? ‘Hitting the wall’ is not a prerequisite of finishing a marathon! Carbohydrate loading and taking on carbohydrate during the marathon will help to make sure you don’t run out of energy.

Carbohydrate-loading

You may have heard or read about carbohydrate loading. What does it mean? Does it work? Is it relevant and should I be doing it?

Yes it does work, yes it is very relevant to running a marathon and yes it is recommended you employ this strategy.

Increased dietary CHO (carbohydrate) in the 1–7 days prior to exercise is generally associated with enhanced performance when exercise duration exceeds 90 minutes.” – Dr Asker Jeukendrup

Our understanding of how to implement this has changed quite a lot since the initial research on the subject was carried out on the military back in the 60’s. Essentially you’re looking to increase the amount of carbohydrate you consume in the few days leading up to the marathon to ensure your fuel levels are topped up.

Whether you’re an elite or amateur, carbohydrate is the predominant fuel source used during running and our bodies have a limited carbohydrate store which can become depleted. Topping up those fuel stores in the meals before the event as well as consuming carbohydrate during the race will spare the stored carbohydrate in the body and potentially avoid the onset of fatigue.

With all this in mind, here are some top tips to implement during the 24 hours of race day that will go a long way to ensuring you have an awesome marathon. To start, the golden rule is not to try anything new on race day. Stick to meals you like and are used to, use the same clothing, socks, shoes and music playlist you’ve used in training. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing, be confident in your own preparation, knowing what works well for you and stick to that.

1. Eat well the night before

The night before your race eat a meal you enjoy and are used to. Aim for a meal that is rich in carbohydrates, this could include foods like pasta, rice, bread, potatoes. A good evening meal will ensure your carbohydrate stores in your muscle and liver are stocked up before race day, which are basically the petrol for your engine on the big day. Like a car cannot run on an empty tank of petrol, topping up these carbohydrate stores will reduce the risk of fatigue during the race.

2. Avoid eating too close to bed time

Aim to have dinner earlier in the evening before the race. Make sure you plan ahead to avoid rushing this meal – giving your body time to digest the meal and relax should hopefully mean you get a good night’s sleep which is of course really important.

3. Carbohydrates are king at breakfast

Similarly to the night before, priming the body with carbohydrates at breakfast is a key way to ensure performance doesn’t suffer during the race. Stick to a breakfast and foods you’re used to and have practiced in training. Porridge, toast, cereal, bagels and fruit juice are all great choices.

4. Reduce fat and fibre

Keep fibre and fat to a minimum when having your race day breakfast as we know this can cause upset stomachs during the race. This simple tip will ensure you’re in top condition for the challenge ahead and hopefully reduce the chance of any unnecessary toilet stops.

5. Keep hydrated before the race

Don’t neglect drinking before the race – keep a bottle of drink with you – little and often is key. Dehydration may result in a decline in endurance performance. Even a 2% reduction in your body weight has been shown to negatively impact performance, which can have a negative effect on the intensity of your race.

Dehydration may result in a decline in endurance performance.

6. Take on fuel during the race

As described above, our bodies are like cars – they can’t run on empty. The human body’s carbohydrate stores can become depleted during the race, therefore aim to consume carbohydrate during the marathon to avoid the onset of fatigue. It’s important to understand that whilst there are recommended guidelines, a one size fits all approach simply doesn’t work. Current recommendations are to consume between 30–60g of carbohydrate per hour. Faster runners may need more than slower runners.

7. Drink little and often

During the race, drink little and often to avoid dehydration and ensure carbohydrate is being consumed. Avoid drinking large volumes of fluid in one go to avoid a stitch or stomach discomfort.

8. Remember to rehydrate and recover after the race

Recovery from a race starts as soon as you cross the finish line. Consuming carbohydrates and electrolytes in the hours after exercise will help to rehydrate. Again, consume fluids little and often and not large amounts in one go.

9. Celebrate with your favourite meal

Eat a meal you enjoy but don’t forget to neglect carbohydrates. The meal should be rich in carbohydrates to top up those stores which are likely to be significantly depleted having just completed the race. Pasta, spaghetti, rice, potatoes and bread are all great choices to add to your celebratory meal.

10. Finish up with some protein

It’s not just carbohydrate that’s important after the race and the overall recovery process. Combine some protein to help your muscles repair and adapt. Aim for 20–30g of high quality protein which is equivalent to a palm size portion on a plate of food. Meat, fish or dairy is advised.

Above all else enjoy your day. Be incredibly proud of what you achieve, and SMILE!

Running a marathon is an incredible experience and one that you will never forget… and you just happen to be running it in one of the greatest cities in the world!

Good luck!