Marathon running tips to prep you for the big race

Okay, so the title might be clickbait… but we can all agree that preparing for a marathon requires just as much strategy and dedication as the race itself because of the commitment needed in training, exercise and in the mental preparation for the 26.2 mile race.

We sat down with Scott Quinby, MD, the medical director of Baylor SportsCare, Marcus Grunewald, the executive director of the Dallas Marathon, and Lauren Peralez, Baylor SportsCare liaison, to share tips and information to get you geared up for your big race.

Talk about Training

A quick Google search can provide weekly running plans with mileage and sprint suggestions for those training for upcoming marathons. Marathon training plans often suggest a build up of miles run over the course of weeks at a time and often suggest interval training and splits during some runs.

While it can be tempting to continue running at a high volume, the week before the race runners should be limiting their overall miles. During race week, mileage should be even more limited and minimal to keep your legs fresh and to let your body rest, replenish and rebuild.

Carb Loading: A Diet You Won’t Dread

“Carb loading” is a popular method of preparing your body for a race by eating more meals with carbohydrates to help boost energy during the run. It’s an important step in preparation, but ultimately, don’t change your diet drastically.

The best way to prepare is to ease more carbohydrates into your diet slowly a few days before the run.

Hydration Before, During and After the Race

Hydration is key to successfully running and recovering from a marathon or long run. It’s important to start hydrating days before the race so that your electrolytes are adequate for the run.

“You want to start the race with a full tank,” Dr. Quinby said.

During the race, it’s equally important to hydrated. Create a standard regimen of hydrating throughout the race by stopping at hydration stations and grabbing a drink of water or Gatorade.

A good rule-of-thumb is, if you are already thirsty or experience “cotton mouth”, then you are already dehydrated. A couple sips along the route can help.


“Temperatures vary from low thirties to high fifties on race day,” Grunewald said. “Keeping your extremities with gloves and hats covered can help keep you warm during the race and can easily be shed as the temperatures rise.”

Grunewald also suggests bringing a trash bag to wear beforehand to help capture some of the body heat, keeping your muscles warm before the race.

Ready for Race Day

For first-time marathoners, race day can be very exciting! After all the training and hard work that’s gone into preparing for the marathon, it can be normal to have some pre-race butterflies.

Rest easy knowing you’re prepared so that you can be both mentally and physically ready for the big race. Here are a couple quick tips on preparing for the race day butterflies:

  • Pick up your registration packet two or three days before the race.
  • Lay out what you’ll be wearing for the marathon beforehand.
  • Get to the race early and avoid traffic, parking issues and the stress that comes along with potentially running late.
  • Give yourself adequate time to stretch and mentally prepare for your race.

During the race

It’s normal to experience some discomfort when running a marathon and the runner’s mentality may be to push through all pains. However, you do need to know when to listen to your body. It can be easy to overlook your body’s signals because of the adrenaline on race day.

“Pain that trumps everything is chest pain and unusual shortness of breath in comparison to normal muscle cramps,” Dr. Quinby said.

After the race

While everyone may be focused on finishing the marathon, few think about what to do afterwards.

“Replenishing all the stores that were depleted can’t be done immediately, so ease back into it all with moderation,” Dr. Quinby said.

Cross-training is a way to help heal your body. Using something like an elliptical can use your muscles differently and help you recover, said Dr. Quinby.

It’s normal to have some post-race pain.

The “red zone” is a strip of the track that is immediately after the finish line and is kept clear so that medical staff can watch the runners right after they finish.

Have you participated in a marathon before? Share some of your training tips in the comments and watch more from our conversation below.

This blog post is part of the Google+ Healthy Hangouts series on breaking and timely health news.

About the author

Garyn Goldston
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Garyn is a proud TCU Horned Frog and a rowdy Dallas-Fort Worth sports fan. He is a former physician liaison for Baylor Jack and Jane Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital.

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Marathon running tips to prep you for the big race