Marathon tips for mere mortals

In this page I will compile all MY marathon tips. There are 100’s of tips out there, and I’m not planning to duplicate all of them. These are mine…


  • These tips worked for me. It doesn’t mean they will work for you. We are all different.
  • These tips worked at some time. It doesn’t mean they will always work. We all change with time and we often change our minds about this or that.
  • Listen to your body and try at your own risk

Planning and strategy:
  • Make a race plan or strategy.
  • If you have a GPS, know your average goal pace
  • Stick to your plan. Believe in your training.
  • Check the weather. Have alternative plans for different scenarios. If the weather is unfavorable, will you have the right gear for race day?
  • Never try something new during the marathon. 90% chance it will go wrong.
  • The night before, lay out all your gear. Does it look like there’s too much stuff? Your probably not travelling light then… Re-think how much stuff you really need…
  • Go to bed early. Wake up in the middle of the night to top up your tank with a few carbs and protein and electrolyte. And go straight back to bed.

Nutrition before the marathon:
  • I’m not a tall person, normal weight. I try to not gain weight during my taper.
  • I don’t carbo-load during a long time. Just a good rich dinner, and maybe a morning muffin during the days prior to the race. Other than that, just a healthy diet.
  • Cut on processed juice, no sodas-energy drinks, plenty of water, some coffee and green tea.
  • Continue with supplements, especially vitamin C, fish oil and glucosamine.

At the start line:
  • Seed yourself with runners of similar or slightly slower ability.
  • If you have a GPS, turn it on early. Sometimes in the city it takes a long time to find the satellites.
  • Do a few short quick runs to warm up. Fake some easy sprints without using much energy. You just want to wake your legs up.
  • Focus, and don’t spend too much time talking to friends. There will be time for that during the race.
  • 30 minutes before the race, eat a gel, or a bit of your favorite solid fuel.

Start and first few km:
  • GO! Avoid being dragged by faster runners. This happens all the time especially if you picked a starting spot near the front, with faster runners.
  • If the race starts downhill you’ll feel that you can go faster than planned, and the adrenaline rush of the start gun and faster runners will drag you a pace that will be much faster than your planned goal.
  • Be conservative during the first few km’s. Run not faster than your goal average pace.
  • Try to maintain a constant pace. Don’t go faster. You’ll need the energy and strength later. Pay attention to your GPS or your splits. Don’t try to catch up with anybody going faster than your planned pace. There will be plenty of time for that, provided that you have some juice left during the second half.
During the race:
  • Don’t skip any water stations, even the first. As a rule, I start drinking as soon as I can. I don’t carry water with me, only gels. So I alternate water or electrolyte if possible at every station.
  • On hills, work on your cadence, not your speed. Maybe a bit shorter steps, a bit slower but steady pace. You’ll give away some time but you’ll reach the top of the hills in good shape and with air in your lungs.
  • Where the heck are the distance markers? I rely 100% on my GPS. Be careful if you only have a stopwatch, because the distance markers at regular intervals is not very common.
  • Be careful running downhill. You will be tempted to earn back some seconds. This is hard on your quads, joints and tendons. Don’t hurt your legs!
  • If you play cat and mice, choose a runner that has a steady pace just slightly faster than yours. There’s no point in passing somebody, if you are going to fall behind just a few 100’s m or km’s ahead.

Weather tips:
  • DON’T OVER-DRESS. It’s awful when in desperation you toss away that nice expensive long sleeve jacket…
  • Dress light and comfortable. It will get warmer during the race.
  • If it is going to be very cold or rainy, have a large rubbish plastic bag with a hole cut out and an old toss away shirt for when you’re waiting at the start line.

And some final, personal, general tips:
  • Travel light. I’m a minimalist. I rely on the water stations for water and electrolyte. I only carry gel in little shotz plastic bottles, usually one in my hand and one in a tri top pocket
  • I carry a very small towel to wipe the sweat from my forhead before it gets into my eyes. Sweat in my eyes drives me crazy and can ruin my day.
  • Cap, sleeveless dri fit shirt or tri top, short or long compression tights and/or compression calf sleeves (depending on weather/temperature forecast)
  • GPS, is essential for me. Charge it!
  • Print your splits and remember to put it with your running stuff. For the last marathon, I wrote the planned pace on my forearm with a sharpie. That really helped!
  • Eat a reasonable carboload dinner without stuffing yourself with crappy food.
  • Avoid alcohol as much as possible… And all junk food that wont help during the event (junk food, fried, crazy spicy ethnic food, etc)
  • Drink plenty of water and some gatorade and or electrolyte
  • Stop drinking after this. You don’t want to have to stop several times to pee during the race
  • eat a very light breakfast (or none), with little or no fluids (that works for me)

One comment on “Marathon tips for mere mortals

  1. Very sensible stuff here – thank you. I do not travel light. I fully agree with your point re water stations – I don’t skip any. I also don’t want to rely on them being where they shoul dbe and having enough water so I carry my own energy drink (which contains electrolytes) and gels!

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