Those last six marathon miles!

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Apr 07, 2009 1:48 AM GMT
    Any marathon runners out there? I'm training for my first marathon, and I need some advice. I've built myself up to running 18 miles. At this point, however, my feet feel like bricks, my knees give out, and bottom line I'm just out of fuel. I have two months left to prepare, and I definitely want to finish in less than 4 hours. Any tips on nailing those blasted last few miles?
  • Hunter9

    Posts: 1039

    Apr 07, 2009 5:29 AM GMT
    honestly, if you've made it 18 miles, you're alright in my book... id throw in the towel and go grab a beer
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    Apr 07, 2009 5:51 AM GMT
    Pending no cramps nor any sort of trauma, you will finish. You train for 20 and hope for the best race day as adrenalin is supposed to carry you the rest of the way. From experience I can tell you that when I trained for half marathon's I trained for 10 miles and found 13 race day nothing surprising; however the 6 more after 20 are a bit rough; nonetheless, it is 100% doable and I am confident you can do it in under 4 hours.

    If you are running out of fuel and you feet feel heavy there are two things I would suggest: 1.) get some cross training in and let your muscles rebound a little and 2.) on runs that are longer than 10 miles for me I always take Guu or honey packets. Your body is starting to decompose itself if you aren't refueling it at all in an 18 mile run. Your store of carbs are gone at that point you need something back in you, namely glucose so that it can be rapidly broken down into ATP for a short burst of energy.
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    Apr 07, 2009 11:47 AM GMT
    This is not uncommon, but don't get discouraged. The few tips that I can lend are probably not news to you, but very important none-the-less.

    1. Don't go out too fast. Start your race day pace a good minute or so behind your race pace and then after a couple/few miles slowly then gradually start to pick up the pace. In essence this strategy is called "negative splits". Almost every PR or marathon winner has employed this strategy. There is literature out there that correlates going out too fast with final miles being less than optimal.

    2. Pinny is right. Make sure that you are taking in some sort of fuel every 45 minutes or so. This will replenish your glucose stores and help with fatigue. I find that I need to refuel every 40 minutes to prevent a low and maintain a more consistent energy level. I find the most important fuel recharge to be the one around mile 21ish. Although it is the last thing that I feel like taking it is the one that gets me to the finish.

    3. Along with #2 is making sure that you take in enough fluids and electrolyte replacing fluids throughout the course. I tend to grab fluids at every stop until after mile 20 or so and then I don't stop (basically out of fear that I won't be able to/get myself to run again). And actually I walk the water stops. Again there is literature out there supporting this technique. It allows you to truly ingest the fluids (instead of spilling most of them on yourself) and gives you a mini break.

    4. This is something that I do and it is a personal thing. I like to take a dose of 600mg/800mg of ibuprofen before the race starts and around mile 13. This helps even out the discomfort later in the race.

    5. Last, but not least. You have done the work by training and now just go with it. You have acclimated your body to doing the mileage, now let it work for you.

    These are some of the tips that I can lend. I hope they help. I also would like to share some thoughts with you. Things that I have realized by many years of long distance running.

    1. The 18 miles that you are doing right now are more difficult than those you will do in the marathon. Again, Pinny is right. The adrenaline will help you through much of the run, but more importantly right now you are running many miles per week before your long run. Leading up to the marathon you will taper, allowing your body to rest and conserve energy for the big day.

    2. I don't care if you run a 6 min/mile or a 20 min/mile for the marathon. It also doesn't matter how well trained you are. The last 3-6 miles of the race are going to hurt, especially if you are pushing yourself to do your best. At that point in the race you need to regain your focus and push on.

    3. Remember it is only pain. It will go away at the finish line. The 18 miles that you just ran, hurt. But, after you were finished the pain (unless you have an injury) was gone.

    4. Remember to have fun on race day. This is something that every runner has forgotten to do in their career. Smile (it makes the pain less) and wave to people. Get people to cheer you on, the spectators love to be involved they sometimes need some coaxing. Towards the end of a race I will flat out tell them "I need some help here" and they will cheer, which will help push me for the next little bit.

    5. Encourage other runners. It always makes me feel better. They may be hurting now and need your help, but in return when you are hurting the favor will come back to you.

    I think this post is long enough (sorry). If I think of anything else I will post. I am excited for you and your first marathon adventure.
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    Apr 08, 2009 3:16 AM GMT
    I'm not a marathoner, but I do have plenty of racing experience. I think part of the issue comes from psyching yourself out. There are ways to combat it such as remaining positive, running in the moment, and setting mini goals which seem challenging, but you know you can achieve. Your body always listens to your brain whether it's a conscious signal or not. You also might want to check and see if there's a 4 hour pace group. Feeling like you're part of a "team" may help psychologically as well. The best thing to do when racing is to live in the moment. Regardless of the distance, racing hurts, but the adrenaline will minimize a lot of the pain and discomfort. Just don't get cocky early when you're feeling good.

    Physically complex carbs, proteins, and omega 3s as well as glucosamine (if you have joint problems and other supplements such as iron, potassium and zinc all play an important roll for runners. On my long runs, I usually have a bag of gummy bears or mike and ikes on hand because I know that's what my stomach can handle if I feel like I'm crashing. Use long runs to experiment (intelligently) with fueling, and take the knowledge of what works for you to the starting line.