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The 5 rules you must follow to finish a marathon

Get ready.

finish a marathon
Image of New York City Marathon participants across the Verrazano Bridge.

The marathon is more than a race, it is a party, a celebration, the culmination of months of hard training, in short, the achievement of a dream. The marathon is the most demanding and satisfying race at the same time. Demanding because it exceeds the physiological limits of the runner and satisfying because being able to overcome the limits and cross under the finish line banner is a feeling difficult to describe if you have not lived it. I believe that in life there are only two or three circumstances in which one experiences a feeling of personal satisfaction as deep as the one you feel when you finish your first marathon.

1. Be positive, never negative

The slogan made popular by Barça coach Van Gaal only highlights the importance of positive thinking as an attitude in life. This is a determining factor in successfully facing any challenge. It is inevitable that most runners, just fifteen days before the race, have doubts about their fitness, discomfort in any part of the body, or an excess of nerves that prevent them from sleeping normally. Reinforce your attitude, analyzing how you have trained and successfully completed all the stages of your plan, be aware, you are ready to run the 42,195 meters! Imagine yourself entering the finish line again and again, the mental determination to do something enables you to do it.

Almost all trainers recommend running the marathon from less to more: run a specific time in the first half and improve it in the second half.

2.- Test your level of effort

Almost anyone can run a marathon. The only limitation is physiological and cardiovascular problems or hidden diseases. Take a stress test before you start your training plan and another one 3-4 weeks before the marathon. Besides the fact that you will have the guarantee of being healthy, it will help you to plan first your training and then your race.

3.- From less to more

Almost all coaches recommend running the marathon from less to more; that is, run a slightly faster time in the first half and improve it in the second half. It is often said that the marathon is a race of only 12 kilometers. Yes, you warm up for 30 kilometers and run the last 12k. Normally the marathon runner has trained and accumulated enough weekly kilometers to successfully tackle the race. He will also have trained several days a distance close to 30K; so on race day getting to this point will not be difficult. The challenge starts from there. That’s why many coaches recommend to run with caution and reserve for that second half always harder because the legs and especially the head begin to break from this distance. As an example, if you are going for 3 hours, run the first half in 1h33′ and the second half in 1h27′.

4.- Set a pace

Normally the race organization establishes a series of balloons, reference runners who set a pace from start to finish to meet the goal set. They usually establish a balloon every 15 minutes, from 3 hours to 4 hours and 45′. 90% of runners cross the finish line in this time range, so it is helpful to join the running groups that form around these balloons.

Study what your actual running pace is. To do this you must know at what heart rate you enter the second threshold and begin to generate lactic acid. You should always run slightly below this level, at least until mile 30; otherwise, you are likely to fail, not so much because you will not finish the race, but because you will explode.

It wouldn’t hurt to start supplementing from the half marathon onwards with gels to give you a shot of glucose to replenish your stores.

If you leave your aerobic threshold at 155 beats per minute and enter the anaerobic threshold at 156, wear a heart rate monitor on race day and monitor your heart rate. Adapt your running pace and speed so that at least until kilometer 30, you do not reach this threshold. If the marathon is not a flat course, shorten your pace on the climbs and accelerate slightly on the downhill and flat sections, but do not exceed this threshold. From kilometer 30 onwards, in addition to the fact that fatigue will cause your heart rate to rise even if you keep up the pace, do not be afraid to start running at your anaerobic threshold, the finish line is close…

5.- Fill up the tank

As important as the training plan of the last three or four months, is to run with full tanks, because as we said above, the marathon exceeds the physiological limits of the human being, emptying the glycogen stores by sustained and continuous effort to which we submit our body. Therefore, it is important that during the last week, at least from the Wednesday before the marathon, you follow a diet rich in carbohydrates, mainly pasta, bread and rice. Hydrate yourself by drinking 3 to 4 liters of water every day from Thursday.

On the day of the race, you should eat a hearty breakfast 3 hours before the race, as well as hydrate yourself well. During the race, it would be a good idea to start supplementing with gels to give you a glucose injection to replenish your glucose deposits. You should have trained for this during your long runs to make sure you can tolerate it. Drink at every refreshment station. Do not try anything new on race day.

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