Who better to give some advice on the Nashville Marathon than 4-time winner Scott Wietecha!?
1. Prepare for the distance
One of my favorite things about the St. Jude Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon is the number of people that participate rather than sitting on their couch, eating Fruit Pebbles. Everyone knows at least a few participants, it is a New Year’s Resolution for a lot of people and it is the only time you can run down the middle of downtown and not get run over by a car or pedal tavern.
That being said, respect the distance of the event. Finishing a half or full marathon is a tough task that you should take a lot of pride in! But you need to prepare yourself for the distance of the race by getting in adequate training. Do not wait until April to start your training but begin as soon as you can! Find a buddy, running group or training program and get out the door (or on one of those terrible treadmill things) and suffer a little bit today so you can smile a lot on race day!
2. Prepare for the course
While the half-marathon and marathon courses are not remotely close to the hills you will suffer on during Nashville’s sadistic Flying Monkey Marathon; they are something you need to respect and train for. Get in several long runs over rolling terrain and for my training and the runners I coach, I like to give fartleks over rolling hills where they focus on effort over pace, and if I’m feeling extra mean, short tempo runs on a flat surface followed by long hill repeats.
A lot of the hills on Nashville’s course come late in the race, so you need to practice running over hills after your tired. And remember, the harder you start the race, the more mountain-like the hills will become!
3. Race Strategy
Have a race strategy you plan on sticking to which also accounts for the hills and probable rising temperature throughout the race. I always think a great goal is to run the first half of the race at a slightly pessimistic pace. That way, you are much less likely to blow-up later on, and you can always pick it up the second half. The second half of the race is hard enough, so it is much more enjoyable to spend it passing all of the people that went out too hard! Set yourself up to be a hungry lion that second half, not a gazelle who is about to turn into a sweaty dinner.
4. Figure out your fueling
What separates the marathon from other events is carbohydrate depletion, aka the dreaded marathon wall. While I can get away without taking in any carbohydrates (and if the weather is cool enough, without any water) during a half-marathon race, I take in at least 400 calories and 30 ounces of water during a marathon
I practice using my expected carbohydrate fuel 2-3 times during my training to see how my body responds. Before the 2015 Chicago Marathon, I planned on using a particular brand of sports gel, but I had a blood sugar issue with it on one of my long runs. That let me know I needed to try something else. It is much better to try and fail in training than on race day!
Most recent research states to drink to your level of thirst. So while the water stops can be a good time to catch a quick breather and mentally recharge, drink what your body asks for and keep the shotgunning of water bottles for another day.
5. Race Day Gear
While your shoes are the most important factor here, plan what you will be wearing on race day. While different weather situations call for different adjustments, wear shoes and apparel that you are comfortable in. Shoe wise, I like to run at least 100 miles beforehand in the shoes I plan to wear in the race. And if you plan on wearing a lighter shoe during the race, be sure to get several long runs in them, so you know how your feet and legs will respond. Unless the weather is under 40 degrees, you’ll usually find me in a tank top, shorts and Swiftwick socks. But if you’re still unsure on what to wear, be sure to stop by a Fleet Feet, and they will hook you up with the necessary gear!