With the Cape Town Marathon race day fast approaching, many people are switching their thoughts from training to last-minute preparations. After months of hard work and training, it’s essential that the final preparations are done right to avoid any race day issues. Here I’m going to use some of my experience to discuss the key things I think about in the build-up to a race, in particular, a marathon.
One piece of advice I was given a long time ago and have stuck with for every race is not to change what you eat on the morning of a race. Stomach troubles can be a common issue for runners, and myself included, so the last thing you want to be risking is complications during your Cape Town Marathon race.
I aim to eat the same thing and amount that I have before a long run, so I know it has been well tried and tested. I aim to have this around 2-3 hours before a race and then have a sports drink to sip and a few jelly babies closer to race time for a last-minute energy boost.
The night before a race, I lay out my kit, so I am not worrying about forgetting anything on race morning. For a marathon, I always get my name printed on my run vest. When I was struggling in the London Marathon last year, it made the world of difference to me when people were calling my name and giving me encouragement!
The other hugely important thing on the race morning is Vaseline and a lot of it! No one wants to be suffering in the last part of the marathon due to horrible chafing! And tape up those nipples men, I’ve seen so many blood-stained tops when I’ve watched marathons, it must be horrible!
With pre-race nerves, it is not surprising that a last-minute trip to the toilets will be required. However, pre-race toilet queues can be very long, especially for ladies & the Cape Town Marathon race with so many entries, so allow enough time! I’ve heard people missing their start due to being stuck in a queue, and you don’t need that added stress right before you start.
When you hear that gun go, it can be tempting to get a bit carried away with the excitement of it all and go off a bit too fast. I’ve done this myself before, and I lived to regret it! With hours of running ahead, keep the pace comfortable so that you can sustain it for the time required. You certainly don’t want to be struggling 10km into the race.
Hopefully, you have practised this well during your long training runs so you will be sure of what best accommodates your tummy. We are all different, but you will need to take on energy during the race. This is because your body cannot store enough carbohydrate to get you through the time you’ll be running. A lot of people take gels, but they can upset some peoples’ stomachs. So, like your pre-race eating, I wouldn’t advise trying anything new on the day.
The support at the Cape Town Marathon is no doubt going to be brilliant, but it’s also great to have friends and family there. It can make such a difference seeing them when things are getting tough. I would advise chatting with them before the race so you can suggest a good place for them to be cheering you on and you’ll know where to look out for them. When I ran the London Marathon my parents got a big, bright helium balloon so I had no problems spotting them!
Although you may be struggling, try to smile for the cameras! No one likes race photos where you look unhappy, so pack out that smile, it will be worth it!
You’ve made it! You have ran a Marathon and you have that well-earned medal around your neck, well done! If you are anything like I was at my last marathon, walking was an immediate struggle. So to make my life a lot easier, I had my family nearby with all the things I needed – drinks, food and fresh clothing. It was a warm day, so I didn’t need any extra layers, but I always pack them as I can get cold quickly after races. I also took my trainers off and put flip flops on which was an amazing feeling for my sore and swollen feet!
Next is the all-important rehydration and recovery. You will lose a lot of fluids during the race, so its good to start replenishing them. A sports drink is often useful as it contains electrolytes. A snack immediately after the race is also important, preferably with protein in to start the repair process. Although it may be tempting to have a celebratory beer, avoid too many of these as you’ll probably feel unwell quite quickly!
Lastly now is time to celebrate your fantastic achievement and let your body rest and recover! Hopefully, you’ll also get some time to explore beautiful Cape Town too. I certainly can’t wait for that part.
Here’s to wishing you all a great race!