Pre-Marathon Race Plan


Next week, I’ll be jetting off to Paris to take part in my very first marathon race abroad and I thought I’d share with you how I plan to tackle race day. Most runners have their own routine to get their race day rolling and after a few practice runs (who doesn’t love a pun?! 😀 ), I’ve gotten to know what works for me when it comes to running a marathon.

Everyone is different, especially when it comes to running and what works for our individual bodies, so if there’s one thing I’ve learned since starting running 9 (odd) years ago, it’s that it’s good to read expert advice and and learn as much as you can about the experiences of other runners, but all of that should be taken in context and with the proviso that what works for others, may not work for you. By all means, try out new things and recommendations but expect that some things may need to be adjusted to make it work for you and others may not suit you at all.

Be brave- do try new things and do experiment – this is how we grow and develop as runners, refine and improve. Just don’t do it on race day 😉 Experiment till your heart is content IN TRAINING but make sure that whatever you do on race day has been tried out before and which you KNOW will not have any potential upsetting effect.

So what’s the plan for the Paris Marathon 2016 race day?

Gear 2This was my layout the night before last year’s Dublin marathon. Not sure where my shirt was for this pic but I swear I did wear one. I think…

Night Before – Lay Out Gear and Pack Bag.

It’s a rare occasion that I don’t have this done before the night before the race, I get that excited. I also just like to get everything organised and sorted nice and early so that I can start to relax from early and not be worried about forgetting anything. I will lay out my race clothes, pin my number to my shirt and prepare whatever drinks and food I plan to bring with me. I’ll also pack a bag for after the race with warm clothes, food, drink, phone, a small amount of emergency money. I always pack a small towel too in case it’s raining and some baby wipes to clean up a little post-race – just to keep you going until you can have a shower. Small things, but they can add up to making a big difference to making you feel better after a long race.

Depending on the weather, I usually have a baseball cap and a disposable black plastic sack ready to take with me if it’s raining on the morning of the race, which can be discarded (properly) just before the race kicks off.

Also, check that your garmin and ipod are fully charged and if not, plug them in. If you’re not using either, you needn’t worry 🙂

Me and my big red bag…

Oh and while we’re on the night before – I always make a plan with my family or friends the day before about where and when I will meet them after the race. Most of the time, they see me coming in and I see them and it’s all good, but that is not always the case and I always make sure to have a Plan B. Given that this race will be in a foreign country, in which I don’t speak the language (other than oui, c’est bien and c’est la vie…) I also plan on having a Plan C and D in place. Otherwise, I’ll have to bring in my 4th and final french phrase… Je suis perdue.

Arrange to meet at a very specific location – outside a particular restaurant or monument – at a specific time, as a back-up if you have not managed to find each other before a certain time. You’ll have a rough idea about what time you expect to finish the marathon so this shouldn’t be too difficult to estimate. And you can be generous with your estimated race finish time 😉

Race Day: 6am – Up I get

Yes, this is unseemly early given that I’m not staying that far away but there are reasons. Read on…

6:10am  – Breakfast

Nut Butter

If the race starts at 9:15 am, I need to have eaten my breakfast at least 3 hours beforehand. I have found that anything less than that leads to unholy mid-run stitches that are so awful, I’d rather not eat anything at all beforehand just to avoid them and I really don’t want to do that on a day I will be running 26.2 miles. Quite apart from the fuelling side of things, realising you’re hungry mid-way through a very long run is just annoying.

White toast (x 2) with honey and nut butter is my go-to marathon breakfast but… this time I will be staying in a hotel so I may not be able to make toast. I’m undecided yet whether to do an untoasted version of this breakfast, or to go with porridge (oatmeal to my American friends!) A cup of black coffee and water will keep breakfast company too.

8am – Leave hotel and metro to the race start area.

The hotel where I will be staying, although not far from the start area of the race, is 2 metro stops away and I reckon I will need to leave for the race at about 8am. The journey Metro signshould not take more than 20 minutes but nobody wants to be rushing or flapping about on the morning of a marathon, and I anticipate that there may be additional security measures in place, which I am more than happy to make extra time for. I’ll keep sipping water during this time too.

8:30 am – 9am – Locate the start area and go to the loo.

I’m luck enough to have my parents coming with me to Paris, which is great as they’ll mind my bag for me but if you don’t have a helper, you’ll need to locate the bag drop during this window. Now, the Paris Marathon is a wave start, with the first wave, elite runners, heading off at 8:45am. I’m in the 5th or purple wave, which is scheduled to head off at 9:15 am. According to the website, I need to be in the start area by 9:00am.

9am – Get giddy Warm-up, Relax and Get Your Focus On.

I don’t do much of a warm-up before a marathon. I hear people talking about running 1-2 miles warm-up beforehand but I’ve never felt the need, personally. The auld 26.2 is enough for me. But then, I won’t be running a 2 hour anything marathon so I don’t think the warm-up is as crucial for me and my jolly pace 😉

I’ll do a very light runabout and some stretches, before just chilling out, looking around me, talking to people and soaking up the atmosphere. One of the best parts of a marathon that most non-marathoners don’t know about and many marathoners forget about, is the 10 minutes in the start chutes before the race starts. That buzz, that atmosphere, that electric feeling – I’ve never experiened it anywhere else. It’s something special and I truly love it.

9:15am – Go Time.

(If you’re making a time plan for the morning of a race, I find it’s best to work backwards and get your bearings from there! Good luck!)


2 thoughts on “Pre-Marathon Race Plan

  1. Great Blog, came across it when I was researching long runs as 2 more weeks until I start to taper for London. I am aiming for 3.35 if possible. Long run this Friday and next and peak mileage will be around 55. Think I will go for 20/21 this week (running Portrush area so nice scenery), and 21/22 next week. I am so looking forward to taper but know when it comes i will get maranoia! I have a friend doing Paris too. Good luck on your last week of taper and good luck in Paris

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great comment, I loved reading this! It’s nice when you get to this stage of the training cycle & are able for those long runs, hope your 20+ runs go well over the next few weeks and best of luck in London. It sounds like your training is going well & I’d love to hear how get on. Thanks for reading & good luck!


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