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Mastering Four Marathon Challenges with Expert Strategies!

Putting together a perfect marathon isn’t an easy process. Odds are you’ve spent months of planning and hard physical training to get ready for race day, hoping for your best come race day. But as the old saying goes, “Hope isn’t a strategy.” Have a plan for everything, even the unexpected. Here are four common obstacles you could encounter and how to tackle them.

Marathon runner with hands on his knees after hitting the wall

Poor Sleep The Night Before The Race

One of the most common obstacles any runner has leading up to a big race is trouble falling asleep the night before. Pre-race anxiety, excitement, and a new sleep environment (if you’re traveling) all contribute to a restless night’s sleep; however, don’t worry, this one is completely normal and should be expected.

How To Tackle It: The good news here is it is possible to “store” a small amount of sleep to make up for a less-than-ideal night of sleep. Be sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep the three nights leading up to the night before the race. Then when you find yourself struggling the night before race day to fall asleep, use these techniques to fall asleep.

Course Surprises

Before every cross-country race, while I was at Villanova University, we would make sure we ran or walked the entire course. We did this for two reasons; first, we never wanted to get caught off guard by any unexpected surprises such as hills and sharp turns. Secondly, we would visualize ourselves in the race feeling good.

How To Tackle It: While running the full marathon course the day before isn’t an option, getting in your car and driving it is. This is especially important for first-time marathoners who have never run the course. Course elevation maps and profiles often don’t tell the whole story. Seeing the elevation gain and drop in person assures there won’t be any surprises.

First Mile Crusher

Every race has this person. The guy or girl who lines up and crushes the first mile only to fade later. The problem is because the marathon pace is super easy in the early stages of the race, it becomes way too easy to be a first-mile crusher. Doing this in a marathon will ruin your race.

How To Tackle It: Check your ¼ and ½ splits for the first mile, and to ensure you’re not going too fast, stay. For example, if your goal pace is 8 min per mile, hit the ¼ mile in 2 min and ½ mile in 4 min.

“Hitting The Wall”

The two most common reasons runners “hit the wall” during a marathon are running too fast in the early stages of the race and/or inadequate fueling.

How To Tackle It: While this is a bit subjective, be realistic about your goal pace. How many long runs did you incorporate marathon pace into? If you feel the pace is realistic, don’t go out too fast in the first 16 miles. Use a race prediction calculator to estimate your finishing time.

Have a fueling plan. Don’t “wing it.” Know exactly how much and when you’re going to take fuel and hydration. Research suggests somewhere between 35 and 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of exercise. Fuel The Core is an application that gives individualized science-backed fueling plans.

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