Does running a marathon ever get easier?
Well, if you’re using the right techniques remarkably it does.
Today I’m going to pull back the curtain and share some of my absolute BEST marathon running tips with you.
Before running my first half marathon this year, I decided to collect the best tips to help me get through it.
I personally tested them on my last race and surprisingly they did help.
I managed to improve my time: I went from 57 minutes on my previous 10K race to stunning 43 minutes!
And the funny thing is – I’m not the only one:
They helped many people that previously were struggling to cross the finish line.
These tips are something you’ve probably never thought of…
…and the best thing is: You can use them right now – even if you’re running your first marathon.
I’m NOT going to give you a marathon workout program, with some 5 week pre-marathon training tips!
Instead, you’re getting some simple last minute tricks, which will make your running easier, break the pain and mentally get you through to the end of the race.
These 17 insanely actionable marathon running tips will get you one step ahead.
All you need to do is carve out a few minutes of your day and utilize at least one of these amazing tips below!
TIP #1: Take a Cold Shower
Yes, cold shower.
It doesn’t have to be ice cold, just make sure it’s cooler than your body temperature.
The colder – the better.
This may sound crazy, but believe it or not – it helps a lot in your morning, pre-race warm up.
And here’s why:
1. It increases body circulation.
While warm water causes your blood vessels to dilate and relax, a cold shower wakes them up.
When exposed to a cold temperature, the arteries begin to rapidly pump hot blood by increasing the circulation and shaking up the body.
2. It prepares your body for the upcoming workout
A cold shower is the perfect warm up!
When running a marathon or a half marathon, warming up can be tricky (you don’t want to lose a lot of energy while doing it).
Taking a colder shower before the race will help you warm up, and start your preparation process the right way.
3. It helps you to “rise and shine”
Marathons always start early – not to mention the time needed to wake up and get there.
So, if, like me, you’re not a morning person, this will help you wake up and feel fresh in a few seconds.
In the end, hot showers were invented as a luxury to human kind – they don’t provide any health benefits.
Warning: Make sure to dry your hair well before your race – the last thing you want is to be running with wet hair, as the wind flows around your head.
TIP #2: Don’t Run With a Bottle
You’re better off running empty-handed.
Running with a bottle puts pressure to one side of the body and running will feel much easier when there is a balance.
Hydration is important, but there’s a good chance you’re probably already hydrated before you start running.
Also, there will probably be some refreshments along the track, so you’ll be able to satisfy your thirst anyway.
TIP #3: Avoid Screens The Night Before The Big Day
Do you often find yourself chatting on your smartphone or tablet in the dark, right before you bed down?
Well, it happens to all of us, but you should skip this one the night before your marathon, and here’s why…
When you stare into your smartphone or tablet in bed, you are sending your body mixed signals:
- On one hand it’s the end of the day, you’re tired, the lights are dimmed, and you should be powering down soon;
- On the other hand, the artificial light from the screen is suppressing melatonin production, which makes it harder for you to fall asleep.
So, staring at the screen won’t help you fall asleep and rest is one really important ingredient when it comes to running a marathon.
The race will feel harder on no sleep, so we have to make sure to sleep well the night before the big day.
Sleeping is already something we can’t control, especially when it comes to bedding down before a big event, so don’t make it even harder.
TIP #4: Electrify With a Shot of Energy Gel
You’ve probably heard about the running gels, as they have become really popular in the last few years.
But can they really help you get more energy on the run?
The answer is YES, and here’s how:
1. They increase your energy:
…by containing different kinds of energized ingredients (ex: caffeine, sucrose), they maximize your energy.
2. They refill your electrolyte sources:
…you sweat a lot when running – that means you’re losing electrolytes (mostly in the form of sodium and potassium).
Energy gels contain electrolytes, so they replace the sodium you lose through sweat.
3. They give you steady supply of glycogen
…by replenishing the glycogen and calories you’re burning when racing, they help you avoid glycogen depletion – which results in fatigue, muscle cramping and pain.
Energy gels are proven to load us up with some last minute energy, as they are recommended by some of the world’s leading marathon trainers:
Here’re a few examples of high quality energy gels you can use as a pre-race fuel up:
- Clif Shot
- Gu Energy Gel
- Hammer Gel
- Honey Stinger Gels Classic
- PowerBar Performance Energy Blend
The perfect timing to take a shot is 30-50 minutes before the race – don’t use it closer to the starting time to avoid bloating.
Warning: Always take the energy gels with water – without it, they take longer to digest.
TIP #5: Run Tall
Remember your mom parroting to you: “Keep your back straight!”
Well, she was right.
Keeping the right posture is an important ingredient, not only when it comes to having a family dinner, it makes a difference when it comes to running too:
- It allows you to get more oxygen to your lungs – the amount of air you could inhale is surprisingly bigger;
- It feels easier on your whole body – releasing the pressure on your back especially.
But the right running posture is a bit different compared to when it comes to sitting at the computer.
The main points are:
1. Chest up – leaning forward;
2. Shoulders back – but relaxed;
3. Back straight – leaning slightly, without bending at the waist;
4. Stabilized arm motions – relaxed, short and compact arm movements.
This is one of the most important marathon running tips, so keep this in mind through the whole run.
TIP #6: Don’t Clench Your Fists
Believe it or not, clenching your fists while running takes energy.
Clenched fists cause tense arms and shoulders, and that leaves you with pressure on your whole upper body.
They will cause your whole body to tense up.
Instead of clenching them, you should try to maintain a sense of relaxation in your torso by running with slightly opened fists.
You can use the “holding egg technique” – pretending you’re holding an egg in each palm.
TIP#7: Eat Like a Superhero
We all know that good diet is really important when running a marathon.
But the last minute meals?
The night before the big day, and the morning breakfast before the race are factors that play important role.
Always go with the superhero menu, because it’s this simple:
If you eat like a superhero – you’re more likely to feel like a superhero!
Calcium, zinc, proteins and healthy energy foods are a must have on your last minute dish, and most important of all – IRON!
Runners often struggle with iron deficiency which can leave you feeling tired and drained.
That’s why I made an IRONMAN meal plan for you!
1. IRONMAN MEAL the night before the race:
- greens – (spinach, kale, broccoli, tomatoes)
- whole grains (pasta or rice);
- vegetables – (grilled, steamed or in a salad);
- proteins – (chicken, fish or clean red meat).
2. IRONMAN BREAKFAST the morning before the race:
- oatmeal with raisins;
- fruits – bananas are the best;
- nuts – a handful of almonds.
- at least 500 ml. of water
Warning: Don’t experiment with the final meals before your marathon!
Big changes may give you a hard time, and you don’t want that, especially on race day.
TIP #8: Rise And Shine Before The Sun
Get up early, at least 3 hours before the race.
Wondering how can this help?
- It takes several hours for your body to raise its temperature and become fully awake – you don’t want your waking up process to happen as the race starts;
- To have time for your pre marathon breakfast – at least 2 hours before the race, so that digestion can take place;
- The warm up process starts hours before your race – this allows you to warm yourself up and be more alert;
- Have time to take a shower (remember the cold shower at the top of this list);
- You don’t rush yourself – rushing to the race can be stressful in the moments when you should be relaxed.
Cutting down an hour of your sleep won’t change a lot and most important of all – it won’t negatively impact your performance.
And getting up earlier will make a good impact on your pre-race morning routine:
After you finish your shakeout (warm up or stretching) you will have time to eat breakfast, shower, relax and get to the starting line stress-free.
Sounds perfect, right?
TIP# 9: Always Hit The Ground Landing On Your Forefoot
As you probably already know there are 3 types of running strikes:
It’s important to know that 75% of the runners all over the world are making a huge mistake, and here’s why:
The benefits of hitting the ground with your forefoot outweigh the benefits of heel strike running….
1. It decreases impact
Each time you land while running, your foot hits the ground with a certain amount of force.
This force transfers from the ground to your foot, and sends a shock wave up your whole body.
So, when you strike the ground with your forefoot, the foot swoops down to the ground in a way that is smoother than a heel strike.
2. It increases your speed
It has been examined in a study by the journal Acta Physiologica, that for middle-distance runners, a forefoot strike results in faster speed too.
3. It prevents Bad Knees
In forefoot running, the compressive forces are very low, because the foot strike position occurs under or close to the knee, not in front of it – as in heel striking.
Proper forefoot running involves the knees remaining soft and slightly bent at the moment of the strike.
This prevents knee pain and injuries and gives less shock exposure.
That’s why running on the forefoot is recommended for obese runners.
Choosing the right landing is something you should consider, even if tomorrow is your marathon day.
As I mentioned back in Tip #5: Run Tall, the right posture is important when it comes to hitting the ground in the right way too.
Keep your “leaning forward” posture, and you’re more likely to strike correctly too.
TIP #10: Create a Pace Strategy
You should always go with a plan, especially when it comes to your pace.
You have to find your rhythm!
But the question is HOW?
Here’s a trick:
1. Start slower in the first half of the track
Find a pace that you can handle and keep going.
Do the “talk test” – if you can make a conversation then your pace is fine, if not slow down!
2. Slightly increase your pace in the second half.
Give more of what’s left in the second half.
If it’s hard for you keep the same pace – and if you think you can handle a bit faster, make sure to slightly increase your pace.
This pace strategy helped me a lot in my last race, not only to complete my half-marathon, but to improve my running time too.
It also gives you a huge psychological boost while pushing your body physically.
This long-distance bronze medalist runner is 100% right:
Find your rhythm!
TIP #11: Dress For Success
Always remember this:
Cotton is not a good choice when running!
Once it gets wet, it stays wet!
This can be uncomfortable in warmer weather and pretty dangerous in cold weather.
Here’s how to choose your running clothes for the day:
1. Choose the right type of fabric
You should choose fabrics that are Dri Fit, Thinsulate, Thermax, Cool Max, polypropylene or silk.
This will work the sweat away from your body and keep you dry.
2. Not too tight – not too loose
They shouldn’t be uncomfortably tight, but again not too loose.
Choose something that fits you perfectly and feels comfortable.
3. Check out the weather
Always check the weather forecast for the day of the race.
It’s important to choose clothes that are appropriate for the weather.
Here’s something that might help you:
4. Girls, always wear a sports bra
Not only are you going to feel uncomfortable but also going without the correct support can cause breast pain and upper back and shoulder problems.
Sports bras prevent your breasts from moving up and down much better than a regular (everyday) bra – actually up to 20% better.
They are much more comfortable and prevent sweating too.
TIP #12: Do a Session Of Yoga
You have to rest a lot before the big day.
You collect energy in order to shine on the finish line.
And what’s the best way to relax and release the stress the night before a big event?
Yoga is more than just stretching as it:
- Increases joint range
- Increases endurance
- Decreases blood pressure
- Increases energy levels
- Helps you relax
- Improves your balance
- Releases your stress
And let’s face it – you need all of these little helpmates, to make your running easier.
Not to mention the mental benefits – they are countless.
Many runners include yoga in their training.
However it’s always good to choose one of your favorite poses and make them the night before your big day.
- relax you
- help you fall asleep faster
- set your stress free
- stretch your muscles
- prepare you for the race
TIP #13: Breathe Through Your Mouth
You probably all know that when you run it’s really important to breathe through your belly – not through your chest!
But even though I was always concentrating on being a belly-breather, it never seemed to make it easier on my lungs:
I run over the muscle pain, but I’m torn down by the oxygen in my lungs.
Since breathing is the key to going through a run, I got wondering, am I doing everything right?
And guess what – I wasn’t!
Did you know that breathing through your mouth makes it easier for your whole body to refill with oxygen?
Here’s a fact:
I tried this on my last race, and it actually helped a lot!
So make sure to concentrate on taking deep breaths with your diaphragm, and most important of all – do it through your mouth!
You may say:
How can you not know this one?!
But believe me, you’d be surprised by the fact that many marathon runners don’t know this yet – that’s why I had to include it in my marathon running tips list.
TIP #14: Don’t Look Down
I bet you find yourself looking at your own trainers while running!
Well, make sure to change that on the big day.
- Looking down puts pressure on your upper spine – it adds tension to your back;
- Looking up prevents neck strain;
- It encourages an open throat and promotes easy breathing;
- It’s psychologically proven that by looking down you’re showing off your insecurity.
We don’t want that, right?
So try looking in front of you by keeping your head in a neutral position.
TIP #15: Get Help From The “Thoughts Replacement Strategy”
Here’s a fact:
Mind and body always work together!
And believe it or not, sometimes it’s your mind that needs an extra push – your body can take almost anything.
So this next trick takes a big place in the marathon running tips list, because in order to be more efficient, you have to master your mind…
…and one great way to do that is with the “Thoughts Replacement Strategy”.
This works incomparably well for me.
I use it on every run, and here’s how you can learn to use it too:
1. Feel pain or burn
We all feel pain, burn and even fatigue at some point.
2. Replace the pain
If all you do is hope the pain or fatigue you experience will just go away, it probably won’t.
What you should do is think about something else, or even better think about parts that don’t hurt.
For example: if your calves hurt, try re-focusing on your left hand.
Think about how it exists too, it’s sweaty, it doesn’t hurt but could use some rest.
Or think about how your feet hit the ground – Do you feel the vibration through your whole body?
Well, making sure that you focus on other parts of your body certainly leaves your pain in the backseat.
But what if you feel so exhausted, that your whole body feels like dying?
Well, you replace your thoughts again: plan something – what are you going to cook for lunch, or what your new home will look like (this always works for me :) )
This is mental training, so don’t worry if it doesn’t work at first – the race is long enough to give it a try a couple of times.
TIP #16: Don’t Run In Brand New Shoes
This is a lesson you don’t want to learn on the day of the race.
And I’m telling you this with my personal running history behind me.
Running shoes are REALLY important – I won’t deny that, but what’s much more important is:
Keeping your feet blister, blood and pain free.
This is why many people will say:
“Don’t do anything new the day of the race”.
This is one golden rule when it comes to the race day, so make sure you keep that in mind!
TIP #17: Never EVER Stop
You might think I’m crazy, but I strongly believe that:
If you stop running, walk or take a rest, it’s going to be twice as hard for you when you get back running again.
It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop!
Jog, slow down as much as you want, but never EVER stop moving.
Even a short walk can bust down your pace and it’s going to be so much harder when you start running again.
Ready To Rock On The Start Line?!
Now it’s time to actually put these powerful strategies into practice!
These simple last minute tricks, will make your running easier even if you’re a first time marathon runner.
By choosing to use some of these marathon running tips, you’re going to improve your results and go through your race easier and stronger.
Also I recommend you reading “How to run for your life” by Martin Musson, which is a great book that will help you avoid those pesky injuries.
Here’s the 2015-1016 race calendar:
I would add an 18th. Hydrate at every stop. Especially the early ones. Slow daown as much as required to get at least a cup in. If you fail to hydrate early and often you will pay for it at the end. Plan on a walk through grab a cup. Drink it while counting to ten and head on out.
That’s a great one! :)
Thanks for sharing.
Well, I found the good tips. Thanks!
Thanks for your lovely comment :)