Marathon Course Management

Posted: January 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

Having a plan to manage and navigate the marathon course is an important aspect of your race day plan.  I prefer to run on the side of the road in the beginning since it allows me to avoid congestion during the most hectic part of the race.  Runners are full of nervous energy at the start of the marathon and do unbelievable things.

For instance, I was standing next to several runners that were jumping up and down and completely wasting energy at the start of the Phoenix Rock n’ Roll Marathon on Sunday.  I passed them much later in the race and they looked like they certainly could have used the energy they wasted in the starting corral.  Energy management is an integral part of course management.

 I move to the side of the road and attempt to keep a safe zone around me as ease into a comfortable pace and find my rhythm.  I also observe whether there’s a crown or significant slant to the road surface.  If there’s an extreme slant or angle to the road my first choice is to move farther to the side and run on the flat portion of the road to prevent an imbalance in my hips.  Otherwise I will move to the center of the road once the congestion clears.

I then make my plans for the first water stop.  I make a mental note whether the water stops are organized on both sides of the road and whether a sports drink or water is being offered first.  I take water early in the marathon and resort to the sports drink later for sugar and electrolyte replacement.  In Sunday’s marathon I carried red licorice coated with salt and Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes.  I took three Endurolytes every hour and the licorice every other mile until mile 15 and then every mile thereafter.

Once I understand how the water stops are organized, I employ my plan.  I know that most runners cannot wait to arrive at a water stop so the first tables are going to be extremely busy.  The congestion of runners, cups, and liquid is a dangerous combination so I stay in the center of the road until I spot an opening and I safely move to the side and take aid.  I make sure I make eye contact with the volunteer and signal that I ‘m approaching and require aid. 

I wear a straw with monofilament around my neck so I’m able to drink without ingesting unnecessary air  or spilling anything on myself.  I’m confident I was the only runner in the race employing this technique.  I then step to the side and take a few steps of respite to drink and provide my legs a break.  Once I’m ready to run I check over my shoulder and ease back into my pace.  I gather my thoughts and begin planning for the next water stop.

Running the tangents will save time and energy.  If a turn is approaching move to the side of the road that provides the shortest route through the turn.  I noticed several ‘official’ photographers along the course so, if you’re interested in receiving an official photograph, you should ensure your number is clearly visible and try to move away from any nearby runners.  Nothing is worse than receiving a great picture of yourself during the marathon but having a clown in the picture next to you 🙂 .  Please don’t ask how I know this.

The finish line photo is most important!  I cannot tell you how many finish line pictures I’ve seen with the runner looking down to stop their watch.  What your watch indicates is unimportant as your chip time is going to be your official finishing time.  Trust me, preparing for your finishing line photo is an important part of course management.  I’ve had female runners attempt to put lipstick on in the final mile and that’s never a good idea.  Remember the clown I mentioned earlier :-)?  So straighten your number, tuck in your singlet, move anything you have in your waistband to the back, look up and smile….you are a marathoner!

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