Marathon season is coming! Many groups are training for upcoming fall full and half marathons and now is the time to get your race day plans set in stone. Sure, you may not have your race for another five months, but believe me when I say that doing your research will pay off.
So you just registered for a race, what next? Well, if you’re on the website still, go over to the section on the course map and look at it ASAP. Find out where all the hydration stations are located. Is it every mile? Every other mile? How far apart are the electrolyte stations? This is crucial information to know if you plan on relying on the race to provide all your hydration needs. Bigger races tend to have more frequent water stop and usually will have electrolytes every other mile in between water stops, or every other mile with water stops at each mile.
While staying on the course map, find out where the nutrition stations are located and what source of energy they are providing. Are they giving out Gels or GUs? Or are they doing Chomp Bloks or energy bars? Maybe all of the above? If you are planning on using the energy sources the race provides, train with what they will have. Race day is not the time to figure out whether or not a GU works for you. You will have plenty of time in training to learn what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t have any luck with what the race is offering, you may need to bring your own energy source.
Again, on the map, find out where the important amenities are. Know where there are bathrooms, medics, and other important areas are located. This is just good stuff to know. You never know when nature will call. Maybe you haven’t peed during training in the summer because it’s been hot and you’ve been sweating out all your fluids, but that’s not to say come fall you’ll be sweating less and needing to pee more. Stranger things have happened. Medic stations aren’t just for people with major injuries. They can help you with everything in between. When doing the Savannah Marathon in November of 2013, I found myself needing to get some vasoline at mile 13 for chaffing, then needing some salt and Tylenol at mile 22. Definitely not a major issue, but knowing they were available to make my run comfortable helped me have a great race. Don’t let little issues ruin your race. Know where the medic stations are. Finally, this may be a no brainer, but if you’re traveling out of town to go to a race, it’s important to know. Learn where your start and finish lines are at in relation to where you’re parking. Most races start and finish either in the same area or close enough to the same area. Some, however, do not. If your race starts and finishes in two totally different locations, make sure you purchase a ticket for a shuttle, or make arrangements with a friend or family member to get you from one point to the other before and after the race.
While on your race’s website, peruse the rules. Know what you can and can’t bring or do. No one wants to get kicked out of a race because of something silly that was overseen like wearing headphones or bringing a stroller or a dog. Most races allow headphones, but be sure you know what is and is not allowed at your race. When in doubt, leave the music at home, or use a speaker option if you can’t run without music. Still, it’s sometimes a courteous thing to leave them at home, especially if your race has entertainment along the course. Now I’m no musician, but I do know they’re used to playing evening gigs, so for a band to be up at 7 AM prepping their gear so they can play at 8 AM on a weekend totally deserves your attention. Especially if they played a gig the night before. Plus, you may be missing out on an amazing local band. Give these artists the same respect you’d give a volunteer along the course because they too are giving you their time.
If you’re traveling out of town, see if there are any hotels that are giving discounts for runners and book in
advance. Most hotels tend to get booked quickly when races happen, especially locations that are close to the start/finish line. Research hotels and rates and try to stick with locations that are working with the event. If not, look into travel sites, use rewards points, or get a friend or two to try to work around higher hotel fees. Don’t discount other options, either. You may find the only hotels available are ones that are $300 – $400 a night and require a two night stay, but in places like Savannah, you may also find a quaint little bed and breakfast at the same price. If you’re going to fork out the money, look into supporting a local business like a B&B, especially if you have never been to one!
Finally, if your event has a Facebook page, like it. Read the posts. Read what people are saying about the race because you can learn a lot from what people say. Sometimes you’ll learn water stations ran out of water, or that there was a group of people at the Mile 9/18 point giving out beer and chocolate to runners while wearing kilts and blasting music in their front yard (another true story, and the heroes of the Savannah Rock & Roll Marathon!) You may learn about interesting characters who show up along the race course like tuba players who run the whole race (yet another true story, at Soldier Marathon, and they made the paper!) Pay attention to what previous participants say, though. You can learn a lot about the course and what to look out for from people’s previous experiences.
That being said, take the time to do your research when you sign up for a race. It may seem a little tedious at first, but in the long run (pun intended), you’ll appreciate it. Knowing what to expect will help you better be able to train to prepare for your event.