"Dark clouds gather over Athens. Pheidippides receives the order to go to Sparta with an official request for assistance, an exercise in futility. He runs there, is denied the request and returns to Marathon, exhausted. Nevertheless, he joins the fighting and is subsequently ordered to run to Athens to carry the message of the victory. Pheidippides reaches Athens and drinks from the cup of immortality. Nenikekamen: we won!"
- Petros Poulakia in Nenikekamen, the Story of Pheidippides, the First Marathon Runner
The story of the Greek soldier Pheidippides is legendary. Unlucky for him, the Run4It Journal didn't exist at the time, nor did aid stations, cushioned shoes and super lightweight vests. Here are our 26 tips – one per mile – to help you finish your race in better condition than the most famous marathon runner of all time.
Hydration is key in long distance running and it starts way before the race begins. Drink at least one litre of water every day in the last three days before the marathon.
1. Don't eat too much
As mentioned in our article ‘How to fuel your marathon’, your diet will play a big part in your success or failure. Don't overload on carbs, have some pasta or rice the evening before and make sure you eat your breakfast no later than two hours before the race.
2. Get some sleep
This is probably the most underrated aspect of your training but sleeping is as important as training, ideally eight hours per night. Also try and get up at the same time as you will on race day in the days before the event.
3. Have your outfit ready
I love this bit, it's like being a kid on the last evening before returning to school. Get the excitement going while preparing your shiny new or favourite outfit. Looking for something new to help you improve your performance? Check out the kit in our extensive marathon running gear collection.
4. Take a picture of it
Who doesn't like a good race kit lay-out Instagram post before race day?
5. Do some mental prep
Many pros will tell you this: visualisation before an event helps massively. Going through those aid stations, the course, and the tricky bits in your head will allow you to have a more confident approach to the race.
6. Don't put any pressure on yourself
Keep in mind that, as any hobby, you are doing it for the fun of it. No doping control or disappointed fans for you. Go out there and give it your best. You've got this.
7. ... but don't be too chill either
It is still 26.2, pardon our French, bloody miles. Respect the distance and don't do anything that might jeopardise your performance. Unless you want to be home early of course.
8. Bend it like Beckham
Stretching and foam-rolling are your friends. Annoying and time consuming, but your friends nonetheless. Remember: dynamic stretches before a run, static stretches after a run.
9. Pack, unpack, repack
Imagine that your race is like a 12 hour flight. You don't want to forget anything essential and have a bad surprise once there. We are talking watch, shoes, nutrition, your bib... trust us, it happens even to the best of us.
10. Think about the post race
Pack those recovery products (Rego is amazing), some dry clothes, your wallet... and deodorant.
11. What's your race plan?
Some get it temporarily tattooed on their forearm, some memorise it, and others rely on a loud pacer. The main thing is, do not improvise. You want to know roughly at what pace you are going to go, what the weather is going to be like and where the tough parts are.
12. Have you got the logistics covered?
Your bus or train time? Where to park, to eat after the race? What area do you start in?
13.Some pins thou shall have
Many a runner has suffered a last-minute panic attack looking for a way to clearly display their bib. You can also invest in one of our handy race belts.
14. And alcohol thou shall not
It goes without saying that alcohol should be seen as a reward for all your hard work. There is no proof out there that Pheidippides didn't have a few cheeky flasks of ouzo to keep him going, but we recommend you don't consume any alcohol - at least in the days leading up to the race, your body will thank you.
15. Have some quality time before bedtime
Read your favourite section of Born to Run for the 50th time, walk your dog, play with your kids... nothing is off the table. You will probably feel like a lion in a cage the night before so taking your mind off the minor pressure of the race is very important.
16. Have an army of alarms ready
Don't hesitate to ask your friends or the reception of your hotel to give you a wake-up call in the morning.
17. Make sure your gadgets are charged
Having your Garmin die on you is the biggest fear of any runner out there, followed closely by having your headphones switch off at the worst possible moment. Be kind to yourself and charge everything overnight.
18. Fill up your bottles
If you are carrying any that is. You may not be able to do it before the start so plan ahead.
19. Put your breakfast on the table
Less noise in the early hours of the day for the people living with you and more time for you to eat a solid and complete meal.
20. Involve your friends and relatives
Some extra motivation for you right there. Everyone around you will be happy to support and push you to achieve your goals.
21. ...but don't make them wish they didn't
... unless it's all you ever talk about from your first training day. Share your passion with enthusiasm but make sure it doesn't turn into an obsession.
22. Read our Marathon fuelling guide again
‘How to fuel your marathon’ - guaranteed PB after the second read.
23. Go for the ultimate easy jog
A bit controversial this one because of the whole "what if something happened to my body?" but, hear us out. If you are travelling somewhere for a race, it's a great way to do a recce of the area and if you are a local, this will help you feel more relaxed before going to bed. 10-15 minutes at a really slow pace, nothing intense.
24. Annoy your friends and relatives one last time
We mentioned Instagram earlier, time to share your post(s) on socials to everyone.
25. Test yourself for Covid
As much as we would like to put this completely behind us, the virus is still very much there and you are about to set off for three to six hours surrounded by hundreds of heavy-breathing and sweaty strangers. Please be mindful of others and do some tests before the race. Even if you come up positive, there will always be another race.
26. Be early
It goes without saying that you don't want to add even more stress to the event so make sure you are on time for the race briefing.
Don't forget about the last 0.2 miles.
Enjoy your race!