Oh. My. Gosh.
It’s Marathon Week!
In just 6 days, you’ll be standing at the 'START' of the 2021 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
And just hours later, you’ll be crossing the 'FINISH'—with arms raised, and the biggest EVER smile on your face.
And in your heart.
At this point, the marathon is inside of you–or as Coach Brendan likes to say, “The hay is in the barn!”
Your training is complete… and your job this week is simply to focus on the absolute thrill of running in front of 1,000,000-plus cheering spectators and having an amazing personal and Team RMHC experience on Marathon Day.
To that end, I’ve been blessed to have finished seven marathons and if you've got the patience, I'd like to share a bit of what I've learned… lessons that I’ve found helpful, and that will help you have a more successful Chicago Marathon experience.
I call this my ‘Top 10’ Final Thoughts For Marathon Week 2021
10. NERVOUS IS NORMAL. Feeling nervous and 'anxious' is totally to be expected. It means you’re respecting the challenge ahead. As you should. 26.2 miles is a serious distance, and running a marathon is a "big deal" event. But PLEASE know (as I’m certain you do), that the commitment and effort you've made to get yourself to the 'START' will get you to the 'FINISH.' (You KNOW that.)
9. RUN YOUR OWN RACE. If you're standing at the 'START' on Marathon Day with a friend or 'running buddy'—you can agree “upfront” that you'll TRY to stay together... but it’s likely that (at some point) one of you may be trying too hard to 'keep up' with the other; or one of you may become frustrated that you have to slow down to keep your friend company. If you truly (truly) agree to stay together for the entire 26.2 miles, then 'okay'—that's the deal... but if you’re there to run the best you can, then agree at the 'START' that it's okay for one of you to run ahead or run behind. This is YOUR marathon. Your friend (whether running ahead of you or behind you) will NOT be by themselves--there are tens of thousands of other runners (including HUNDREDS of Team RMHC runners!) and 1,000,000-plus spectators to help keep them from feeling alone.
8. RUN THE TANGENTS. There's lots of ninety-degree turns on the course... this is one place where it is entirely permitted (and totally encouraged) to "cut corners." Running each corner on a straight line (tangent to that corner) is how the course is laid out and measured (look for that blue line!). Running "in the middle of the pack" or on the 'outside' of the corners only adds mileage to the marathon distance--and who wants to run 26.4 miles?
7. RUN THE CROWNS. On all the 'straightaway' segments of the course, stay in the very center of the road as much as possible. Streets 'peak' (crown) at their center, and taper to each curb for water run-off. Running on the 'tapered' part of the street causes your foot and ankle to run on an angle, and your 'core' to become (slightly) less centered—which is not much of a problem if you’re running 3 or 4 miles... but over the course of 26.2 mile, it DOES make a difference.
6. SLEEP. Get as much rest and sleep as you can on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. It never fails—on Saturday night I am ALWAYS staring at the alarm clock at midnight, 1:00 AM and 2:30 AM... asking myself, "How am I ever going to run 26.2 miles in just 5 hours from now?" (And yet you will run 26.2 miles... but it sure helps to 'bank' a few hours of extra sleep during the week).
5. FOOD AND WATER. As much as you hear that it’s important to have a good 'carbo load' the night before the marathon--it's even better to have a 'carbo build' over the several days leading up to the marathon... on Thursday, Friday and Saturday—giving your body time to process and absorb those carbs and turn them into glycogen 'stores.' Also throughout the week, keep hydrated—drinking plenty of water every day.
4. COME TO MARATHON DAY WITH A 'PLAN B'. “You just can't control what you can't control.” That may include the weather, which may not be 'perfect' for running; a muscle soreness that was supposed to go away by now; or a "funny tummy" marathon morning. But none of these need spoil your experience on October 10. Anticipate that any of these MAY occur and have a 'PLAN B' for your race. Too many people train for 20 weeks and come to the marathon DETERMINED to run "the plan they planned"... and either hurt themselves trying or find that they’ve run out of "everything" by mile 18 or 20. DEFINITELY come to the Marathon with a race plan, but also come with a 'PLAN B.'
3. "DON'T TAKE THE MEDAL!" Every runner is handed a 'finisher's medal' when they cross the finish line. DON'T TAKE IT! Instead, bend at the waist and have the volunteer place it around your neck. For 'first-time' marathoners, this will be one of those “moments” you will remember for the rest of your life. (FYI—the volunteers are there to hand-out the medals as quickly as possible, but when you don't take it and they see you bend from the waist, they "get it.”)
2. PACE YOURSELF. Probably the single biggest mistake marathon runners make is starting out too quickly. Veteran runners. "First-timers." It doesn't matter... the tendency is to run too fast, too soon. I always use the marker at 'Mile 3' as a benchmark... if my plan is to run the marathon at an 11:00 pace, then I should be at 'Mile 3' in 33 minutes—and I always add 90 seconds, because the first mile or two is crazy-crowded... so I should be at 'Mile 3' as the time on my watch reaches 34:30. If I get there in 32 or 33 minutes (or anything less than 34:30), I’m running w-a-y too fast and need to SLOW DOWN. Now!
1. AND MY #1 "FINAL THOUGHT" (and something that has become my personal marathon strategy): "Run the first 10 miles with your head (that is—run smart; run your race, at your pace); run the next 10 miles with your legs (these are the ‘tough 10’ miles that you need to put your whole body into running); and those last 6.2 miles... you run those with your heart."
Those last 6.2 miles ARE the marathon--the miles you trained more than 4 MONTHS to run.
Team RMHC runners, THANK YOU for all that you've done to train and run and fundraise to support Ronald McDonald House Charities.
If you're from out-of-town, 'safe travels' to Chicago.
I look forward to seeing each of you Marathon Weekend.
Run Strong. Finish proud.