Guest post by Claire W. from Will Run For Beer
I bet you didn’t realize this when you started reading this 11 words ago, but you’re in the (virtual) presence of running greatness. You are, right at this very moment, reading the words of someone who has raced 11 marathons, and while I’ve never won per se, I have achieved some truly remarkable feats. In my first attempt alone, I came in 2nd out of the 3 race participants with the same last name as me. In my highest finish place thus far, I was just 52 minutes behind the women’s winner – that’s only, like a third of her total finishing time! And my racing career is only just getting started. Marathon number 12 is less than 7 weeks away, and if my previous races are any indication, I’m destined for success…
Obviously, as my marathon credentials indicate, I know a thing or two about what it takes to run a great race. And because, in addition to being very humble, I am also very generous (and very skinny and hot), I will share some tips I’ve learned in my racing career.
- I just returned from running the San Francisco Marathon, where I learned the importance of multitasking while running. I was taking pictures the whole race (which is another good strategy for running a fast and biomechanically efficient marathon) and while juggling my camera, moving forward, and staring out over the Bay, I ended up tripping on the Golden Gate Bridge. Not only did this make for a good post-race story, but it also made people think I was really hard core, because I was just bleeding on everything for the latter 18 miles of the race.
- Which brings up another point: keeping up appearances is a vital strategy during the marathon, and coming across as a bad ass really psyches out your opponents. Just think – there may even have been someone with my same last name who saw my bloody knees in San Francisco and thought “I better not pass her; she’s hard core!” As an added bonus, I probably slowed down the guy who stopped to help me up, which was important because obviously I am nothing if not cut throat about beating my competitors, regardless of any sacrifices they may have made to prevent me from being trampled to death.
- Of course, I didn’t just start learning things in my last marathon. I’ve been collecting tips and tricks for 4 whole years. Back in 2007 at the Philadelphia Marathon, for example, I learned not to worry about your stomach. Lots of runners get wrapped up in their bowel movements, which is neither particularly appealing subject matter for anyone who isn’t a runner, nor all that important. In Philadelphia, I waited until mile 24 to duck behind a tree to do my business. It was in that very same race that I achieved a lifelong goal of coming as close as possible to a 4 hour marathon without actually running a 4 hour marathon. 4:01, baby!
- That same year in Philly (it was a great race on all fronts), I also learned that pre-race stress is a good thing. My car was keyed outside the restaurant where we had our pasta feast. The anxiety over finding “F*ck You” carved into the paint of my (parents’) Volvo really helped to put me on edge – perfect for pouncing on my competitors.
- You can add a lot of clout to your running resume by calling yourself “an international marathoner.” Trust me, I ran the Vancouver Marathon once. You may say that Canada barely counts as another country, to which I’d counter that the race is A LOT longer when the finish line is 42.2 kilometers away.
- Chicago in 2009 was a reminder that it’s best to just go with the flow on race morning. Don’t get anxious about laying out your gear, getting to the start early, or any of that good stuff. And definitely don’t worry about your alarm clock if you’ve traveled to another time zone. I had the opportunity to hurdle a fence (and slice open my thigh in the process – see rule 1!) to get to my start corral after checking my baggage at the last possible minute, which was a great way to stretch out my hamstrings before trying for a PR.
- I spent my 26th birthday running 26 (point 2) miles at the Surf City Marathon in 2010, where I learned about the benefits of a personalized race bib. I wanted those on the course and in the crowd to know it was my birthday and fawn over me as necessary. Due to character limits, I could only fit “B-Day Girl” on my bib, as opposed to the full “Birthday Girl.” I didn’t matter that I spent 26.2 miles listening to people cheer for “Bidet Girl;” I knew they were cheering for me, and happily responded to being called the name of the bathroom appliance designed to clean your butt.
- The Wineglass Marathon last October taught me to how to minimize pre-race sleep. I spent the night before my BQ attempt in a hotel room directly above a wedding reception. That was stupid of me. I should have spent the night at the wedding reception!
- New York City last fall was definitive proof that you should wait until you’ve moved out of your apartment to run a race in your place of residence. Nothing counters the theoretical ease of running a race where you live quite like not actually living there and crashing on a buddy’s couch instead. Races aren’t supposed to be easy – if they were, no one would be impressed when you commandeer someone else’s blog to talk about how many marathons you’ve run.
- I ran my first Boston Marathon this year, where I discovered how helpful it is not to review the course before you run. Everyone told me Boston was net downhill, and not to go out too fast. I started running it and wondered if I was on the wrong Boston marathon course; having expected a cruising decline, it felt like the whole first half was full of little rolling hills. It made for a really fun surprise – you never know when you’ll hit a hill next!
Those are really just a few of dozens of race-day strategies I’ve honed over the years. I hope you’ll take them to heart when preparing for your next race. These aren’t to be taken lightly.