My 3 Step Plan For the Philadelphia Marathon

Here we are. Race week. As I write this there are just under 5 days and 14 hours to the start of the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon.

I have not been this excited for a race week since my first marathon in 2009, which was also in Philadelphia.

My training plan went extremely well. I am a stronger runner than I was at the beginning of the plan and a much stronger runner than I was at this time last year. And now the training plan is done. I am working through the last days of my taper and trying my best to stay healthy for this weekend. There is nothing I can do now except trust my training.

And create a race day plan.

I don’t usually create race day plans. I have an idea of how I will run and I adjust that as I go. I think it was Mike Tyson that said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Well I am hoping not to get punched in the face by this marathon, but I worked out a plan in my head, and now I am putting that plan down on virtual paper to help myself prepare for race day.

The first part of my plan, of course, is pacing. My marathon goal is to break 4 hours and 30 minutes. That is a per mile pace of 10:18.

I am going to start the race rather conservatively. I will use the first two or three miles as a warm up, but even after that I will not burn unnecessary energy fighting through the thick crowds in the cramped streets of Center City.

In fact, the first 6 or 7 miles are run through the tight streets of Center City and I plan to use this to my advantage and go out easy for the beginning of the race. Around mile 8 we pass the Zoo and move into Fairmount Park. This is where the streets open up and we start to get a little room to move around. I will still try my best to maintain a consistent pace here and stay pretty close to a 4:30 finish. When we turn around in Manayunk and approach mile 20 I will see how things are going. This is when I will start to push the pace. If all goes well during the first 20 miles I will not have to push the pace to catch up to my goal pace, but instead will be feeling well enough to get through the pain and push the pace to a better finish.

Most, if not all, of my training runs had strong finishes with negative splits. I have been training my body to start easy and finish strong. This is going to come in handy in those final miles of the marathon.

The second most important part of any race day plan is nutrition. I have had years of trial and error when it comes to race day nutrition, especially in races over 13 miles. I am still not sure I have it totally figured out, but I know what should work this weekend.

There is no “carb loading” needed. It is pointless to eat a huge, carb heavy meal the night before and be bloated and weighed down. So I will eat as I usually do the nights before race day. My food is pretty carb heavy as it is, and I am still a few pounds above ideal, so I will not have a problem starting the race with a full tank.

During the race is more important. I will start well hydrated so I can skip the first few water stations. Around mile 5 is when I will start sipping water and taking some energy chews. I used Powerbar chews last year and will probably go with them this year too. I will not need water or chews at mile 5, but it is important to start taking that stuff in before it is needed to avoid a deficit. I have conditioned my body to not need as many chews or gels as I once thought I did. This will help on race day.

I am a pretty salty sweater, but the weather will be nice and cool so I will not have to worry about taking an electrolyte supplement. I will take the Gatorade that is offered on the course in the second half.

I have also worked on training this year with no food during the run. There have been some long runs and hard workouts that have left me famished, but it helped prepare me mentally and physically for race day.

The only thing needed for a race day plan involves pacing and nutrition. But I also include audio. I run with my iPod and without my iPod, and I like to do both. For marathon morning I have created an audio plan that will help push me through the miles.

For the first 8 miles there will be no iPod whatsoever. Like I said, these miles are run through tight city streets, and while there is some empty space, the streets will be packed with spectators. It will be a nice run through the City of Brotherly Love as I take in the sounds around me and control my pacing early on.

We approach the Zoo at mile 8 and then wind into Fairmount Park. Now I will turn the iPod on and listen to a podcast or two. I listen to a lot of podcasts, and this is usually what I listen to at the beginning of my training runs. I will choose something entertaining and fun to listen to. Most likely SMODcast with Kevin Smith. One or two episodes of this will get me to the 20 mile mark.

After our turnaround in Manayunk we will come to the final 10K of the race. This is when I switch from podcast to music. Studies show that the use of music can fool the brain into thinking the body is less tired than it actually is. This is good, because at mile 20 I will be extremely tired. The music will kickstart my second wind and I will be able to pick up the pace, or at least hold a good pace, through the rest of the race.

During training I use the pattern of a podcast episode first and then music if I am still running when the episode is over. I have found that it comes in quite handy when I am at the end of the run and I turn on the music. It injects something into me that gets my legs moving faster and my body feeling lighter. I think listening to music at the end of the run instead of during the entire run helps to magnify the results of the music on my fatigue factor.

So that is the plan. It sounds kind of scientific, but I am sure most of it will be out the window in the first mile, and I will be adjusting the plan on the fly. Believe it or not I am not a real scientific runner, but I think having a plan for race day will help to get the result I am aiming for.

The audio podcast will be back next week with a full race report and my thoughts on my training and performance. So be sure to subscribe on iTunes, and you can now find me on Stitcher Radio.

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