Last year when U&R alumni Paula G and Paula P a.k.a. “The Paulas” ran the Roma-Ostia half marathon, the seed was planted in front of the Trevi fountain for them to run a marathon. We looked at an international race calendar and decided right then and there on Marataò Barcelona.
I hadn’t thought about running with them but I knew that if I was in Spain it would be really hard to watch that stream of runners without wanting to be a part of it all. So I signed up for marathon #34.
You’d think that after so many years of running and numerous marathons that the excitement would have worn off, but I still get butterflies in my stomach while I pin on that bib number.
This was the first marathon for The Paulas and I’d trained them both. While there was a lot of advice I could give them for race day, there were a few things that they’d just have to learn for themselves on the day. It’s a very individual process since, well, we’re all different! But here are my 7 best tips for rocking that 42K…
1. It’s better with friends
We rented a gorgeous apartment on Placa Catalunya and it was so much fun being together, like a grown-up slumber party. I was excited to be running with The Paulas but I was even more excited that we’d have U&R cheerleaders along the route. We actually saw them twice, plus I saw an athlete my husband trains at the 35th km and that gave me a huge thrill. I’ve only run one marathon where I went all by myself. Believe me, you don’t want to do that!
2. Enjoy and chill the day before the race
I am a huge fan of race expos. I savor the picking-up-my-bib-and-chip process and looking at the running and triathlon specific booths. Barcelona had huge expo with personalized pacing bracelets and loads of new products. Desigual has come out with a women’s running line! But after we left the expo and strolled back to the apartment, I was done for the day. I know so many runners that go to big city marathons, do a tour of the city by walking from museum to monuments and are then dead tired the morning of the race. Chill. Remember, you’re here to run a marathon!
3. Leave yourself enough time before the start
Marataò Barcelona had an 8:30 start so we counted backwards:
- 8:30 – start
- 7:00 – arrive at start so we had sufficient time to leave our bags, go to restroom twice, chill some more and line up.
- 6:30 – leave apartment to slowly walk to start
- 5:45 – Wake up and eat breakfast (clothes prepared the night before)
We had plenty of time to do everything and even though I’m pretty sure The Paulas felt like we got there too early, in hindsight I think they enjoyed the relaxing moment together before the start.
4. Adjust your expectations according to the weather and course elevation
I knew that the marathon would to be more difficult than usual since Sunday’s forecasted temperature was 23°C/74°F. For marathon running that is hot! Paula nP lives in Dubai and though she’s used to high temperatures, the effect heat has on your body after 20 miles can be pretty devastating. I reminded them that their final times might not be as good as they hoped but that it wouldn’t be anything they could control, just how the dice rolled that day. The race course was relatively flat, but had a lot of steady slight uphill grades, including a punishing final one mile uphill. Remember to adjust your expectations… and enjoy!
5. You may not need to warm up
If you’re planning on finishing the marathon in 3:30 or under you can do a ten or fifteen minute slow run warm up with a few stretches. Anybody that runs slower than that can get away with some gently stretches and a little walking around. Save your energy for the run!
6. Start out slow… always!
Paula G and I used the restroom one last time (birthing two children apiece will do that!) before the start so by the time we lined up we were pretty much at the back of the pack. We started off slowly and kept reigning ourselves to ensure we didn’t waste precious energy and fuel. Yet when we looked at our race statistics afterwards we passed about a thousand runners during the race. I can guarantee you they had all started out too fast. Never, ever start out a marathon too fast. If you want to speed up, feel free to do so in the last 10km!
7. Enjoy the experience, no matter what the outcome
As I made my way towards the finish line and realised I’d miss going under five hours by one minute, I reminded myself that this was not my “A” race and that it was just a practice for Ironman Zurich in July. So I stopped, took out my camera and stood for a minute taking a few photos before crossing the finish line. I had just run my thirty-fourth marathon and wasn’t that amazing enough in itself?