When you start your marathonadventure, lot’s of questions are bound to pop up in your head. What am I supposed to do with food and drinks? How do I taper? Is there a way to keep on running fast after 30k? In this blog I aim to answer as much questions as possible based on my personal experience. If there are still questions you want to ask, feel free to send me a private message on Instagram or through the contact form on my website.

So, let’s begin. Or even better, begin the final preparations. In the last 2 weeks before the marathon we taper. Tapering basically means: To do just enough to not lose your fitness level while making sure you’re filled with energy on race day. In my case we work with a gradual taper over those 2 weeks, but the easiest approach would be to do 2/3 of what you normally do in the 2 weeks prior to race day. This is a general rule which can be found on lots of websites as well. I can assure you though, this rule is good one.

Now we come in the last days before the race, where you’d probably wonder what to eat. With this part I’ve tried two different approaches: carb-loading and just increasing the carb-percentage. After using the first approach I felt like it was the day after Christmas, so I definitely don’t do that anymore. You want to eat well, but you’re also training a lot less due to your taper. In my opinion, just increasing the amount of carbs compared to fats and proteins is more useful. Apart from that I also eat low fiber food, to make sure there is no ”pit-stop” necessary (yes, I’ve been there, in the dixie at my first marathon…). Of course, eating is very specific so if you want to be absolutely sure about what you do you should ask a professional dietician for help.

Now we’ve arrived at the big day. You feel excited, the music is playing loud and you toe the line with thousands of other (soon to be) marathoners. As tempting as it may be to fly away once the gun goes of, that is not the best idea. With other distances you might get away with it, but I can guarantee you this so called marathon is a different kind of challenge: a ”beast to be tamed”. Personally, I even start slow in distances that are a lot shorter than the marathon. Think of your body like a car, if you go full gas when you drive away in first gear, you’re not exactly driving efficiently. In case of a marathon, keep in mind it’s a really long ”ride’ with limited fuel.

Fueling myself with Maurten during a long marathon session in the Swiss mountains

Let’s say you’ve been smart and patient these first 30k of your marathon. Then you have started just a bit on the slow side and tried to grab a drink at every drinkstation. Whenever you don’t feel like your stomach can handle the carbs, just rinse your mouth with the drink. Somehow your body then thinks it gets the sugar it so desperately craves and still gives you a little boost after all. Remember though, drinking is very important, especially when you take a little more time to complete your marathon. When you consider the types of drinks you might use it’s important that you’re drinks are isotonic (contains a certain amount of sugars plus salt and minerals), when you only drink water the risk of getting things like cramps is a lot higher. Most of the marathons give away isotonic drinks at the stations, but you might want to have some friends or family on the side handing over your preferred drink. Drinking is important in all stages of the marathon, you may not feel you need it yet after 5 or 10k but you’ll be very thankful for grabbing that early drink in the later stages. Very important side note on this subject: drinking too much can cause problems as well and practicing drinking in training can ”upgrade” your stomach so that it can handle more.

In case all has gone quite well up to this point, your body may still start to feel rather bad, but it’s relatively okay. You can not feel good in the next kilometers, unless you actually went way slower than you’re capable off (which is probably not what you’d want as well). Now it’s time to go survival mode.

For me, that always meant using a special mantra: knees, breathe, calm. Those three words would repeat in my head for all of the 12.195km’s still ahead. As you go further and further your legs will start to feel more and more like lead with every stride you take. That’s what the word knees is for, to remind me to keep lifting those legs properly. Next up, breathing properly will make sure you get in enough oxygen to keep you going. The last word is maybe better described as trying to become thoughtless. We all have lot’s of thoughts in our head, especially when we become this tired wreck. The less thoughts you have, the less energy you are wasting on thoughts. All your energy needs to go to that one goal: survival.

So there you are, taking your last strides towards the finish line. You can think about recovery and stuff, but for now I’d say you deserve to lie down for a while. Well done!! You’re a marathoner now (if you weren’t already).

Foto gemaakt door Arjan Baggerman

Good luck to everyone competing in Rotterdam or elsewhere!

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