Fastest course in the west.

Marathon veteran offers helpful hints for first timers

11/30/2011, 1:17pm PST
By CIM

SRA coach Mary Coordt shares insights to help newcomers enjoy CIM

For immediate release
Nov. 30, 2011

Running a marathon for the first time can be daunting. The unknown lurks for 26.2 miles. And all those insights that come after the race don’t help during it.

With the 29th annual California International Marathon set to start at 7 a.m. on Sunday, Sacramento Running Association head coach Mary Coordt offers some tips to help first-timers ease their fears, hurdle their challenges and savor an inspiring finish.

Coordt’s credentials include qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials four times and a Masters degree in Nutrition. Her advice:

1.  Don’t try anything new on race day.

You’ve trained too long to start experimenting, whether it’s running gear or food. Don’t fall into the trap of using those cool five-toed socks, the  new singlet you found at the Expo or the new sports bar for your pre-race meal.

2. Eat your pre-race dinner carefully.

Remember you just want to top off your “glycogen tanks” with carbohydrates. You’re  not eating your very last meal. Many runners get nervous, overfill their plate and eat too fast. Remember satiety takes 20 minutes to set in, and the last thing you want is to feel full when you try to go to sleep.

And, see tip No. 1. This is not the time to try sashimi or a heavy French dinner for the first time. Stick to familiar foods such as the dinners you ate before your long runs.

3. Hydrate properly.

Yes, drink water before the race, but don’t carry around a 5-liter water bottle all week. Drink fluids as you normally would prior to a long run.

During the marathon take sips of fluid, not cups, at each aid station. You want to stay hydrated, but at the same time be sure to have both water and electrolytes. Too much water will dilute electrolyte levels and put you at risk for hyponatremia.

Both USA Track and Field and The International Marathon Medical Directors Association recommend runners drink when thirsty and “be sensitive to the onset of thirst as the signal to drink, rather than staying ahead of thirst.”

Taking frequent sips is also important because having some fluid in the stomach early on will help avoid stomach problems later when you consume carbohydrates.

4. Sleep well.

Most marathoners will agree that a good night’s sleep before a marathon is almost unheard of, so try to get a good night’s sleep Thursday and/or Friday night.  Don’t worry if you don’t sleep much the night before; studies have shown it does not affect performance.

5. Assemble your gear the night before.

The last thing you want to worry about at the start line is finding a safety pin for your bib number in the dark. Make sure you have a “throw away” shirt/sweatshirt you can keep on for first several miles to keep you warm before tossing it at an aid station.

6. Arrive at the start early.

Get there an hour before the gun goes off. This gives you time to find the porta potties and where the bag drop is located. Take the first shuttle to ensure this early arrival.
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7. Stick to your race-day plans.

Don’t go out too fast. The most crucial part of the race comes in the first five miles. Don’t get caught up in the excitement. Going into oxygen debt the first five miles is the worst mistake you can make; you’ll pay for it when you finish much slower than you started. Your first five miles should be your slowest to help your muscles warm up.

Know where the aid stations are, what they provide and when you will take your fluid/fuel.

When you hit bad patches, focus on your form and just think about one step at a time. Turn every negative thought into a positive one. Try some surges to get back on pace. Remember how long and hard you trained, and those friends/family waiting at the finish.

Don’t let your nervous energy make you forget to eat your practiced pre-race, high-carb, low-fiber food two hours before the start. The carbs you consume need time to digest and be absorbed into your muscles and liver.

8. Be thankful and have fun!

Do not forget how lucky we are to be healthy and to participate in the marathon, so smile when you see your friends and family cheering you on!

Runners will get a chance to follow Coordt’s advice on the CIM course, which begins near the Folsom Dam and ends at the state Capitol.

Founded and organized by the Sacramento Running Association, the CIM is presented by Kaiser Permanente.

The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.

SRA beneficiaries include the American River Parkway, youth fitness programs, local running venues and aspiring young runners.