One of my biggest fears is blowing up on marathon day. What is blowing up you ask?
Blowing up [verb]
- Suddenly losing all energy, motivation and the will to move while running a marathon
- During a marathon, feeling like you cannot even take one step further // Jane couldn’t believe she blew up with two miles to go in her goal marathon
So there you have it. Blowing up on marathon day can come from a variety of different reasons. For one, it could be your nutrition strategy (which I think may be one of the most common ones). Not having the right nutrients in your body so that your body can stay fueled and moving forward at the pace you want during a race. I also think that heat and humidity can play a really big role in how you feel during a race — if you aren’t hydrated enough (or hydrating right), or if you don’t have enough electrolytes, it can make it really difficult for your body to sustain your pace for that distance.
Blowing up may happen for other reasons… like mental fitness. Or just having a bad day. Which is probably the most aggravating one because you can’t point it to anything in particular.
What can you do to prevent blowing up on marathon day?
Well, a lot of things that you do to get ready for marathon day can actually prevent you from blowing up on marathon day.
ONE: Make sure you hydrate and eat good, whole foods leading up to the race. Skip too much fiber a few days leading up to the race… and alcohol too.
TWO: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Making sure that you have enough water makes a huge difference… and you can’t do it all in one day. So make sure you are drinking enough fluids leading up to the race, and even more if you are going to be running in hot conditions.
THREE: Sleep! Sleep is so important… and so hard to come by these days. Make sure you are resting up a lot as you are in taper mode (I sometimes tell myself that the time I’m not spending running during taper, I should spend sleeping). If you can’t sleep, just make sure you are relaxing and chilling out instead of running around like a maniac.
FOUR: Practice your fueling strategy on race day. Use your long runs to do this and figure out what makes the most sense for you. This should include what you eat race day morning and what you consume during the race. Of course, race day will be a little different… but you can still practice to make sure your body reacts well to what you take in and also, that you feel a difference after you fuel.
FIVE: Prepare for the weather. Oh the weather… it changes everything on marathon day. If it’s going to be hot —> change what you’ll wear, start hydrating a bit more, consider salt pills. If it’s going to be cold —> make sure you wear layers, think about how much you’ll need to drink (because it’s harder to want to drink when you aren’t overheating).
And lastly, and most importantly, focus on recognizing the signs that your body gives you and learn how you can mentally handle these signs. Marathons are hard. Really hard. And your body will get angry along the way. If you can figure out how to mentally handle the pain and difficulty, it can help prevent a blow up from happening. I love mantras and use various sayings along the way that help me a ton. One of my current favorites is “run the mile you’re in.”
What can you do if it happens mid-race?
Stay calm. Don’t freak out.
Which is probably the hardest thing that that point because you see all of your hard work going down the tubes. And for me, I see everyone around me seemingly not struggling as bad, and it makes me think even worse about my current situation and that makes it even more demotivating.
So first: get your mind under control.
Next step? Find some fuel. It will help… take a gel, drink some Gatorade, grab some water. Even take some candy from some stranger cheering for you on the sideline. 😉 Whatever it might be, take in some calories to help you body feel like it’s okay.
And then? Put one step in front of the other. Move forward at whatever pace it takes you to feel like you can do it again. This might be walking. It might be running. Whatever it is, move forward.
Disclaimer: Always assess what your overall feeling and health is. Races are important, we spend a ton of time training for them… but it’s never more important than your physical health. If you aren’t feeling well, like so unwell that you don’t think you can continue, a DNF is not a bad thing. Your health is more important than pulling it out for one more race.
^This is probably the hardest advice that I can ever listen to because I may be one of the most stubborn people on the planet. I’ve learned that when I start feeling bad, to back off and forget about my goal. Generally that a) prevents a blow up and b) makes me feel a little better. But listening to your internal cues and knowing what looks like a major warning sign is super important.
Have you ever blown up in a race? What did you do to recover?
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