HOUSTON MARATHON – It’s YOUR EXPERIENCE!
Sunday, January 15th @ 7 AM
The story I’m about to tell you applies to all of you—regardless of race distance or goal time. I knew 2 athletes who were racing the 2012 Dallas Marathon; they had had fantastic training seasons & reasonable race goals. On race day, the weather was 75 degrees & 100% humidity. Let that sink in for a second. The rest of this story illustrates how your mental approach prior to (and during) a race can have a substantial impact on your race experience.
I was also racing, not the marathon but the relay and was first leg with 5 miles to complete. When the race started, I felt horrible. It was hot and miserable to try and run fast. But it was only 5 miles and I didn’t care what my time was. But, I knew Mark and Shannon would have a rough day for a full marathon. Mark had trained with Team Rogue for a year and a half but was still a new runner with only 3 years under his belt. Shannon was a more experienced marathoner coming from a family of runners. Shannon’s parents supported her but told her that if they ever saw not having fun and smiling during a marathon then she didn’t need to run them. Now…you all know smiling and having fun in a marathon is no easy task. But, that’s how she raced.
They both approached the race differently. Mark made the decision to go out at MGP regardless of the weather and NOT relax his time goal. Most runners are stubborn and this can be a great thing. It’s what keeps us running in crappy conditions, or gets us up in the morning, and even teaches us we have more in us than we thought. We are all stubborn. But, that stubbornness can lead to other things too like injuries, or not relaxing your time goal when it’s 75 degrees and 100% humidity.
After 6 miles of pushing and grinding out marathon goal pace, he let defeat and negative thoughts enter his head. He got pissed. I mean, he had trained in crappy weather and it didn’t affect him then…so why now? When I saw him at mile 9, he was done. He just mentally quit, checked out, and was devastated by what was happening. Occasionally, he would try to rebound and get his head back in it…but it wouldn’t last long. Of course, I don’t think he knew his negative thoughts were controlling how hard this race felt. Shannon caught up to him around mile 16-17. He tried to go with her but she made it look effortless. She was smiling and enjoying the race. Eventually, she left him and put a gap on him by mile 20.
Since I am a runner and a coach, I am all about the numbers. Below are how their numbers ended up.
|Dallas Marathon 2012||Mark H.||Shannon B.|
|5K||20:41/6:39 pace for 3.1 miles||21:44/7:19 pace for 3.1 miles|
|10K||41:40/6:45 pace for 3.1 miles||42:56/6:50 pace for 3.1 miles|
|Half Marathon||1:30:21/7:03 pace for 6.9 miles||1:31:04/6:58 pace for 6.9 miles|
|20M||2:20:53/7:19 pace for 6.9 miles||2:19:05/6:57 pace for 6.9 miles|
|Finish||3:08:23/7:38 pace for 6.2 miles||3:01:33/6:50 pace for 6.2 miles|
You can see how your mindset and running a smart race can really make or break your experience. I cannot stress that enough!
Okay…let’s talk logistics and racing tips specifically for the Houston Marathon!
Pre-race to Celebration:
- Pre Race:
- Obviously we have to talk about the elephant in the room. The weather is what it is, but you must prepare and help yourself have the best experience possible. How much should you relax your time goal? Well…check out this article to make that determination. http://runningstrong.com/temperature.html
- Establish your intention. To run the best performance possible you’ll have to push to your max. “Dig deep” so they say. This requires you to be fully aware of and bought into why they are doing the thing they want to do. Figure out why you run. Take the time. This will carry you through the last 10k or 5k of the race. The worst miles. This will carry you through the slumps mid race. This will get you through the tough sessions and morning runs. Take the time.
- Prior to your race, print your running log and think of 3 things you are proud of yourself for this season. Focus on everything you have accomplished and how you have grown and changed in a positive way prior to even racing.
- Don’t try anything NEW. Even the most experienced runners will do this. No new gear or new food/nutrition. Sometimes we stop thinking logically as a big race approaches and we will get an idea in our head that we need this one thing to have a great race. Perhaps someone told you need it and that someone has more experience than you or is faster than you so of course you listen. Next thing you know you are doing something you have never done before or during a race. Don’t do this! What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. You’ve trained for this and you know what works for you. Trust your training. Trust yourself.
- Learn the last stretch of the race. I would recommend running a shake out run 20-30 minutes the day before starting at the finish and heading out along the last few miles of the course.
- Make sure your nutrition is easy to access and bring extras. If you haven’t practiced with salt pills, you might want to try them sometime this week. They will come in handy if the weather forecast stays the same.
- One of the best features of the Houston Half/Full Marathon is the start/finish are right outside the convention center. You can meet other runners there, drop your gear, and hit the restroom multiple times before the race. Like any big race you should arrive 75-90 minutes early. There are plenty of signs after you exit the convention center on how to get to your Allow yourself time to make your way to your corral, if you miss the gate closing time you’ll have to make your way to the next corral and it’s not always easy to get to it.
- There are porta potties in the corrals…but don’t wait in line at the ones in the back of the corral. Move up to the front because there are porta potties there too.
- The Course:
- The beauty of Houston and probably why you picked this race is it’s a fairly simple course. It’s not tricky like Austin or San Antonio. It’s well organized with mile & kilometer markers.
- After the 10K marker the half & full marathoners split.
- The roads are bad…especially early on with pot holes and cracks so watch your step early on.
- Yes, there are few inclines and an overpass but it’s mostly flat. It’s not a pancake flat but it’s not hilly. There is an overpass around mile 12 so be prepared for that.
- The one downfall is the course is all concrete. At some point your body will start to feel it. Just accept the achy feeling in your legs and feet, and move on. It’s going to happen but you can handle it.
- Allen Parkway is where you’ll most likely start to feel toasted and you’ll want to mentally throw in the towel. You can tell you’re close but the buildings feel so far away. It gets lonely here so you’ll want to recall your long runs and your mantra.
- The finish: It’s a long street with signs telling you how far away you. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your mindset. If you start to dwell on how far away the finish is and how long the street seems distract yourself by looking at the buildings or someone a few yards in front of you. Distract yourself with your mantra or even a song.
- The spectators are amazing! They have local cheer groups and bands along with tons of people along the course. Feed off their good energy.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Take water at every stop…sometimes 2 cups if it is spilling out. Or bring a hand held and refill it at aid stations. If you can stomach Gatorade I would take it at least every other stop. Don’t skip water early on. The aid stations are fantastic in Houston with water first and Gatorade second. One trick is to bring a handheld so you don’t have to fight the crowds early on. You can either throw it away after 6 or so miles or keep it and refill it along the way.
- At some point, you will feel bad. It could be earlier than you thought so be ready for it. It will usually pass. It could be a side cramp, leg pain that you never felt during training, or just a mental funk…no matter what it is it will usually pass in a mile or so. If it doesn’t there is nothing you can do about it but keep running.
- Know your mantra, and write down your intention on your arm. Your intention is why you are doing this crazy shit in the first place. Stay positive!
- Run the plan! Don’t change it because you “feel good” because that will change mile by mile. This is tough to do in the beginning or if you are running with other people. This is your race so make sure you own it.
- Have friends & family cheer during the Last few miles. You’ll need them here the most.
I’ll finish up with this:
Do everything possible to make this race the BEST EXPERIENCE for you!
Coach Jen is the running coach for Rogue Running Cedar Park and all around bad-to-the-bone runner. She’s a mom of two boys and she’s always carrying around a big smile except in the middle of a race and then it’s all gameface.