May is here and that means Race Day is almost here! It's time to conquer the Flying Pig Marathon! You've trained for months, through snowy streets and sunny days. Early mornings and long hours. You've practiced your pace, distance, nutrition plan, and what to wear. Now it's time to take all that practice and put it to the test!
I've run many races of varying distances, but the half and full marathon is my bread and butter. The long run is my favorite because, after all the training to get your body ready, it takes a solid strategy to run a strong race. Crossing the finish line in triumph is a mental and physical game that you'll win if you follow some golden, or Pig pink, rules.
- Follow your plan. Here's the No. 1 rule of distance running: never try anything new on race day!* Eat what you ate for breakfast in training. Use the same gels, chews, and/or sports drinks. Wear what you've worn on your long runs from the tip of your head to your toes. I once had a friend who switched out her shoelaces on race day and had foot pain for 26.2 miles. The devil is in the details. Keep him out of the Pig pen!
- Pace yourself. Cincinnati is buzzing with energy and the start corrals are the hub. It's very easy to get swept up in the excitement of the morning and go out faster than you realize. Before you know it, you've run the flat miles through the city way too fast and wasted energy you need for the Gilbert and Eden Park hills. Start out a few seconds slower than your race pace and you'll be feeling strong as you cross the Finish Swine.
- Run the mile you're in. How you feel will change multiple times over the course of the race and it may be the smallest of things that gives you a burst of get up and go. A spectator's (Squealer) funny sign, a friend on the sidelines, your favorite song on your playlist. If you're not feeling so hot, don't carry it with you from mile to mile. Angels are in the details too.
- Win the mind game. The saying goes that success in sport is 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical. I'm not sure if that split is quite right but the concept is right on point. Whether you say you can or you can't, you're right. So talk to yourself like you KNOW you can. No negative thoughts. Find a mantra that motivates. My personal favorites include: "just one foot in front of the other", "define yourself", "settle in", "there's beer at the end". :)
- Thank the volunteers. Otherwise known as "Grunts" at the Pig. They are donating their time, waking up early, getting splashed with water and sweat, and cheering for you. Look every person who hands you something in the eye and say THANK YOU. It's just good karma.
- Have fun and soak in the experience. This should really be No. 1 because it's the most important! Many of the other factors in having a great race will fall into place if you remember to enjoy it, even when it's not so much fun. All those months and miles spent on the road culminate in a just a few short hours. It'll feel like forever but also be over before you know it. The Pig has been listed as one of the best marathons in the country by multiple sources, so whether you have an aggressive time goal or just want to finish, be in the moment for every step and make it the Piggest party in town!
Finally, let's be honest, the marathon and half marathon are going to be hard. They're going to hurt. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Or no one would. Every step you take toward the Finish Swine is moving toward an accomplishment that can't be taken away from you. So, now that the work is done, and your race day strategy is set, the only thing left to do is show up, toe the line, and FLY PIGGY FLY!!!
*One small exception… when you get to the Grunts with orange slices, take one. It'll be the best orange you ever ate!
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