Running a marathon is a tall order. Not only are you racing others looking for their best times, but you’re battling your own body’s fatigue the whole way.
But marathons go far beyond the race-day physical tests. Just as important to a successful marathon is training, preparation and a plan. Just heading out and running 26.2 miles as fast as you can is a recipe for disaster — if you can even finish the course.
All of that will come to play on Sunday, Nov. 20, when the Philadelphia Marathon is run once again. And now, three weeks out, Kevin Gard, a clinical professor of physical therapy and one of the heads of the Running Performance and Research Center in the Drexel College of Nursing and Health Professions, has some things that every runner should keep in mind, stretching from now all the way through the end of the race.
- Respect the Taper!
With race day less than three weeks away, the bulk of your training should be done. You may have one more long run to complete, but after that — no later than two weeks before the race date — start your taper. The taper is an important part of your training. During that time, your body is going to get the rest it needs in preparation for a strong effort on race day. Don’t try to use that time to make up for missed training because it’s really too late.
- Start Time is Early!
The Philadelphia Marathon starts at 7 a.m., which is earlier than a lot of other races. Make sure you get some extra sleep for at least a couple of nights before the race (you probably won’t sleep well the night before). In addition, have all of your race gear laid out the night before the race. Get up early so you can eat your pre-race meal with enough time for it to be digested by race time. Plan to be in your corral by 6:40 a.m. There is nothing worse than being in a panic to get to the starting line.
- Philly is Usually Chilly
The average temperature at the start of the race is 45°F. And at the finish, it’s usually just climbed to 54°F. Because of the early start (and because you’ll be in your corral by 6:40 a.m.), dress in layers that you can easily remove and discard as you warm up. Discarded clothing can be given to spectators along the course or, if left on the course, picked up and donated. Based on average temperatures, you should be able to race in shorts and a long-sleeved shirt. You may need gloves depending upon your sensitivity to cold.
- The Course is NOT Pancake Flat!
Philadelphia is advertised as a flat overall course — which it is — but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a few uphill climbs. Most notable are climbs up 34th Street as you go through Drexel University’s campus toward the Philadelphia Zoo (this falls approximately between Mile 7 and Mile 8) and the ascent to Memorial Hall (between Mile 9 and Mile 10). Both of those climbs are not particularly difficult as they happen in the first half of the course. The good news is that the second half of the course is pretty much flat. But be ready for those climbs in the first half!
- Use Crowd Energy
The second half of the course heads out to Manayunk where the crowds are crazy! Make sure to absorb some of that energy there as the path back along East River Drive (Miles 21 through 25) can be a little quiet. Maintain your pace during that quiet stretch and enjoy the beautiful views of the Schuylkill River. As you get closer to Boat House Row, the noise will increase for a grand finish at the Art Museum!
- Grab That Chicken Broth, Recover and Rejoice!
The finish line at the Philadelphia Marathon always has warm chicken broth with rice! Eat some of this, as it will help restore salt to your system and warm you up if it is particularly cold that day. Continue to move and gently stretch throughout the days following the race to help with the soreness. Most importantly — wear that medal with pride! You are a marathon finisher!!
On Monday, Nov. 21, half or full marathoners can come to Parkway Health & Wellness’ Running Performance and Research Center to participate in a free 45-minute stretching and foam rolling class at 8 a.m. or noon. Between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m., they can get recovery or injury advice from the Center’s clinicians.
Media interested in talking to Gard should contact Frank Otto in Drexel University Communications at 215.571.4244 or firstname.lastname@example.org.