The Bucket List (or Marathon Strategies and Tips)

By Jerry Lewis
January/February 2010
For the Washington Running Report


“Pops, I want to run a marathon with you sometime,” exclaimed my son, Steve, as we were running together near his home in South Riding, VA.

“Is doing a marathon on your bucket list?” I asked, “Or, is it that you want to do a marathon with me before I kick the bucket?”

We hadn’t run together in a long time and we were marking a ten-mile course in his neighborhood for his weekly runs. As we moved along at a steady pace, Steve told me he wanted to join me for my 10th Marine Corps Marathon on October 25, 2009. His interest in doing a marathon both surprised and pleased me. Over the years we had run quite a few races together, like the Annapolis 10 Miler and Army 10 Miler, a couple of Credit Union Cherry Blossom races, plus a half marathon and a few 10Ks. But, I also recall him declaring that “a half” was the longest distance that would ever interest him.

Steve is my only son and the youngest of my three children. He is 36 years old, a fraction of an inch taller, and 40 pounds heavier than me, but he is in pretty good shape and works out regularly. It was a wonderful feeling to know he wanted to run a marathon together.

Below is a list I pulled together for my son that includes some training tips, advice, and strategies that I’ve learned from doing 30 marathons. If doing 26.2 is on your “bucket list,” I hope you find these helpful.

1.      If you don’t train enough, you won’t reach the finish line. If you train too hard, you won’t make it to the start line. Put in your mileage according to your training schedule. Take rest days as recommended.

2.      Test out new clothes, shoes, drinks, and tactics on long runs long before the marathon.

3.      Don’t wear or try anything new during the race.

4.      Find out which energy drink will be on the course and get used to drinking it beforehand to avoid stomach problems during the race.

5.      Hydrate starting a few days before the race and don’t pass up any water stops along the route.

6.      Stay off your feet and rest the day before the race.

7.      I don’t know whether eating carbohydrates the night before the race really helps–but it is a marathon tradition.

8.      Protect your body from chafing. Put Band-Aids on your nipples and Vaseline or Glide on inner thighs before you get to the starting line.

9.      Plan ahead. Make a checklist of all the items you will need before, during, and after the race; then, the night before, stack it all up and check each off your list: GU, Glide, Band-Aids, Gatorade, sun block, sunglasses, cap, snack, throwaway shirt (or plastic trash bag), and after-race clothes. Pin race number on your shirt and put Chrono-Track D-Tag/chip on your shoe before going to sleep.

10.  On race morning, double knot your shoelaces tightly so you don’t have to stop during the race to tie them.

11.  Get to the race early to use the porta-johns before lines get too long. Use your empty wide neck water bottle in the start line for last minute relief and toss it just before the start. (Ed note: If you do this, please put the cap on first.)

12.  Start the race slowly–and gradually build up to your planned marathon pace during the first mile. Don’t get caught up in the excitement and speed at the start.

13.  If it is a hot sunny day, always run on the shady side of the street.

14.  Jumping around avoiding other runners in a crowd wastes time and energy. Don’t run in the middle of the pack where you may be bumped and jostled by those passing. Stay on the outside/inside of the pack (but do cut those corners).

15.  Run erect. Slouching puts pressure on your diaphragm as well as your legs, back, and neck–all of which will slow you down.

16.  Don’t swing your arms across your body. Pump them forward and back with your fingers grazing against your running shorts as they go back and forth. Your body will follow the direction your arms move.

17.  Don’t clench your fists–the tension will spread up your arms to your neck.

18.  Body check: Every two or three miles (as you pass the mile marker) mentally check your body posture.

19.  Don’t over stride running downhill; if you do, your quads will ache the next day.

20.  Pump your arms back hard going uphill.

21.  Don’t think the 20-mile marker is “The Wall” but rather think of it as the marathon halfway point. Be prepared: The last 10K is the toughest.

22.  If things do not go according to your plan, don’t panic, revise your goal, e.g., focus on finishing rather than setting a PR.

23.  Try reciting mantras like “no pain, no gain” or “pain is temporary, glory is forever.”

24.  Don’t listen to spectators toward the end of the race. They lie! They’ll shout, “You look great!” You won’t. Don’t believe those who cheer, “You’re almost there!” You’re not. You won’t be “almost there” until you can see the finish line.

Jerry Lewis, 76, from Reston VA and his son Steve ran the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon and finished in 4:31:39 and 4:20:37, respectively. Jerry was hoping to get Steve to agree to run the 2010 Milano City Marathon before he came to his senses. Check back in a future issue to find out whether he did!

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