fall marathon lgFall marathon season is perhaps the busiest time for marathons, and why not? The weather is perfect for training and racing. Many of the big classics take place during this season, including Marine Corps Marathon, Chicago, and New York, to name a few. If you’re among the thousands getting ready to toe the line this fall, take some steps now to make this year your best ever:

  • Set up a schedule now — Whether you’re working with a coach or going it alone, you’re more likely to succeed on marathon day if you plot out your runs. Start with race day and track backwards, planning your last long run for two to three weeks out from race day. Then figure out how many long runs and what distances you need and write them down. Fill in your other training accordingly.
  • Practice your nutrition — Race day nutrition can make or break your big day. Starting now, practice what you might eat on race morning and throughout your marathon. If something doesn’t work, try something else the following week. Use your long runs as dress rehearsals.
  • Set a goal time and practice that pace — Unless it’s your first marathon, you probably have a pretty decent idea of what time you’d like to accomplish on race day. There are plenty of online calculators to help you, if not. Set a realistic goal and then incorporate plenty of marathon paced miles into the plan. Tip: Running weekly miles at around 10- to 15-seconds below marathon pace are great, too.
  • Think about your race-day logistics — Do you need a hotel room? A flight? What about race morning—how will you get to the start line? Know all of this in advance and make sure you’re leaving nothing up in the air.
  • Learn the course — Even if you live far away from your chosen race, you can learn about the course’s elevation and unique characteristics. If it’s a hilly course, get strong on the hills in advance. Flat? Practice running pace on the flats. Whatever the case might be, you don’t want your body to be surprised when you hit the course on race day.
  • Try some mental training and visualization — The final six miles of a marathon are pretty mental. If you don’t have the fortitude to keep pushing when the going gets tough, you can have a pretty disappointing day out there. Picture yourself crossing the finish line with a smile on your face. Picture yourself struggling and figuring out how to get through those rough patches. If you are familiar with the course, envision yourself on it and running it strong.
  • Expect the ups and downs – No marathon comes without its share of pain and low points. Know this—while you’ll have those low points, they will hopefully be short-lived. Get through them at a steady pace and then make the most of those miles when you do feel good.

A marathon is a special experience, no matter how many you’ve run. Take some time on the front end to ensure your day is as special as possible. You won’t regret it!