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How to see marathon day through to the end

Runner Crossing Finish Line

Runner Crossing the Finish Line

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Updated: November 11, 2013 10:18AM

You’ve been training for months. Running, running and more running so you’ll be able to do 26.2 miles consecutively.

Now it’s finally here. On Sunday, you’ll be joining runners from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in the 36th annual Chicago Marathon.

After coming so far, the last thing you want to do is blow it.

Listen to the words of wisdom Betty Herberger, fitness manager/head trainer at the Biggest Loser Resort in west suburban Itasca, has to share. She has run — and completed — 11 marathons; Chicago will be her 12th. The veteran runner and fitness expert shares her race advice:

Sleep! And not just the night before. You need to sleep well two nights before. Do that and “you will be OK” in the marathon, according to Herberger.

Eat well. A lot of people like to carb-load before the big race. If that works for you, fine, she says. But the night before is not when you should experiment with something different. Eat the types of foods you’ve had throughout training. This is no time to diet either, Herberger says. Eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and a couple snacks in the days leading up to the race, she recommends, “because you’re going to run 26.2 miles on Sunday.”

Hydrate. No skimping on water beforehand. Herberger also likes to drink coconut water because it contains potassium, which she has found helps thwart cramping. During the marathon, walk through the water stations, Herberger says. That way you’re giving your body a little rest and making time to drink up.

Be ready for weather. Or, as prepared as you can be for something you can’t predict. Dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer than it is, Herberger suggests. Bring along what she calls a throwaway shirt, one you won’t mind chucking along the way once your body has warmed up.

Psyche yourself. Don’t fill your head with lots of overzealous expectations. Tell yourself: I just want to finish. If you’re standing at the starting line and the idea of 26.2 miles is starting to overwhelm you, change up how you’re thinking about it, says Herberger. “Tell yourself, I’m just going to go do a 5k,” or a Turkey Trot, or whatever simpler race you’ve completed in the past.

Overcome The Wall. When that happens, remind yourself how lucky you are to be able to compete like this, says Herberger; so many others cannot. Ask yourself: What’s making you feel you can’t complete the marathon? Again, break it down and think of it in smaller segments.

Use music. Herberger creates a playlist that’s designed to last as long as she is running. That way she thinks of the running as, “Four more songs and then I’m done.”

And afterwards:

Congratulate yourself! “Celebrate what you just did,” says Herberger.

Ice, ice, baby. Once you’re back at the hotel or home, Herberger really advocates an ice bath, even though she agrees, “It’s not a pleasant thing to do.” Even 10 minutes will take swelling down and bring relief.

Stop! Your body has just run 26.2 miles in a row. Do not even think about lacing up those running shoes the week after. “Give your body a break,” says Herberger. Do a stretch class or DVD or yoga. Most experts recommend a good month before any serious, long-distance running, according to Herberger.


Twitter: @sueontiveros

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