A Marathon View From the Sidelines

Last weekend I volunteered with the DC Capital Striders at the Potomac River Run Marathon along the C&O Canal Path. It’s not too often I’m up before 6 a.m. for any reason other than going running, but Sunday I would just be manning the sidelines. I met up with the rest of our group at Lock 7 and helped set up the aid station. The marathoners would go out and back twice along the path so we’d see them all four times along the course. We were stocked with water, Gatorade, bananas and power bars.

Lock 7

Lock 7

Volunteer Group at Lock 7

Volunteer Group at Lock 7 (stole this from the DC Cap Striders FB page)

The race had about 500 runners with a 7 a.m. non-competitive start and an 8 a.m. regular start. After we got things ready to go it wasn’t going to be too long before the first set of runners were coming through since the first time they’d pass us was just about 3.5 miles in. It was an overcast day and temps were in the high 40s at the start with a slight breeze – perfect for runners, but a bit chilly for us. I’m glad I packed some hand warmers that I still had on hand from when I used to teach outdoor boot camps during the winter!

I handled the water cups and doled out encouragement to as many runners going by as I could. I know how much it means to me to have some encouragement along the course, especially one without a lot of crowd support. I also knew a couple runners so it was fun getting to cheer them on as they passed by. Other than one botched water handoff to one of the faster runners during his first trip through our station, I managed not to drop or spill the water cups on anyone! Successful day if you ask me. Although if you ask the guy who I botched the handoff with, he might not agree! There was a somewhat steady stream of people after the 8 a.m. group got going and we had people coming from both sides, but it was never overwhelming. I can’t even imagine working a water stop at one of the mega races. I need to remember to say extra thank yous at the Marine Corps Marathon stops this year!

Runners on the C&O path

Runners on the C&O path

It was fun to be out there and it was really inspiring to see so many people of so many different abilities putting it all out there to finish their marathon. I love this sport!

Aid Station at Lock 7

Aid Station at Lock 7

Congrats to everyone who ran Sunday! Have you ever volunteered for a marathon? How’d it go?

Seminar: Running Your Best Race

On Saturday, the DC Capital Striders hosted a seminar  at Lululemon in Georgetown called Successful Race Execution – Preparation, Fueling, and Pacing Strategy to Run your Best Race featuring RRCA certified running coaches Lisa Reichmann and Julie Sapper. Lisa and Julie are both experienced runners themselves and are also co-founders of local running company, Run Farther & Faster, coaching everyone from those doing their first 5k to runners looking to PR in a marathon.

They covered the right way to taper, nutrition both while your training and racing and pacing strategies. Some of it was new and some was info I’ve heard before, but it’s always great to be reminded. They highlighted the importance of the taper, which is good for me to keep hearing because like most runners I go a little stir crazy during that time and have trouble trusting that I won’t lose all my fitness in the week and a half or so before the race.

Their info on fueling was great. They talked about avoiding sugary foods so you don’t crash, embracing carbs and making sure to eat a protein/carb snack or meal within 20 minutes of finishing a run. They also gave some good advice on in-race nutrition including the invaluable – don’t ever mix Gu with Gatorade!

Gatorade and Gu - Do not mix!!

Gatorade and Gu – Do not mix!!

The top takeaway for me came when I asked Julie about her long runs. I have a tough time doing them one to two minutes slower than race pace as most training plans recommend. I always worry that there is no way I’ll be able to run the pace I want to come race day if I do that despite what a lot of the science says on the subject.

She said she used to have similar concerns at a point where she was about a 3:45 or so marathoner before hooking up with a coach and a running group and following the long-slow distance method. (You can run the last few miles of some of these slower runs at race pace as a confidence booster too.) That helped bring her down into the 3:20s. Since I’m just under the 3:40 mark now and the 3:20s is where I want to be, this was exactly what I needed to hear. Granted the same things don’t work for everyone, but hearing it form someone that it worked for as opposed to reading it in a book makes a big difference for me.

I’d love to hear about your training – what plans do you follow? How do you fuel along the way? Does the taper drive you crazy? Let me know in the comments!