Less than 2 days to go till Marine Corps Marathon 2010 and you may find yourself among the lucky few runners who are not stressed and feel as if they are completely prepared.  If you fit into the profile of the rest of us, you are probably stressing about every little detail and would take a *chill pill* if their was such a thing.

I’ve run the Marine Corps Marathon 5 times and the 10K the 2 times I was unable to run the marathon.  My fastest time for MCM was 3:31:21, my slowest was 4:56:19.

Here are some things that I’ve learned over the past 7 years.  I hope some of them calm your nerves and help you prepare for your big day.

1. If at all possible GO TO THE EXPO TODAY.  Walking around an expo for hours shopping and testing out samples is one of the worst things you can do the day before a marathon.  Not only will the walking tire your legs out but testing out new products is not the best idea shortly before a race.  Remember the adage – NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY.  This applies to the days leading up to it as well.

2. Sit on your butt on Saturday.  There are some rallies going on in DC and I have heard a few of you say you plan on attending.  DO NOT DO THIS.  Saturday is crucial.  You must rest your legs and hydrate.  You should feel like one of the laziest people you know on Saturday.  It’s extremely important to enter the race full of glycogen in your muscles.

3. Get up earlier than you think you need to on race day and get dressed and on your way.  Eat in the car if you have to.  You don’t want to hit traffic, miss a bus or train, and end up being late to the start of a 26.2 mile race.  Your time is calculated based on your chip, so technically speaking you can be late and still run.  Missing the start of such a huge moment in your life however is sad.  I have cried at the start of every MCM.  It’s empowering and helps set the tone for a great race.  Make sure you are on time.

4. What to wear?? This is somewhat personal.  But over the course of 13 marathons I can tell you that I have learned the hard way that what you wear is crucial to your success.  The highs will be in the 60’s that day and unless you plan on running a sub 3 hour marathon, you will feel that heat.  A tank top/short sleeve shirt and shorts is most appropriate and will help you keep from getting overheated at the end.  I would also wear a wicking at to keep the sun out of your eyes.

5. If I wear a tank and shorts won’t I be cold at the start?  This is where throw away clothes come in.  Whenever I have an old t-shirt or sweats I no longer want, I put them in a box in my basement.  This box is my throw away race gear box. 

On race morning I will wear an old pair of sweat pants, that have the elastic at the bottom cut off and small slits up the sides on the bottom.  This will help me pull them off easily over my running shoes while I’m standing in my coral prior to the start of the race.  Next comes a t-shirt or a long sleeve shirt.  Cut a slit vertically at the neckline.  Making it large enough that when you want to take off the shirt, you literally just rip the two sides open and throw it off like a jacket.  I’ve also been known to wear cheap gloves and keep those on after I have thrown the shirt off.  Keeping your hands warm will help your whole body feel warm.  You can find gloves like this for less than $5 at Target or Walmart. 

When I ran B & A Marathon – it felt freezing at the start.  I started out wearing a pair of gloves, with mittens over top, a hat, and a throw away sweat shirt.  By the end of the race I was roasting and had gotten rid of all of them bit by bit over the course of 26.2 miles.

6. Should I wear my name on my shirt??  I’m torn on this one.  Some races I have, others I haven’t.  If you put your name on your shirt you will be greeted with countless cheers.  These are invaluable.  If you are like me – the cheers might make you jump because you forget your name is on your shirt.  I can’t tell you how many times I thought who is that?  Do I know them?  So this one is personal preference!! 

Either way – know your number by heart.  If you don’t have your name on your shirt people will cheer for your number and you never know when those couple of words of encouragement from a stranger will help.

7.  SUNSCREEN.  Just because you don’t think it’s going to be hot or you are going to get burnt, you most likely will.  With the average marathon finishing time being over 4 hours – that is a long time to be in the sun.  Your face, thighs and shoulders will thank you Monday if you follow this tip.

8. BODYGLIDE.  You will chafe in places you either didn’t know you had or didn’t know will chafe.  Ladies make sure to pay special attention to the seam on your sports bras and your under arms.  Men and women alike should make sure to apply it to their inner thighs.  GUYS – bleeding nipples are disgusting.  Don’t forget to lube up this area and spare us all the site of your bloody shirt.

8. Drink water and drink earlyIf you have practiced carrying your own water – KUDDOS TO YOU.  Do it on race day.  Water stops cost you precious time and can be very aggravating.  If you are trying to PR, it’s best to carry your own water at least for the first half and then either re-fill it or toss it and start stopping at the water stops.

In the later stages of the race the water stations will not be as crowed.  Proper etiquette is to get your water and keep running – if you need to walk – move to the side and look behind you before coming to a dead stop.  If you stop dead in your tracks you could be causing another runner to slam into you or worse yet trip and fall.  Be courteous to all who are out there running.

9. Speaking of walking.  If you choose to walk at any point during the race, move to the side.  This allows runners who want to keep running to do so with ease.  It will also avoid any mid-race collisions.  I can’t even count how many times I have almost slammed into someone who randomly stopped.  This is especially important in the last half as most runners will start to get tired and will not be paying as much attention as they might have in the earlier stages of a race.

10.  When running up the hills – think keep my effort the same – not my pace.  Maintaining your pace up the hills will only make you tired and more likely to walk at the top.  Keep the effort the same but don’t worry if your pace slows a little.  You will make the time up on some of the downhills.

11.  HAVE FUN.  Marathons are one of my all time favorite things in the entire world. Even those that I felt I was cursing myself the entire time – were still fun.  You are about to complete something amazing!!!

If you have any last minute questions or need any advice – comment below and I will try to answer them all before the race on Sunday!!

Check out these posts from last year if you want even more tips and information on Marine Corps Marathon.

Haines Point: Marine Corps Marathon
Mental Preparation
Marine Corps Questions Answered
Tips on Running Marine Corps Marathon


  1. Lesley @ racingitoff.com says:

    My first marathon is still 5 weeks away, but I loved this post… I'm really struggling with whether or not to carry my own water and what to wear. I'm a wimp in the cold and it'll likely be a good bit colder by then. As for carrying water… I know that my water bottle won't last an entire marathon, so I wonder if it's even worth it to carry… the last thing I want to do is trot through half of it with an empty handheld that I still have to carry.

  2. I am running the race this weekend and find this extremely helpful since I am totally freaking out!! I am worried about not finishing!! The slowest you can finish and get a medal is 6 hours correct? I have done three half marathons and my slowest was a 2:40 so I am thinking I will be ok but a full is a large jump. Also, if I am from florida I will probably think it is cold the whole time right? I brought tights and a short sleeve with a long sleeve to take off. I thank you soooo much for this post!!!

  3. Mile Posts by Dorothy Beal says:

    Lesley – great point about carrying the empty water bottle. TOSS IT. During a marathon I don't care how much something cost me, if it's bothering me or slowing me down I get rid of it. If it's something nice – like the time I got rid of my $40 mittens. I handed them to a volunteer and said here you want some nice gloves?! :) I filled up my water bottle 2 times at B & A Marathon. I yelled as I was getting close that I needed someone to fill my bottle and they were ready with a jug. I also did this same thing at Freedom's Run Marathon. The volunteers want to help you!

  4. Mile Posts by Dorothy Beal says:

    Danielle – you have to do what you think will work best for you! For me the weather would have to be sub freezing to wear tights. Take the max temperature on Sunday which should be around 65 and add about 15 – 20 degrees to it, to get what your body will feel like. The ideal temperature outside for a marathon is supposedly around 41 degrees. If you plan on taking 6 hours to run the course you will be outside during the hotest part of the day. That being said if you are doing a run/walk strategy(?) you will most likely cool down a tad on the walking part. If you are worried you can always tie the long sleeve around your waist! Best of luck and let us all know how you do!!!

    Also it's not so much the 6 hour mark that matters but that you are fast enough at two points. The gauntlet and the bridge – read about it on the MCM site. http://www.marinemarathon.com/FAQ.htm

  5. Thanks for the tips… I feel more confident because I have or will be doing all of the above.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Very informative and JUST what I needed! I do have a question about how or if to carry ipods and cell phones. Any thoughts?

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