As in any marathon, you will have a better Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon experience if you know what to expect from it. Here are 7 tips to help you get to the finish line happy and healthy.
Are you running your first Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon this weekend? I’ve run it three times myself, so I have seven tips that can help you maximize your performance in, and your enjoyment of, this terrific event.
1. Wake up early
Most marathons start early. The Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon starts really early-at 6:30 AM. This means you should set your alarm clock for 4:00-4:15 AM. I know you might be tempted to let yourself sleep in a bit later, allowing just enough time to pull your clothes on and get to the starting line, but it’s going to be a short night for you anyway, and one night of suboptimal sleep will not harm your performance.
What will harm your performance is skipping breakfast or eating breakfast too close to the race start. You should eat at least a modest-size, high-carb, easy-to-digest breakfast before running a marathon to top off your body’s fuel stores. And you need to allow at least two hours for such a meal to clear your stomach, lest you suffer from gastrointestinal issues during the marathon.
2. Be prepared for congestion
The roads leading into the starting area become extremely congested with vehicle traffic well before the 6:30 start time. If you plan to travel to the start by car, your best bet is either to have someone drop you off at the corner of 5th and Laurel Streets by no later than 5:00 AM or park at the Airport Authority Parking Lot and from there take one of the free courtesy shuttles that are reserved for race participants to the starting area. Allow at least 30 minutes for traffic congestion leading into the parking lot and the shuttle ride itself.
3. Don’t over-hydrate before the start
On the morning of a marathon, many runners suddenly decide that they are camels and guzzle water or sports drinks as though they can somehow store all this fluid. Guess what? You can’t! There’s nothing more annoying than having to stand in multiple port-o-potty lines before the start of a marathon (perhaps risking missing the start) and then having to stop to relieve yourself during the event because you went crazy on the fluids.
Hydration needs for runners have been greatly overstated over the years by those who have a vested interest in convincing runners to drink like camels. In reality, if you go to bed properly hydrated the night before the marathon, you need not drink more than 12 ounces of fluid between waking up and starting your race to ensure that dehydration is not an issue, provided you drink appropriately during the event. Don’t drink anything in the last hour before the start to minimize the need for bathroom breaks.
4. Wear sunscreen
Thanks to San Diego’s “May gray/June gloom” phenomenon, it is likely to be overcast when the marathon starts, but odds are that marine layer will have burned off before you finish, so apply sunscreen to protect your skin from burning before you start.
5. Prepare for rising temperatures
The air temperature is likely to rise at least 10 degrees while you’re running, so dress appropriately. Many runners overdress for marathons anyway. You should feel slightly uncomfortably cool before you start, because once you’re running your body will generate a lot of heat, such that, if you’re comfortable before you start, you will probably find yourself too hot mid-race. You could always wear two layers on top and remove one as you warm up, but then you’re stuck carrying it, which is a pain in the butt.
Look at how the really skinny men and women with one- and two-digit race numbers in the elite corral are dressed. If you’re wearing much more than they are, you’re wearing too much.
6. Run smart on the 163
The biggest challenge that the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon course presents is the big hill on Route 163. The challenge consists not only in running uphill but in running downhill as well. When running up the hill, relax and control your effort. You’re less than 9 miles into the race. There’s a long way to go. Sure, you could easily run faster here, but if you did, you might blow up at mile 20.
It’s also important that you control yourself when running down the backside of that same hill. Running fast down a steep descent administers a tremendous pounding to the legs that could come back to haunt you later. To minimize this potential danger, listen to the sound of your foot strikes on the road and try to make them as quiet as possible. The quieter your foot strikes are, the less pounding your legs are absorbing.
7. Use the music!
The bands along the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon course are not just entertainment; they’re useful! Music is proven to have a beneficial effect on exercise performance, so give your full aural attention to the performers as you pass each bandstand on the route. The event organizers do a great job of choosing acts to perform on race morning, and some of them are so good, you may be tempted to stop and listen to them for a while. But that might be going a bit too far!