i’m running the cleveland marathon…now what? – tips for your cleveland experience

Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon

The countdown to the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon has reached single digits, and on Sunday, May 18, the streets will be filled with runners, joggers, walkers, spectators, and volunteers all taking part in what is known as “The Cleveland Experience.” By now, the training miles have been logged, long runs completed, and taper mode is in full effect. The time has come for all of that hard work to pay off, so the question is, “Now what?” Here are some tips to make this year’s race your best yet.

Pre-Race

Nothing gets the excitement flowing (and the wallet a little lighter) than hitting up the Health and Fitness Expo at the I-X Center. Attending the Expo is an absolute must because there is no packet pick-up on race day, unless you are running the 5K race on Saturday. To make packet pick-up run smoothly, don’t forget your ID. No ID = no packet = sad racer. While you’re there, check out the great Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon official merchandise, as well as the 200+ other vendors who are selling everything from shoes to headbands to energy gels to car stickers. The Expo is also a great place to find out more information about other races going on in the area, and who doesn’t like supporting local races? Can’t make the Expo? A friend can pick up your packet as long as he/she has a photocopy of your ID. For more Expo info, including hours of operation, check out http://www.clevelandmarathon.com/Expo/.

Second on the list of important pre-race items is fuel and hydration. Just like a car, a body needs adequate fuel for top performance. I’ve found that a combo of carbs and protein, such as baked chicken and rice or pasta, provide me with fuel I need to tackle 26.2 miles, and I swear by pancakes the day before. I’m not a pre-race sports drink fan, so I stick to water for hydration. I’m definitely not saying go out and slam some pancakes before you run a marathon and you’ll be set. The point I’m making is know what works for your body and stick with that. This is not the time to try something new. This is a lot easier said than done, however, when you’re not from out-of-town and you don’t have to eat at a restaurant, but there are still healthy choices that can be made while dining out. Pretty much any restaurant can serve up some grilled or baked chicken or another lean protein choice. For carbs, skip the fries and opt for rice, a plain baked potato or sweet potato, or quinoa (which also adds more protein – two for one!). The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon takes the guess work out of where to eat your pre-race meal and offers its annual pre-race pasta dinner at the Hyatt Regency in the Arcade on Saturday, May 17 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Prices are $22 for adults and $15 for children.

We all want to look fabulous for race day (well, at least I do), and part of the fun is deciding on an outfit. While it’s tempting to try a new tank top or cool pair of socks, it’s best to run in something that you’re comfortable wearing and have run in before. If you haven’t logged the miles in the outfit, you don’t know how it will feel when you’re 20+ miles into the race. Ask anyone who has experienced the sheer horror that is chafing from an uncomfortable sports bra or shorts because they didn’t try it before stepping to the start line. I can guarantee that is a mistake that won’t be made again. If you’re dead set on something new, at least put it to the test on one of your long runs. Your body is already going to be destroyed by the end of the race. Don’t let a poor clothing choice make it feel even worse. And for heaven’s sake, use Body Glide!

New year, new course! This year, everyone gets to have a brand new Cleveland Experience! Changes were made to all of the race courses, so don’t rely on the fact you have run CLE before. Familiarize yourself with the course maps, so you’re aware of the general route, elevation changes, aid stations, and restrooms.

Rest and go to bed early! With the race starting at 7:00 a.m. the next morning, the last thing you want to be is tired. Allow time to unwind from the excitement of the day and think of this as a perfect time to kick your feet up and do nothing. Your body needs it. Before going to bed, make sure you have all of your items ready for the next day. Lay out your race bib, which has the timing chip attached; shoes; socks; shirt; shorts/pants; music player; race fuel; etc. Having all of these ready cuts down on time and unnecessary stress in the morning.

Race Day

It’s the day you’re been waiting for – race day! Just like you wanted to go to bed early the night before, you’ll want to get up early the day of the race. Get up early enough to give yourself time to eat, get dressed, go to the bathroom, and drive/walk to the race. Make sure you plan ahead for traffic and parking and note that the roads into downtown Cleveland will be shut down by 6:00 a.m. Scope out potential parking spots, so you’re not driving around aimlessly looking for a garage or lot.

All races (marathon, half marathon, and 10K) start at 7:00 a.m., so plan to arrive at the start line at least 45 minutes prior. This year, the race will begin in Public Square and finish outside of the Cuyahoga County Courthouse. With a new start line and starting area, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to arrive even earlier. Although I am positive the Marathon has adequate bathroom and gear check accommodations, a new area itself could bring unexpected delays. Better to be safe than sorry.

Once at the start line, find your appropriate corral, which is based on anticipated finishing time. These corrals are designated for a reason, and I always find it astonishing (and a little rude) when those of us who are not as speedy, me included, line up with the faster racers. Sure, we all have a right to be on the race course, but it makes everyone’s race more enjoyable and the pace of the race more smoothly when the faster runners don’t have to weave through and dodge around slower runners.

If you are going for a goal time, it’s wise to find a pace group and stick with it. Pace groups span all levels starting at a 3:00 finishing time through a 5:25 finishing time. These teams are made up of marathon veterans who can hold a steady pace and offer motivation and encouragement throughout the race. I plan on sticking with a pace group this year to help me reach my goal of a marathon PR (personal record).

Utilize the aid stations throughout the race course. The Marathon does a great job of having ample fluid and energy gel stations, as well as medical stations and restrooms. You’ll find water and sports drink at each fluid station, and this year, energy gels will be provided by Boom Nutrition, Inc. As an official blogger for the race, I had the opportunity to try these early, and I wasn’t disappointed! Added bonus with Boom Nutrition – they are a Cleveland-based company, so it’s nice to support our locals.

Lastly, and most importantly, for race day – have fun and enjoy everything that Cleveland has to offer! A lot of hard work and planning has been poured into making this an absolutely phenomenal race. Take in the sights along the course, whether it’s the high-rise buildings of downtown, the eclectic yet quaint surroundings of Tremont and Ohio City (my personal faves along the course), or the beautiful views of Lake Erie along Lake Avenue and the Shoreway. Let the musicians and performers lift your spirits, and don’t forget about the spectators! Those people line the course for one reason alone – to cheer on the racers. It’s amazing how a yell from the crowd, a motivational sign, or a high-five can give you a much-needed energy boost. Take a moment to revel in the awesomeness (I don’t even care if that isn’t a real word) that is the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon!

Post-Race

YOU DID IT! You crossed the finish line, secured that beautiful, spinning guitar medal around your neck, and posed for pictures. Now it’s time to celebrate! A question people ask is, “Where is the best place to celebrate after the race?” The truth is you don’t even need to leave the finishing area! The Marathon brings the party to you with the 26.3 Mile Rock Party. It features everything you need post-race – food, water, music, and, of course, cold beer. Every runner (21 and older, of course) is entitled to a free beer from the Beer Garden; just make sure you have your ID with you on race day. The party is for all runners, spectators, and volunteers. Looking to continue the celebration after leaving the Rock Party? A few of the places I enjoy are Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, Tremont Tap House in Tremont, Willoughby Brewing Company in Downtown Willoughby, and Two Bucks in Avon. Good drinks, good food, fun atmosphere, plus you won’t look too weird walking in wearing your race clothes and medal, of course!

After the celebration, reality kicks in, and it’s important to take care of your body.  Eat carbohydrates to refuel muscles, protein to help repair damaged muscles, and potassium-rich foods and ones with salt to help replace electrolytes. Keep hydrating, too. For sore muscles, pop some ibuprofen, stretch, and foam roll or use one of those sticks to massage muscles. Some people swear by an ice bath and others by a hot bath. For me, the hot bath is the way to go, and elevating my legs make them feel so much better. If you haven’t tried compression socks or sleeves, you may want to after the marathon. I slide those things on, and my legs instantly feel better. While I refuse to wear them for a race, I’m adamant about them during the recovery phase.

The last thing you may feel like doing the day after a marathon is any sort of physical activity, but studies have shown that active recovery can help decrease muscle soreness. I’m not asking you to go out and run; walking, biking, or swimming will do the trick. The key is to stimulate blood flow through the body to deliver nutrients and oxygen needed for recovery.

Well, there it is – my list of tips to help get through pre-race, race day, and post-race. I hope you were able to pull out a few bits of useful information. Best of luck with the rest of your training, and I’ll see you at the start line! #runCLE #CLEmarathon

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