The 2023 New York City Marathon is Sunday November 5, and if you’re signed up this year, you’re probably pumped to ready, set, go! But before you take off running, consider these tips for making it to the finish line.
Kristina Centenari, an NYC-based strength coach at Tonal and a running coach at Nike who has experience as a marathon runner, spoke with CNBC Make It about how runners can best prepare for a marathon.
Centenari’s advice boils down to three keys for a great marathon experience: prep, gear and mindset. Here’s how you can set yourself up for success for any marathon.
The 3 keys to finishing a marathon
If you’re running a marathon soon, then chances are you’re not a new runner. Centenari recommends that beginners train for six to eight months before a marathon to prepare their bodies for running a long distance.
Still, even seasoned runners should come up with a plan before a marathon that they stick to prior to the big day, Centenari suggests. “It leads to concrete progress, but it also gives you a sense of accountability when you’re getting out there,” she says.
Everyone’s plan will look different, but your plan should always include both strength training and mobility, which she calls “off-road training,” in addition to running.
Centenari also emphasizes the importance of “taking your rest as seriously as you are taking your running and your off-road training.” You can’t disregard rest, she notes, “if you’re running three days a week and you’re resting [for] three, or whatever your split is, make sure that you’re resting on those days.”
And as you’re gearing up for the big day, Centenari encourages you to find a community. Community building before a marathon can take different forms, from connecting with people who will be running the marathon alongside you or engaging with loved ones who support you and motivate you. “It’s a really important part of the process, in my opinion, to be able to have people involved who are cheering you on and are in your corner,” she says.
But training is only part of the equation. Being in the best shape for a marathon also means having the right gear to support you, Centenari notes.
“Number one is going to be fuel,” she says. “That is something that you figure out and navigate in your training in the weeks leading up to the marathon.”
Generally, Centenari suggests consuming gels, goos or easily-digestible carbohydrates every 30 minutes for energy. It can be tough on your stomach to eat solid foods when running a marathon, unless that’s something that you do often when running and know works for you, she notes. However, even those who can have solid foods during marathons should avoid foods that are high in fiber, she adds.
For hydration, Centenari strongly recommends slowing down at water stations throughout the marathon and grabbing a small cup of water. “Grab water even when you don’t think you’d need it,” she says.
And what you wear to the marathon is another gear-related consideration to keep in mind. In cold weather, you may want to layer up, but you shouldn’t over bundle, Centenari says.
“You want to trust that your body is going to warm up, so more thin layers are better than heavier, thick layers,” she notes.
“Usually it’s the extremities that will feel very cold, so that’s your fingers or like the tops of your ears,” Centenari says. Consider running with gloves and a beanie to be more comfortable, even if you’re wearing a short sleeve shirt, she says.
Centenari also advises you to wear clothes that you don’t mind tossing if you know you’ll get too warm in them while running. “Usually at the start of races, they’ll have a bin for you to get rid of your layers,” she says.
After training properly and grabbing the right gear, the final push to make it to the finish line lies in approaching the marathon with the right mindset.
There are going to be days when you’re training or moments along the marathon where you aren’t feeling the most motivated, but that is a part of the process, Centenari says.
“When you are feeling those ups and downs, just know that that’s part of it. Expect it rather than fight it,” she notes.
As you’re getting closer to marathon day, remind yourself that you’ve prepared for this challenge and you’re ready, she adds.
“Rely more on trust in yourself rather than motivation,” says Centenari.
“I didn’t coin this phrase but my favorite phrase [around marathon week] is ‘The hay is in the barn.’ You’ve put in the work that’s necessary to get there, and now it’s a matter of releasing your grip on the steering wheel and trusting in that work.” .