Running with Chicago Running Coach Bob Horwitz: Marathon Race-Day Tips

Bob Horwitz
Bob Horwitz. Photo by Robert Meyers.

Bob Horwitz, a coach for the Clocktower Runners in Chicago, writes the group’s marathon training program and will log his 19th 26.2-miler at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 12. This year marks my first big-city marathon, though I ran in a more rustic marathon in Wisconsin in 2013. Horwitz dished out advice during and after a recent run along the lakefront after overseeing a recent early-morning speed workout near the North Avenue Beach House. Use these five tips to push toward success at your fall marathon.

Gear Check

To prevent a scramble for your things on race morning, prepare whatever you plan to wear and bring before hitting the sack, Horwitz said. Pick items that you’ve used on a long run so you’re familiar with how they feel. “You don’t want to go with anything that you haven’t had on” before, Horwitz said. “If you carry gels with you, if you put them in a belt, is that belt gonna start bouncing?”

Fuel Right

Eat breakfast three or four hours before the race, Horwitz said. Go heavy on the carbohydrates and stick with food that you’ve had in the past before a long run; that way, you can rest assured that they’re easily digestible for you. You can even enjoy your regular cup of joe, but allow time to relieve yourself before hitting the starting line. And, avoid loading up on fiber for a few days before the race. “[You] probably shouldn’t eat a bean burrito the night before the marathon,” Horwitz said.

Photo by Bob Horwitz. He lives close to the lakefront and typically runs along Lake Michigan.

Watch Fluid Intake

Halt water or sports-drink consumption one or two hours before the race starts, but down a little fluid about 10 minutes prior to running, Horwitz said. That will stave off extra trips to the bathroom and still let you bypass that often-packed first aid station.

Easy Out of the Gate

To save glycogen (an energy source), begin the race running slower than your marathon pace, Horwitz said. Seasoned runners typically start hitting marathon pace between miles four and six; other folks might consider holding off for a bit longer. Shoot for a negative split (running the second half of the race faster than your first half) or an even split. Still, be ready to adapt it to the day’s circumstances.

Taken by Bob Horwitz
Photo by Bob Horwitz

Pit Stops

At aid stations, many runners pinch the top of their water cups, Horwitz said. That cuts down on overflow. When it comes to fuel, eat energy gels with water rather than sports drink. The second option packs in excessive sugar.