Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Marathon advice: Don't make changes now

Brom Hoban

It's easy to make tactical mistakes before and during a marathon, and you don't have to be a rookie to make them.

As we head into the Austin Marathon on Sunday, entrants are cutting back on their running, and sometimes that causes them to do things they may later regret. It may seem like common sense not to try any new routines, but something about the last week before the big race has a strange effect on people.

Now facing the reality of 26.2 miles, some runners over-think it and try to overcome their anxiety by trying new ideas.

Here is a list of things you should and should not do:

• If you stretch regularly, keep up your routine. If you don't stretch regularly, don't suddenly start. I can recall prior to one marathon, I decided my quads were tight, and began stretching them very aggressively a few days before the race. On race day, they were sore. Not a good way to start a race.

• Stick with the shoes you've been training in. It's surprising how many folks run in new shoes. Perhaps they think they'll get more spring, or they want a new shoe feeling. Stick with what you've been training in, and buy some new shoes for a post-race reward.

• Make only calculated changes to your diet. "You need to eat the foods that you know you react well to," says Donnie O'Neal, a marathon coach for RunTex. "And you need to start hydrating starting the week before the race, not the day before the race. If you start taking in lots of fluids the day before the race, you're just going to be running from one portable toilet to the next.

• Don't try to get in a last big run. "I see some very experienced runners panic and think they have to cram in workouts, even in the last week. You literally cannot make a difference that will help. But you can make a difference that can hurt," says O'Neal.

• Getting caught up in the moment and going out too fast is the most frequent rookie mistake and lots of people do it. "The other thing that I see people do is that they read about some race strategy that they have never practiced, and decide to implement it on race day," says O'Neal. "But if you have never practiced it, you should not do that. For example, if you decide to run negative splits (a faster second half of the race), don't try it unless that's how you have trained."

• Skipping the early aid stations along the course is a bad idea. If you wait until mile 15 to take in fluids, it may be too little, too late.

"Probably the best advice I give my athletes is, 'Trust your training. Stick with what you know,' " says O'Neal.