March 8, 2014

Root for the runners in marathon

The Columbia Marathon attracts 12,000 runners. How do they ready for the race?

Rock stars and baseball players aren’t the only ones who rely on pre-game rituals to ensure top performance: runners are also notoriously picky about how they spend the hours before a big race, like Saturday’s Run Hard Columbia Marathon.

Their preparations aren’t completely ungrounded. Long races, like marathons, which require peak effort for several hours, can wreak havoc on the most well-prepared bodies and brains. Racer Erin Miller relies on pizza, preferably made by her husband, for her carb-loading dinner the night before and whole-wheat toast with peanut butter the morning of the race. “I also set out all my clothes, particularly the safety pins I’ll use to attach my bib to my shirt,” she says.

Jen Lybrand scarfs down two Pop-Tarts two hours before crossing the start line. “People laugh about it, but honestly they are much lighter on my stomach than protein bars,” she explains. Anna Battiata agrees, subbing white toast with honey and coconut oil for the Pop-Tarts. “You want sugar for energy, fat to sustain it and no fiber, which can cause GI problems.” Enough said.

It’s too late to register for any of Saturday’s races – there’s a full marathon, a half, a 5K and a kid’s run – but not too late to cheer on the racers, who, according to Battiata, “really, really appreciate the support, even if we don’t show it. You might have just caught us when we can barely breathe.”

Race director Jesse Harmon suggests three spots along the route where runners could use a boost: Trenholm Road near Eastminster Presbyterian Church, anywhere along Shady Lane and Quail Lane near the tennis courts. “It gets pretty lonely back there,” he notes.

For more information, including a race route, visit runhardcolumbiamarathon.com

Katie McElveen

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