Coach Jim’s Ten Rules of Marathon Running

The 2015 Portland Marathon is this weekend, so here are some valuable tips from our favorite running coach, James Mattern. If you’re a veteran marathoner, you might already know all these, but then again you might benefit from a reminder!


Runners near the 14-mile mark in the 2009 Portland Marathon.

If you have done a marathon or two, you probably know many of these guidelines and rules.  During our runs, I make a point to mention quite a few of these to the members of my group.  But I thought I should share a few with you:

RULE #1: Nothing NEW!  Not socks,  not shoes, not a new lululemon shirt, not even a new hat, if you haven’t practiced with it in a previous long run, do not use it during the marathon. This means that if you haven’t used Gummy Bears, don’t start on Marathon Day.

RULE #2: Don’t get involved in the pre-race hype.  It will just cause you to burn up valuable energy.  If you do get involved, just look around. See those runners staying calm,  closing their eyes,  controlling their breathing?  Yea, that’s right, they know better.

RULE #3: Start out slower than you think.  Or, put another way, do not start too fast, you will end up using valuable energy at the start and not have it at the end.  Besides, if you go out too fast, you will end up standing in the potty line at mile one.

RULE #4: Dress for the finish, or at least 20 degrees warmer than it feels at the start. So for most of us, this means wearing a short sleeve shirt or tank top and shorts and discarding that trash bag before the start of the race.  Yes, you will be chilly at the start but you will thank me at the finish.

RULE #5: Visit the pre-race potties twice.  That’s right, do your business then walk to the end of the line and do it again, even if you don’t think you need to go. Your body loves to play tricks with you so GO!

RULE #6: Stop, walk and drink at every aid station.  There will be several tables of aid, you do not need to stop at the first table.  Find the last one and stop, walk through the aid station, pinch your cup and drink.

RULE #7: A Even Steady Pace Wins the Race.  Runners that have the best marathon experience manage to maintain an even pace throughout the entire race with 10 to 15 sec adjustments for up and down hills. Starting out too fast,  will just slow you down at the end. TRY AND TRUST ME ON THIS ONE.

RULE #8:  NO NEGATIVE THOUGHTS! A Marathon is just like life, it will have ups and emotional downs.  The more you can focus on your great day the better race you will have. You are fortunate to be able to run and on this day you are in the race.

RULE #9: DO NOT STARE AT YOUR FEET – EVER! Or, keep your head up, and shoulders back.  This will help you maintain a full breath with every stride.  If you hang your head, looking at your feet, you just decrease your ability to take deep breaths and put  tremendous stress on the back of your legs.

RULE #10: When going up hills, shorten your stride a little, keep your head up, shoulders back and use your elbows.  If you pretend that you are trying to hit the person behind you with your elbows, while keeping your head focused on the top of the hill, you will breathe easier, and get to the top with energy for the rest of the race.

And here are a couple of rules for the finish line:

RULE #11 Do  not stop until you are completely through the finish chute, cross all the timing mats.  That first one is so the announcer can call your name.  The clock is a few feet away so drive all the way through the finish.

RULE #12: SMILE for the camera!  You just completed 26.2 miles, something only a very small fraction of the population can accomplish. You should be proud.

RULE #13: Let no one pass you in the chute or they will be taking a picture of them with you right behind!

RULE #14:  Really, it is okay to cry.

I know, you probably will not remember these rules, but share them with your supporters so that they can give you encouragement that really helps!

About Author

We started the Run Oregon blog in February 2007, because felt like running in Oregon and SW Washington deserved more positive coverage. We also wanted to level the playing field so that small, non-profit races could compete with big events; and to support local race organizers.

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