St. Jude Memphis Marathon Race Recap Part 1: Pre-Race, Goals, and Plans

I have so many things to say about running my first marathon, so it’s not going to be quick. Part 1 of this recap goes up to the starting line – more to come soon!


We left Atlanta super-early on Friday morning and drove straight to the Expo in Memphis, where we arrived promptly six hours later. IT WAS POURING RAIN. I got in and out of the expo as quickly as possible. It was well-organized, no lines even during the lunch hour, and they had a timing mat at the expo to test your chip. I thought that was cool.

St. Jude Marathon Expo

The longest line at the expo, which still moved pretty quick, was the line to show ID for the post-race beer garden. I wasn’t enthralled with the idea of wearing a wristband overnight and in the shower, but it didn’t end up being that bad.

Beer garden

An awesome feature of the St. Jude Marathon: participants get not one, but TWO post-race beer tickets. In addition to beer-flavored water Michelob Ultra, they serve real Memphis craft beer, Wiseacre.

Beyond the expo, we had a perfectly boring day sitting around doing a lot of nothing. We had dinner with my friends Andy and Rebecca, and went to bed later than I planned, but early enough.

Pre-race nutrition & hydration

Yes, I know it’s weird to blog about everything you ate in a day, but I think tracking these things can be helpful, so skip this section if you don’t like it! (Note that I’d already been going heavy on carbs the day before, but blogging about all the food I ate in ONE day seems weird enough.)

1/2 gallon Chick-fil-A lemonade (throughout the day)
4 Chicken Minis
1 single-size bag of dill pickle potato chips
1 100 calorie pack of pretzels
3 or 4 servings of pasta salad with carrots, spinach, shrimp, and Italian dressing
1 chicken fajita in a flour tortilla
1 serving Mexican corn
2 or 3 servings thinly cut homemade french fries
1 Ghost River Golden Ale

I’m not going to pretend that this is the most ideal carb-loading, but it’s what I did and it worked fine for me. I went heavier on eating during the earlier part of the day (the entire list through pasta salad was before 1:00 in the afternoon), then had dinner, a beer, and called it a night. During training, I’d have up to two drinks the night before a long run, so cutting that in half for the marathon seemed like a reasonable idea.

For hydration, I drank to thirst while eating saltier foods than normal. I monitored my hydration by making sure I was using the restroom frequently enough (about every 2 hours or so). I diluted the lemonade with water because it’s so tart, and I’d estimate I drank about a gallon of fluids the day before the race, or a little less. I consciously cut back on hydration a couple of hours before bed so I wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night.

Marathon Game Plan & Goals

I didn’t get to write this post before the race like I wanted to do. Based on calculators using previous half marathon times and my most recent race (a 10K, the Peachtree Road Race, in July), I’d honed in on a goal time of 4:15-4:20. I’m a competitive person, so honestly I was focused on the faster end of the spectrum.

After running the Savannah RnR Half Marathon and getting a 6+ minute half marathon PR, I sort of considered adjusting my goal, but really never gave it serious thought. Of course, I re-ran the calculators, using Jack Daniels, McMillan,, and Slate’s Marathon Predictor. The resulting times ranged from 3:59:32 (Jack Daniels) to 4:07:12 and 4:16:31 (Slate, the former without the Peachtree result, the latter including both Savannah and Peachtree). At the end of the day, a 4 hour marathon sounded scary and a 4:15 marathon sounded realistic, so I stuck with the original goal marathon time of 4:15-4:20 if only for psychological reasons.

Like any novice marathoner, I convinced myself I’d be able to pick up the pace in the last 10k if I was disciplined with pacing in the first half. In retrospect, this thought was hilarious. MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Pre-Race Goals, if I’m being completely honest with myself:
A: 4:15 or negative-splitting to slightly faster
B: 4:20
C: 4:29 (after all, the blog’s name is Racing Oprah)

Non-time-related goals:
Don’t hit the wall
Finish without walking
Don’t poop self

Race nutrition & hydration plan

I based my nutrition and hydration plan on a 4:15 finish, or a 9:45/mile pace. A really awesome thing about the St. Jude Marathon is that the race has aid stations EVERY MILE from 2-25. All aid stations have water, Power-Ade and Nuun. There are 3 or 4 stations with assorted Gu flavors, including 2 of my favorites: Tri-Berry and Salted Caramel. Major points for the St. Jude Marathon on the aid stations.

In training, I’d settled on one Gu per 4 miles as an ideal Gu frequency. In regular long runs, I just brought water with me, but during the two races I ran in training, I drank sports drink at aid stations in between Gus. I didn’t have any stomach problems with this strategy, so I decided to go with it for the marathon. Having the full complement of fluids available at every aid station made the fluid aspect easy, but I brought my own Gus. My plan was to take a Gu every 4 miles, and a cup of Power-Ade at every other even-numbered mile (2, 6, 10, etc). At odd-numbered miles, I’d drink water only to thirst.

Like a good CPA, I made a nutrition and hydration plan spreadsheet. I assumed I’d get between 3 and 4 ounces of fluid at each station. The spreadsheet calculated my total carb intake, total fluid intake, and average carb & fluid intake per hour. This plan resulted in 46g carbs/hour and 12 oz. of fluids/hour. The carb intake was right in the middle of the recommended 30-60g/hour, while the fluid intake was less than recommended, so I expected to drink water at some odd numbered miles.

marathon spreadsheet

Marathon nutrition and hydration planning, CPA style

Race Day

I woke up to go to the bathroom about 3 minutes before my alarm was set to go off, which was pretty great. I drank a cup of coffee, had my normal oatmeal (rolled oats cooked in half water, half milk, with banana slices, chia seeds, honey, and cinnamon). I ate as much oatmeal as my stomach felt like it could take, just before reaching a point of discomfort. I had another cup of coffee, two glasses of water, and we hit the road.

The starting line/corral area for the St. Jude Marathon is actually pretty convenient to get to if you’re being dropped off. From Germantown, we took the midtown I-240 (the north-south portion) to Lamar, cut over to MLK, and ran directly into FedEx Forum two blocks from the starting corrals.

The porta-potty lines weren’t bad, and I got to my corral with 20 minutes to spare. The rain from the day before had cleared up, and in the low 50s weather, the long-sleeved T-shirt throwaway I brought was just the right amount of layering. I did some dynamic stretching/warming up in the corral, but I didn’t have room to do any leg swings or fun things like that – it was really crowded!

I’d been debating whether I should take a Gu before the race, and after meeting a girl who told me she hit the wall in her first marathon, I decided to take a Gu about 15 minutes before the start, with about half of the 16 oz bottle of water I brought.

Another marathon-related surprise to me was that the starting line didn’t make me nervous. I get nervous in every starting line, whether it’s a small 5K or a big goal race. I think the difference here was that I knew I needed to hold back early in the race, whereas in a half marathon or less, I want to start at a pace that’s a bit of a push (to varying degrees). Score a point for the marathon.

To keep this recap in manageable chunks, I’ll cover the race itself in the next section.

How about you guys: do you get pre-race jitters? Are they better or worse before a longer race?


6 thoughts on “St. Jude Memphis Marathon Race Recap Part 1: Pre-Race, Goals, and Plans

    • The race recap itself will be coming soon! I’ve been away from my computer almost all weekend. I love the strategy/planning element of the marathon. It would be my favorite distance if it didnt hurt so much!


  1. Pingback: A New Year Approaches : 2015 Goals and Wild Dreams | Racing Oprah

  2. Pingback: A New Year Approaches: 2015 Goals & Wild Dreams | Racing Oprah

  3. I like this pre-marathon post format. I’m gonna steal it for my next race. good way to remember too! +1 for the spreadsheet. thats some planning and dedication. okay going to read about the race now.


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