Santa Monica resident Kevin Lohner has hit his stride when it comes to long-distance races: After Sunday, he will have run his seventh consecutive LA Marathon and his 50th overall. With a personal record of 2:45, the 37-year-old is a qualified sub-elite marahoner—and, in his real life, he's a qualified rocket propulsion engineer at Northrop Grumman (no joke).
Santa Monica Patch caught up with Lohner to pick his brain about what marathon runners should keep in mind in the days before the race. We had begun compiling our list of top 10 tips, but Lohner helped us step it up:
1. Sleep long and hard two days before the marathon.
Logging as much sleep time as possible is one of the most important aspects of pre-race preparation, according to Lohner. Many marathoners say sleeping long and hard two nights before the race is even more important than on marathon eve, and Lohner agreed.
"The night before, people get nervous," he said. "The last thing you want to worry about is not being able to sleep—and once you get that in your head, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy." Stunningly, when Lohner notched his PR of 2:45, he had a cold and only slept an hour and a half the night before.
With that said, aim to get under the covers by 8 or 9 p.m. on marathon eve. Extra sleep never hurts when it comes to long-distance running.
2. Don't run heavily in the days leading up to the race.
Two days before a race, Lohner will run 2 or 3 light miles, and he'll do even fewer on marathon eve. "You're not going to get any better in the last couple of days before the race," he said. "New marathoners get the urge to get every last little bit [of running] in, but if you haven't done the work for it and scramble the day or two before, you run the risk of injury or tiring yourself out during the race."
Lohner said he once took a week off between two marathons, and his time was 20 minutes faster when he ran the second one. "It's a great feeling to run on very fresh legs," he said.
3. Don't eat heavy the night before the race.
While the LA Marathon will be staging a carbo-load dinner at the Hard Rock Café at 5 p.m. on Saturday night, count Lohner as among those who won't be in attendance. "You don't want to have a really heavy meal that night, it's not enough time to digest," he said. "I don't like that feeling of waking up heavy in the morning before a race." Instead, enjoy your big meal earlier in the day or two nights before. And, once you've finished the marathon, don't forget to reward yourself with the largest, fattest meal you can conjure.
4. Go on an all-carb diet all week long.
Lohner doesn't just load up on carbs a day or two before the race—he does it a full week in advance. "Try to keep your sugar reserves up over the course of the week," he said.
5. Watch your sweet tooth.
While sugar reserves are critical to long-distance running, Lohner said he shies away from empty calories and simple sugars. "You want the more complex carbohydrates that will fill your muscles with glycogen, the energy supply to the muscles that you want to build up," he said.
6. Don't drink alcohol in the days leading up to the race.
This one's a given.
7. Get a light massage, if you knead one.
Lohner didn't used to get massages in the days leading up to a marathon, but "my wife [also a marathoner] is changing my belief on that," he said. "I've had calf injuries for the better part of this past month. My wife has one of those big foam rollers; I did that, and no less than a day later, the pain was gone." With that in mind, Lohner advises against getting a deep-tissue massage less than 48 hours before the race, as it might leave you sore. If you're really craving one, wait to hit one of the massage tables at the post-race party at the Civic Center parking lot.
8. Don't tour the town–just yet.
If you're visiting from outside Santa Monica, you may be tempted to check out the or the day before the race. This is another temptation to stave off till after the marathon. "You want to save your legs," Lohner said.
9. Be a lemming.
While running a marathon can be a very personal experience, before the race, enjoy the camaraderie with your fellow runners. "If there's a big shuttle, I make an effort to take it," said Lohner, who will be taking one of the 5 a.m. buses from the to Dodger Stadium on Sunday. "It's a neat feeling to be surrounded by all the nerves and excitement pre-race." Now that he's run 49 marathons, Lohner likes sitting in the back of the bus and taking it all in "while everyone else is nervous."
10. Take it personally.
"After 50 marathons, I can honestly tell you I'm still tweaking my own mental trial and error," Lohner said. "Just keep in mind what your goals are and try not to get too carried away with the pre-race excitement."
Additional LA Marathon coverage on Santa Monica Patch: