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Secrets of a marathoner

On the eve of the world's oldest annual marathon, a <em>Details</em> editor reveals what gets her through Boston's 26.2.

For the brave of heart and fleet of foot there's only one place to be on Monday: the streets of Massachusetts, where the long-running and highly-respected Boston Marathon will take place for the 116th time. The course is challenging. Qualifying times are competitive. You've gotta bring it. Which is exactly what Sheila Monaghan, Details' new senior editor and curator of The Bodysection, plans to do. It will be her 11th marathon and her third consecutive year running Boston. In other words: she can kill 26.2. So we asked her to share her secrets, from signature gear to race-day strategy. "Mentally I break it down into 10/10/10. 10 miles, 10 miles and the last 10k," she says, "It's so exciting to be there but you have to be smart. I run the first 20 miles with my head and then it's heart for the last 10k." With the caveat that no two athletes are the same, here are the idiosyncratic musts of one very dominant runner.

turkey sandwich + salt

"As you taper the week before the race and reduce your output, I try to reduce my input ever so slightly. I pay attention to how many ounces are in my shoes, so I don't want to start adding weight to my body. I'm still eating good foods — I try to get a combination of protein and carbs in all my meals — and I also try to pay attention to sodium. I'll add a salt packet to my turkey on whole wheat."

foam rolling

"The week before the race I'll wake up, come out of the shower and put an ice pack on my hamstring and walk around the apartment. I also foam roll before I walk out the door, and again when I come in from a run at night. I'm also a big fan of the Epsom salt bath. I take one every night the week of the race. They're super relaxing, you feel all the knots in your body go away."

joan benoit in the 1984 olympics

"I love watching YouTube videos — Joan Benoit in the 1984 Olympics winning the gold medal for the first women's marathon. I watch Nike commercials and Gatorade commercials. I'll just Google cool inspirational videos, and it's something really dorky but I love to do it. It's so emotional and great."
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visualizing the course

"I'm a big visualizer. Throughout this week I'm picturing exactly what the start looks like; I know exactly when I'm going to hear the screams of the girls at Wellesley. I picture the Citgo sign; I picture the underpass where Kara Goucher threw her gloves off two years ago. I think about it, and I visualize myself. I go through that stuff to get myself excited, but also when you're running a race you've done before, you sort of have to benefit from your experience."

compression shorts

"I get all my race clothes out the night before. Compression shorts are new for me — I did them at the NYC half this year because I have a hamstring issue — and they feel amazing. Everything is packed in there, and I feel like I am ready to go."

whole wheat pasta + grilled chicken + salt

"A lot of people love tomato sauce, but it's too acidic for me, so the night before I'll do pasta with a little bit of butter and a little bit of cheese. Eating early is something I try to do because in the morning I like to have a bagel an hour and a half before the gun goes off."

morning ritual

"I wear a green sports bra because I'm Irish. It's a Luck of the Irish sports bra. I use Body Glide or Vaseline for chafing. I wear black socks, I feel that they’re funny and sexy — nobody wants cankles. I do tons of weird stuff. I use a nasal spray in the morning when I wake up the day of the race. One of those really gross details but it’s true."

asics sky speed sneakers in neon green

"I like some freshness in my sneakers, so I switch them out the day of the race. The pair I race in is lighter than the pair I train in; I want to feel a slight difference in my turnover. Whether it's the placebo effect or not I think, 'these shoes are lighter, my feet are picking up really fast'. They feel like new shoes, but I've worn them to race so I know I'm not going to get blisters, and I know they work well for me. And I tie my lucky charm — it's a silver charm that says Be Courageous — on my right shoelace. Everyone needs a lucky charm."

pretzel sticks

"A lot of people take goo because it's more concentrated and has more calories, but I like a little bit of carbs and a little bit of sodium, so I eat pretzel sticks a couple of times during the race. Something I've learned is that you should be taking nutrition and hydration before you need it. You have to eat before you're hungry and drink before you're thirsty."