Running is part of my lifestyle and setting challenges and pushing myself is a big part of that lifestyle. Signing up for marathons is a great motivator for me to set new goals and to push myself to work harder than I have in the past; it is as much a mental game as it is a physical challenge.

This year I ran my third BMO marathon with the overall goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. The two previous times, I finished in 3:48 (my first marathon in 2012) and last year 3:35 (my third marathon in 2014), both of which were too slow for my age category.

On this particular course, the infamous "wall" hits most marathoners around the 36km mark - which happens to be around the seawall on this course. I fell victim to this in both of my previous attempts and I was determined that this year I would crush that wall.

Consider your race a puzzle. If you have all the pieces, and are patient, committed and dedicated, you can crush it, too!

This year, I felt as though all the pieces of my marathon puzzle fell into place. I achieved my personal best marathon time of 3:29:49, which means I'm pretty much guaranteed to be able to participate in the 2016 Boston Marathon.

Here are my tips for solving your marathon puzzle:

  • Join a run club. I'm part of a Forerunners’ run club where there is a diverse group of runners to inspire me.
  • Be diligent with your long runs and your speed work, and don’t skip your recovery exercises and stretching.
  • Try a proper 3-week taper with minimal activity leading to race day.
  • Don’t forget your post-workout recovery and nutrition. Think about being your best for tomorrow’s workout!
  • Pay close attention to carbohydrate loading with high quality, nutrient-dense foods in the few days before the race.
  • Know where the wall is – and be ready to face it down.
  • Try a variety of fuel gels and choose the ones you like best for race day. I aim for every 45-50 minutes on course.
  • Make a fabulous play-list of motivating music.  I love dance and DJ mixes with a little top 40.

For added motivation, think about your friends and family cheering you on throughout the course and waiting for you at the end!

Crystal Higgins is a private practice registered dietitian and nutrition consultant in Vancouver, BC, with a Bachelor of Science Degree (Hons.) in Dietetics from the University of British Columbia.