The week leading up to a marathon is a critical part of the training process. If you get it right, you'll be on the start line feeling fresh and raring to go, but a major mistake could undo all that hard work. So here are 10 tips to help you ensure that you get it right:
Don't try anything new - You've been training for months. During this time you've practiced your nutrition and figured out what equipment works best for you. It's really important that you don't make any last minute changes that could potentially disrupt your performance. So don't try any new foods or make alterations to your kit, stick with what's worked throughout the training process.
Resist the temptation to cram - More often than not during a programme, people miss sessions. Whether it's due to injury, illness or perhaps a holiday, it does happen. The important thing is to let it go, and resist the temptation to make any last minute gains. Doing a long run or big hill session in the final week to 'catch up' is a very bad idea and will only prove to be detrimental!
Try to get your mind off running - The lead up to the marathon can be a bit 'run heavy'. People will inevitably ask you about the race, and the expo can be pretty full on, so during the week before try to relax as much as possible and keep your mind on other things. Spend time with friends and family and avoid stressful situations where you can.
Don't be an expo loiterer - Road race expos are an inevitable part of major marathons. If you've never been to one, they often involve dozens and dozens of stools marketing anything from trainers to energy bars to upcoming races. They can be chaotic (particularly the day before a race) and as you want to avoid stressful situations and hours on your feet, my advice is get in, register and collect your race number, then leave.
Avoid illness - With all the hard work you've put in, the last thing you want is to get ill on the week of a race. So take precautions by getting plenty of sleep, avoiding alcohol, staying hydrated and it's also a good idea to carry around a bottle of hand sanitiser if you want to be extra cautious.
Ensure you're organised - You don't want to be wasting energy when you really don't need to. So get all your food in and plan what you're going to eat during the days preceding the race, and make a kit list so you can prepare all your equipment in plenty of time. Don't use up energy rushing to shops after work to pick up something or rushing around on marathon morning looking for the right pair of socks.
Practice race pace - Whilst you would've done your longer runs at slower than race speed and you may have carried out some tempo runs a little quicker, it's a good idea to do some short runs at race pace during the final week. This will ensure you’re using the correct energy systems and it also provides you with that last minute reminder of what your pace should feel like.
Make a conscious effort to get sufficient sleep - Compared to one of your peak weeks, the time you spend training during the final few days will be very low. So use this time to relax and get plenty of sleep. Plan to be in bed at a reasonable time and do all you can to ensure good sleep throughout the run up. It'll really help you to feel rested and fresh come race day.
Look over your training log - Doing this the night before can be a useful thing to do. It's a reminder that you've done all the hard work, your preparations have been thorough, and you're ready to go out there and do what you've been training for.
Expect nerves - Let's be honest, running a marathon is a big deal (particularly if it's your first) so there will inevitably be nerves in the lead up. But if you let your nerves take over you will be mentally fatigued on the start line, so when an anxious moment occurs, acknowledge it but then push it to one side and think about something else. Do your very best to relax, smile and enjoy it!
Written by Marc Brown