Matt Roberts: Marathon Training, The Last Week!
With marathon season underway and all that training and preparation behind you, it is important to make the most of the last few days before the big day.
Planning properly for race day is time very well-spent and ensures that you give yourself the best possible chance to make it to the finish line. Below are a number of tried and tested tips that should allow you to relax, enjoy the race and have fun while successfully completing your goal of running a marathon.
Clothing / Equipment
- All of the equipment that you are planning to use or wear on race day should have been tried and tested during your training.
- Ensure that your clothing is comfortable and doesn’t chafe and is going to keep you at the right temperature for the conditions on race day.
- Keep warm while you’re waiting for the race to start – consider wearing an old top or a bin bag that you can discard just before the race. A great tip for motivation is to have your name on your running top so that spectators can cheer you on!
- A common mistake is training too much immediately before the marathon. Studies have shown that training in the final days before the race not only will not help your performance, but may actually harm it by leaving you unnecessarily tired or sore. Ensure that you follow and put trust in your training plan and follow the tapering phase.
- Make sure you have followed a regular post-exercise stretching routine leading up to the marathon. At some point during the three to four days prior to the race, treat yourself to a massage to loosen tense and tired muscles. Ensure you get lots of sleep so that you are well-rested for the race.
- Avoid static stretching before running; instead perform dynamic stretches and mobility drills.
- Consider going for a short gentle jog as part of your warm-up. Gradually ease into the race to warm up your muscles and joints, remembering your pace strategy
- Practise your nutrition strategy before the race, during long training runs. Experiment with different energy gels and other types of sports nutrition to see what suits you. If you are planning to drink the sports drinks on offer at drinks stations in the race, find out what brand they will be and test them beforehand.
- Don’t try anything new on race day, as this may result in gastro-intestinal distress.
- Two to three days before the race, it is really important to increase your carbohydrate intake. Aim for 10g per kg of body weight, to ensure that your body has sufficient carbohydrate stores. It is also vital to remain well-hydrated, so make sure you drink lots of fluid in the days leading up to the race.
- Your pre-race breakfast should be tried and tested during your high-mileage training phase, and should be high in carbohydrates (porridge with banana or toast with nut butter are good options).
- During the race, regularly take on fluids, sipping them little and often. Plan to take gels or other easily digestible food at regular intervals, usually 2-3 times per hour. It is a good idea to take gels just before a drinks station, so you can wash them down with water. Make sure you have practised the type and timing of your nutrition and hydration during your long training runs.
Pacing and goal-setting
- Use an online pace calculator to assist in predicting a realistic finishing time, based on previous race or training run times
- Stick with your planned pace and don’t get carried away by the exciting atmosphere or other faster runners.
- Setting A, B and C goals can be a way of ensuring that the race is a positive experience, whatever the outcome. For example, your A goal could be your ideal outcome, e.g. “I will complete the marathon in 4 hours 30 minutes”. Your B goal could be “I will run the whole way” and your C goal could be “I will finish the race”. Having a range of goals, graded in difficulty, is a way of making sure that you meet at least one goal and don’t feel like you’ve failed if things don’t go perfectly.
- Running a marathon is often considered as much a mental effort as a physical one. Self-talk is a great way of tricking yourself into feeling more positive and achieving ‘mind over matter’. It is a good idea to create a mantra, which should include positive statements about yourself, such as: “I always keep going”, “I am strong and determined” or “I love running and I feel great”
- If the distance is intimidating you, mentally break the race down into smaller chunks. Don’t think of it as 42km; think of it as 4 lots of 10km plus change. Then on race day, just focus on getting through 10km at a time
- Make sure you know where your friends and family will be spectating, as seeing them will give you a mental boost.
- Think about the ‘bigger picture’: if you’re racing for a charity or in memory of someone, focusing on them instead of yourself can help you to remember why you signed up for the race and give you the motivation to keep going.
- After the race, nutrition and hydration are a vital part of recovery. Consuming a sports recovery drink is a convenient option, as they are easily digestible and contain the recommended ratio of carbohydrates and protein
- Try to consume this as soon as possible after the race, then eat a balanced meal containing high-quality protein to assist muscle repair and aid recovery.
- Drink lots of fluids to help you to rehydrate, and avoid alcohol as this has the opposite effect.
- Foam-rolling and stretching will help to ease delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in the days after the marathon. Try to have a deep-tissue sports muscle 2-3 days after the race
- Sleep is also essential to recovery, so make sure you rest well. However, it is also advisable to undertake active recovery through gentle exercise, e.g. walking, swimming or cycling.
- Ease back into running when your body feels ready for it. Focusing on the importance of recovery will allow you to have a smooth transition back to full training.