In many ways the days and hours before a marathon can be the most difficult to manage. It doesn’t matter if you’re a race newbie or facing the prospect of a fifth marathon, the nerves are always tough to deal with. But while you can’t do anything more in terms of training at this late stage to help your marathon assault, there are plenty of things you can inadvertently do to sabotage your race plans. So here are some top tips for things to do to take you to your running happy place.
Think positive and see positive
Even though you’ve done all the training and stuck religiously to your training plan, the doubt demons can be the hardest thing to master in the build up to any race. The trouble is, in the last week or so before the race you have less miles to do and more potential worry time to fill.
One thing that sports psychologists always recommend is mental visualisation techniques, so when you start to doubt yourself in any way, a great response is to ‘see’ your race. Picture yourself bouncing towards the finish line looking and feeling great. Imagine the time on the race clock and picture something around your target time.
Visualise crucial stages of the race and picture yourself there, overcoming any tiredness and fatigue and pressing on to the finish. The more you do this, the easier it will be when you actually find yourself in the midst of the race.
Make sure you have everything ready for race day. Make a race day checklist and then lay out all of the things you will need, including your running gear, snacks, drinks, and your all important race number.
Check it again to make sure everything is present and correct, and if the race is out of town, pack it carefully away making a note of where you have put everything. The reason for doing this is because you won’t have the time or energy come race day to be running around looking for lost or forgotten items. Preparation is everything for the marathon and it extends to arrangements and travel plans. Don’t get caught out or it could cost you dearly.
This is hugely important in the last two or three days before the race. You need to stock up your glycogen stores to make sure your body has enough energy to get you through 26.2 miles (42 km). The body’s natural glycogen reserves last for around 90 minutes of intense exercise and then they need topping up. The marathon is going to take a lot longer than that, so you need to start the race with a full tank and top up along the way.
During your carb loading period you need to be looking to take on around 8 to 10g (0.2 to 0.35 ounces) of carbohydrate per kilo of body weight per day.
During your carb loading period you need to be looking to take on around 8 to 10g (0.2 to 0.35 ounces) of carbohydrate per kilo of body weight per day. But don’t try and do that by having it all in one enormous meal! Look to distribute that amount sensibly throughout the day with smaller meals and snacks/drinks and if you’ve been refuelling properly during your training, you shouldn’t really notice a massive difference. But be careful and don’t overdo it on the carbs or there is a chance you will get to race day feeling heavy and sluggish. Do it healthily and sensibly, avoiding fast food and empty calories.
It sounds so obvious and yet it is so often ignored, but try to stay off your feet as much as possible in the last day or two before a race. You’re going to be running 26.2 miles (42km) in a few days' time, so you’ll need all the energy you can get.
If you are visiting a foreign city for your race it is awfully tempting to rush out and see the sights. But you risk tiring yourself out before you even get to the start line if you do that. So relax and rest. Get plenty of sleep and try to enjoy the excitement of the build up. While you’re doing all of that though, don’t forget to hydrate.
Stick to the plan
Hopefully you have either meticulously planned your route to the start line via public transport or rehearsed it. However, this is just one aspect of your preparation that comes under the heading stick to the plan.
Make sure you do all the things you normally do in the last few days/hours and don’t suddenly do something maverick. That means don’t eat anything spicy or introduce something new to your diet, don’t buy new running shoes for the ‘big day’ (it will only end in blood and tears), don’t have too many beers, don’t stay up late – basically don’t make silly mistakes.
Stick to your training and pre-race rituals (they will help calm you down) and stay focused on the task at hand. You’ve been preparing for this for months now, so don’t throw all that effort away with a rash decision. Just do what you’ve been doing and you will achieve your goal.