This is a key time in the race preparation. The answer is quite simple, prepare and practice.
- If you have a niggle in your last long run, get it sorted.
Remember on Race day you will run 26 miles so now is the time to get the right advice from an experienced Sports Physio. You will be guided through a workable plan which will maximise your recovery for race day.
- Change as little as possible from your normal routine.
When entering the final week of a marathon program, one of the most effective policies is to stick to your routine. Do you normally go to bed at 9:30? Stick with it. Do you normally eat pasta with chicken the evening before your long runs? Stick with it. Do you normally take a 20-minute walk the evening before a long run or a race? Stick with it. Do you normally wear your favorite lightweight pair of trainers for long runs and races? Stick with them. Routine is very important as it relates to sleep patterns, digestion, biorhythms and your overall performance. Change as little as you can from your normal routine and you will increase the likelihood that you will have a great race day.
- Taper your running.
During the marathon taper, athletes are running less and typically dial back the intensity as well. Often, athletes feel stale the day of the marathon with a significant reduction in both intensity and volume. You will avoid being stale by doing something moderate 5-6 days out from the race. Keep up with your Strength & Conditioning work as you taper your running. It will help keep you in tip top condition for the day.
- Resist the urge to make up for missed workouts.
Whether due to injury, illness or simply a busy schedule, even the best-laid plans go awry. It’s tempting to try to squeeze in that last workout in the last five days, but this is counterproductive. You won’t see any fitness gains and only risk wearing yourself out before the race
- Take extra precautions to avoid illness.
Carrying a little bottle of hand sanitizer with you wherever you go is a good policy, especially in that last week.
- Don’t compare training logs.
This is the equivalent of avoiding post-exam discussions of the test questions. Nothing good will come of it at this point. Either you’ll feel intimidated by others’ workouts or become too glib about your own preparation. Wait until the race is over before evaluating your training.
- Don’t try anything new.
You’ve practiced your race nutrition and equipment in training, so just follow what you found works. Don’t experiment with new foods—even if other athletes are eating them—in the week before the race. Stick with what your body is used to so you don’t get any stomach surprises.
- Make an extra effort to get plenty of sleep.
While you shouldn’t be attempting any strenuous workouts, focus your energy instead on resting like a champ. You should have a little more time on your hands with less running. Reinvest it in your sleep.
- Be sure to run the day or two before the race.
Continuing on the theme of the taper and avoiding “staleness,” runners should always do a bit of light jogging the day before the race. The overwhelming majority of the feedback from age-group marathoners is consistent with the pros: a day off two days before the race will leave you refreshed with pop in the legs, whereas a day off immediately preceding the race often results in heavy legs. We suggest an easy 15 minute run.
- Don’t second-guess your goals and preparation.
We always recommend to every marathoner that they should take a quick look at their training log the evening before the race. Remind yourself of all the work you have done and that you are as ready as you can be—then go execute. Don’t talk yourself out of your race plan and goals the weekend of the race. Be confident in your preparation and step to the start line knowing you have sacrificed and prepared properly.
- Do prepare mentally for how you will feel during the race.
If you run your best, it will hurt—a lot. Expect this, but also know that the first few miles will probably float by. This is natural. Be prepared for it to feel almost too easy at the beginning and be ready to race when the race really starts (probably around 20-23 miles).
It’s very normal to be nervous as a race nears, but you must always quell any nervous energy and focus on relaxing. Some runners let the anxiety of the race burn up all their mental energy so that by the time they stand on the starting line, their mental reserves are already depleted. As nervous thoughts creep in, acknowledge them and then push them aside and focus on something else.
- Make an oath to yourself.
Make an oath to yourself that you will do your best on the day. That in the first miles, you’ll control your pace and run relaxed. That in the middle, you’ll focus on maintaining your goal pace and continuing to get in all your fuel. And, in the last part, where it gets really, really tough, you’ll smile through the pain. You’ll focus on your best. You’ll never relent. You’ll never give in. You’ll keep pushing and get to that finish line.
Final thought: Remember that you have already built your fitness for the race, so any workout in the last week is about “refining” fitness, not building fitness.
Enjoy it, it really is an amazing achievement to run a Marathon!