1. Stay calm, you’ve got this!
Often, when it comes to race week, you start doubting yourself, your training, and whether you have put in enough work for the race. This thought always pops up, ‘I wish I had two more weeks to train’. Whatever you’ve put in, is what you’ll hopefully get out on race day. As stressful as it gets, try your best to remain calm and enjoy the build-up and process as much as possible. Getting nervous is completely normal. Often, I try to take my mind off things by watching a comedy, going for a coffee with a friend, a family walk etc.
2. An extra hours sleep
As a runner, I always recommend getting at least eight hours sleep. It’s when your body truly recovers. When it comes to race week, an extra hour will only do you the world of good. If you manage to bank nine hours in the build-up to the race, that’s golden. Often, what tends to happen is that we don’t sleep nicely the night before the race. If you’ve had a good few days of nine hours sleep, then whether you slept badly the night before the race doesn’t really matter too much.
3. More TLC for your body in the form of core, stretching and foam rolling.
Now that you’re not running as much this week, it does free up time for some of the finer things in life. Keep your body and muscles loose by some light foam rolling, some good core work, and stretching. Remember that having a strong core helps you in the latter part of the race. This is when your form tends to fade and so it’s often your core that holds everything together. I wouldn’t recommend doing much the day before race day, but in the days building up, you can stretch, foam roll and do as much core work as you like.
4. Don’t do anything too intense.
There’s no more fitness you can gain in the week of race week. There’s also nothing worse than overtraining and lining up with tired legs. Race week is taper time! This doesn’t mean no running at all - it’s perfectly fine to do shorter, sharper runs. I personally like it as it keeps the balance in the legs and the flow there. However, stay away from doing anything too intense. This could stay in the legs come race day and that’s the last thing that you want.
5. Carbo Load
Nutrition is a completely different topic, which we could talk about all day long. Remember what works for me may not necessarily work for you. Generally carbo loading works for most runners, however, I know a few runners who don’t tend to carbo load at all.
I used to do quite an extreme diet called the Sultin diet, where I would cut at all carbs completely for three days. I would then carbo load for three days, and I found this to work. However, in more recent times I found that reducing calories in the first three days, and then having increased calories in the following three days, helps just as much and it’s not as intense on your body.
For me personally I find good carbs to be wholewheat pasta, brown rice, and sweet potatoes. I’ll have these carbs with a bit of protein, something like chicken fillets, tuna, salmon etc. Be sure to stay away from saucy food the day before the marathon as this can cause stomach issues on race day.
6. Test your race day kit.
Trial the exact kit you are going to be using on race day. I like to go for an easy shake-out jog a day or two before the race in the exact kit I’ll use on the day. It just puts your mind at ease to know everything fits properly and that you’re not chafing in certain areas.
7. Write the split times on your arm and run your own race.
Your watch GPS will never be 100% accurate according to the race markers. Especially if you’re doing a race like London Marathon, where your GPS gets lost going through the Canary Wharf area and under certain tunnels. On your arm, write down specific split times where you need to be at certain points. Cross check these to know whether you’re on track or not, if you’re chasing a specific time. I tend to write down the following splits and check them on route: 5km, 10km, 15km, 30km, 35km, 40km.
Always run your own race. If you’re out of your comfort zone early on in a marathon, it’s going to be one very long second-half. You should be within your comfort zone for at least 30 km of the race. Often groups tend to form and you start feeling uncomfortable in the group you’re currently in. If this is the case then back off earlier rather than later to avoid hitting that dreaded wall.
Do not be shy to use Vaseline!! Use loads of it too! If you’re based in the UK or Australia, I highly recommend Premax anti friction balm. It’s the best on the market I found. If in doubt, apply more Vasoline - life is far too short to chafe. Marathons are tough enough as they are so we don’t want to make them even tougher by making it an uncomfortable experience.
9. Think about the reasons why are you running, and unlock that during the last 10 km.
We all have our different reasons, whether are you running for yourself, for the physical and mental benefits the sport gives you, or for someone who is no longer with you, use this to power you through the latter part of the marathon. You run the last 10km with your head and heart; let what means to you most be the reason that gets you through those tough final few kilometres. Try not to get carried away too early on, but rather unleash these reasons towards the latter end of the race.
10. Don’t try anything new on race day.
If you haven’t trialed it in training, don’t try it on race day. It is far too risky to be trying new things that you haven’t before. If you’ve practised your nutrition, gels, energy drinks in your training runs, and this has worked for you, then replicate this exactly on race day. By trying something new, you run the risk of your body reacting in a certain way. You want to avoid those risks on race day.
If you have a race coming up, GOOD LUCK!
Whether you’re going for a PB, or just a finish!
Give it your bets shot and enjoy it!
Onwards and Upwards!
If you have any questions, please feel free to give me a shout.