Soon enough it will be this time of the year where you have to put yourself on the line and prove yourself over the serious distance of the marathon. Preparing for a marathon is not an easy task.
First, you have to put so much effort into your marathon training. This includes likely early wake-up calls, consistency of a serious workload, tons of mileage, heavy legs, ups and downs, proper nutrition and hope for enough sleep after having so much going on.
Second, we have all experienced the unpredictability of the marathon build-up. You think you have done almost everything right, then you line-up for the race and something doesn’t go as planned. You are heartbroken and you swear this is your last marathon. We have all been there.
Then, three days later, you find yourself searching for the next cool marathon around the world. But it doesn’t need to go exactly that way.
As an Olympian who ran the marathon, I learned that there are a couple of last-minute marathon tips that can change your experience, and help you to nail your marathon game as a professional.
Last-minute marathon tips for two weeks before the race
Generally, аs marathon runners, we have one long run every seven to ten days, depending on the training cycle. Many marathoners throw in some workout within those long runs, or they are generally a bit intense (and they should be!). However, getting too close to the race means it is time to cut both the length and the intensity of the long run. So here come some of my last-minute marathon tips for you:
1. Do not run for too long right before the race
One of the most important marathon advice I can give you is to cut your long runs too. Two weeks out of the race, your long run should be the shortest of the entire build-up. I generally rarely cover more than a half-marathon for my long run in the last 14 days, considering that I go up to 40 km or a full marathon during my build-up. This tip will help your body to recover better, and your legs will start to feel fresh again.
2. Cut the intensity of your training
Once you cut the volume, it is a good idea to cut your intensity as well. I would advise you not to touch your marathon pace during this last long run. You’ve practiced it so many times by now. Just relax and run by feel. It doesn’t need to be jogging, but the idea is to be relatively fresh afterwards.
For example, if my marathon goal pace is around 3:30 per km, I would stay close to 4:00 per km which is easy but not jogging. If you train by heart rate, you can stay around 20 beats per minute slower than usual for your long run.
Do not worry, you have done so much work, fitness will be there when the time comes.
3. Find a breakfast routine
I hope you have been practicing your breakfast routine for the marathon, but if you have not, there is still enough time to try. Eat the same as you would on the marathon day and see how your stomach feels during your run, or preferably – workout. If needed, do some changes before it’s too late.
4. Wake up around the same time every day
Try to wake up a couple of times roughly the same as you would on the marathon day. In that way, you train both your mind and body for what is coming.
5. Try to distract yourself and relax
We know how intense the last two weeks are. You pay attention to every little detail in your daily life, and you feel a bit anxious, wondering if all pieces will come together on the race day. No worries, you care, and this is absolutely normal! What I would suggest is reading a new book that will take your mind away (at least for a bit) or starting a new cool podcast.
Last-minute marathon tips for one week before the race
Time is passing by so fast and you can’t wait to race. You are so excited and yet a bit scared. We tend to overanalyze everything the last week of the race. This can get a bit tricky, so here are my marathon tips and tricks.
6. Focus on your recovery
I would suggest that you take this week easy and take care of your recovery. Go for a light massage and don’t forget to do ice or warm baths to relax your muscles early in the week.
7. Get out of your head
Very often even professional runners feel a bit off the last week. For some reason, our body is taking precautions and prevents us from being very energetic. Almost every last week before a race, specifically before a long one like a marathon, I feel extra tired and used to question myself if I can run well. What my experience taught me is that this is our body’s way to protect us from doing too much. Thus, I stopped overanalyzing how I feel and just let my body do its work without affecting my mental preparedness for the race.
8. Your diet matters!
It is beneficial to eat high carbohydrate diet before a marathon. But I want to make a point here! High carbohydrate diet does not mean overstuffing yourself with carbohydrates and tons of additional calories. It simply means to swap SOME of your daily fats and protein for more fats, not overeating. Otherwise, you may end up feeling heavy for your race. It is important to switch your macronutrients and concentrate on swapping part of your fats and protein for carbohydrates, so you line up with full glycogen stores. These stores will help you to run raster for longer.
Things to do (or not to do) right before a marathon
Believe it or not, there are some very common mistakes that first time marathoners do the night or the morning before the marathon. However, ever more advanced runners still get tempted and make mistakes.
9.Do not try any new or “risky” food the night before the marathon.
As boring as it sounds, most professional runners stick to bland food. I hear relatively often stories of runners who got food poisoning the night before the race. You don’t want this to happen, especially if you are training for a marathon. My marathon tip here is that you avoid fried food, raw fish, heavy sauces and alcohol.
10. Stick to the same breakfast routine
The same goes for breakfast. Just stick to what you have used to. Sometimes it might not be available in the hotel you are staying, so make sure you are prepared and you bring your essentials on your trip. I flew the ocean with my favorite American blueberry bagels and I never regretted it!
11. Hydrate well,regardless of the expected weather.
The moment you feel thirsty during the marathon, it is the moment that you are already dehydrated and there is little you can do at that point. Have your water bottle always close to you!
Post marathon tips and tricks to aid your recovery
Our last-minute marathon preparation tips are over but there are some post marathon tricks that I cannot miss to mention. After you celebrate your finish, you want to make sure you do your best to bounce back as quickly as possible (if there can be a word “quickly” after a marathon anyway…).
12.Get yourself a celebration meal!
It is time to eat a quality amount of carbohydrates and enough protein to recover your exhausted muscles. The sooner – the better. You will need to eat frequently throughout the day to let your body recover faster. You want to have a lot of veggies and fruits to get all the vitamins and antioxidants, as well as enough protein to repair your body, and carbohydrate to replenish your lost glycogen.
13. Hydrate again!
Water, juice or even a beer. You deserve it.
14. Give your muscles a tiny bit of action
Follow up with some very easy and short runs, ice baths and maybe even spending more hours than usual at your physio therapist.
15. Reflect on the experience
After the work is done, find time to appreciate the fact that you had this opportunity, learn from your mistakes and reflect on the experience. Yes, we can always do better but it is also important to absorb the whole process and be able to see many of the positive things that happened throughout the journey.
I hope these 15 last-minute marathon tips were helpful for you and allow you to prepare for your next race the best way possible.
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