Marathon training demands a lot of time, effort, dedication, determination and preparation to be successful. The foundations for success need to be put down in the weeks and months preceding an event, however the week before a marathon is still a key time. Here is my guide to the final stages of marathon preparation based on my own personal experiences:
Eat lots don't be hungry
There is so much advice on pre-race nutrition and the importance of carb loading such as these great articles from Runners World and RealBuzz,
Also you should also check out this video from Buzzfeed which gives you an entertaining yet informative guide to how the carb loading process works.
But as well as eating more carbs its also important to just eat more.
While preparing for a race it is common to cut down on your food intake to try and lose weight to be in the best shape for race day but in the final stages its all about fueling your body to be ready for the demands of the upcoming 26.2 miles.
So I let myself go a bit and eat if I feel hungry as long as its good stuff I am eating. Regular readers will know I have enjoyed the carb loading phase from previous marathons as you can see here.
I tend to snack a lot on dried fruit, Brazil nuts, almonds, peanut butter, flap jacks, tortilla wraps and that kind of thing as you might have seen in previous posts or seen on my twitter feed if you follow me on twitter @beoutrunning.
My other advice is a common recommendation of eating familiar things, food you eat a lot, that you enjoy and that you know suits you fuels you correctly. I also try and stick to the mantra of eating little and often so that I am not overloading my body and I am providing a constant steady flow of calorific fuel for energy.
Sleep lots don't be tired
In the week or two post marathon I focus more on getting to bed that bit earlier as well as cutting down on the early morning training to perhaps once or twice a week. Giving your body plenty of opportunity to rest and restore its self so it is in the best condition possible for race day is really important.
Although relax if you don't end up getting as much sleep the night before a run because of pre-race nerves or a change of routine due to travelling for a race is fine and wont impact on your performance.
Walk lots - well not lots but maybe a bit more than usual.
As my training is cut down in the lead up to a marathon I try to replace this with a bit of extra walking. This is for a few reasons, to keep my legs ticking over all be it with a much less strenuous form of exercise and to keep burning off a few calories while not training so much.
My other bit of walking related advice is to where running trainers as much as possible pre race. Your feet are important so its important to look after them and keep them as comfortable as possible.
Roll and stretch
If not already part of your daily routine it definitely should be in the build up to the big run. Keeping your legs nice and loose and getting rid of any stiffness and tightness is key to a great performance on race day, its amazing how brilliant and energetic your legs can feel through the week with a reduction in training but an increase in rolling and stretching.
Water water everywhere!
There is an abundance of advice on staying hydrated so I wont bore you with that only reiterate its importance. Stay hydrated and drink loads in the days building up to your marathon!
Along with lots of water I also enjoy drinking a variety of herbal teas to help hydrate and refresh me. As well as this they also provide a sweet touch that might be lacking from your diet as well as providing other digestion and health benefits.
As well as trying to eat a well balanced nutritious diet in the marathon build up heres a few personal specifics I throw into the mix.
Vitamin C - Load up on some vitamin C, something that should already be plentiful in your diet but especially necessary in the final stages of a marathon training programme to ensure you can fight off any illnesses while you body is more susceptible to attack due to the strains of training and to ensure you are as fighting fit and healthy as can be come race day.
Coupled with an increase in vitamin C i have also found taking a cold and flu remedy such as Beechams is a great way to top up your body's defences and keep you feeling tip top!
Protein - In race week as well as stocking up on my carbohydrates I also try to increase my protein in take to help my muscles be fully repaired and raring to go! Specifically I opt for plenty of protein shakes and chicken throughout the week along with a steak dinner a few days before interspersed with plenty of protein rich snacks like almonds.
Good digestion - To help make sure my stomach is settled and can cope with the high amount of carbohydrates along with potential pre race nerves I make sure I have a couple of spoons of natural yogurt in the morning and evening just to be kind to my gut in the hope it is then kind to me!
Along with all the training and nutrition advice the best piece of advice is to be prepared. Mentally prepared for the challenges that lie ahead as well as physically prepared taking care of the practical and logistical arrangements of; how am i going to get there? What time so i need to get up/leave? What am I going to wear? Etc, etc Its good to have these arrangements clear in your mind a few days before so you can relax and just focus on the actual running.
One last thing most importantly:
Don't forget to enjoy yourself! Enjoy the run, the challenge, the atmosphere, the experience, the location and the scenery, embrace it all so you can remember it in the future.