It’s almost here! Now what?

The final week before any marathon can be very nerve racking, especially for those first timers who are having trouble visualizing the unknown. Several questions will race through a runner’s head:

“What do I do now?”
“How far should I run?”
“Am I ready?”
“Do I have everything I need?”

These questions come to mind over and over again, especially at night, as the pent-up energy is keeping us from our normal sleeping routine.

While everyone handles this type of anxiety in a different manner, here are a few suggestions that will help you cover the basics and help you answer some of those nocturnal questions.

1. Relax and don’t overdo it
If you followed your training program you should be near the end of your mileage taper which has physically prepared you for the marathon. Any major mileage you do this week will only detract from your performance on the weekend. The last week or two before the marathon should be low mileage to allow your body to recover from the pounding you have put it though for the past several months. The taper also allows your mind and body to regroup, plus store extra nutrients in the muscles and liver that you‘ll need for race day.

Don’t worry! Your fitness will carry over to the marathon. You do want to stay active with some short three to five-mile runs a few times and some cross-training here or there, but nothing long and nothing intense. You are ready!

If you have not been following a training program DON’T START NOW! It will not benefit you to do any major mileage or training this week. Your body needs at least a week, if not three weeks, to recover from any major training. Any long or intense runs you do this week will only benefit you two to three weeks down the road and may actually detract from your performance this coming weekend. Just relax and do what you can base on your current fitness level.

2. Gear check
Here is a list of items you’ll need for race day:

  • Shoes
  • Racing top (NO COTTON!)
  • Racing bottoms (NO COTTON!)
  • Socks (NO COTTON)
  • Energy gels
  • A hydration pack or fanny pack for carrying water and gels
  • Anti-chaffing/blistering products

You may want to add to the list, but you get the idea. Don’t wait until 4:00 a.m. on race day to try to figure out how you’ll carry six gels in shorts that don’t have any pockets. I’ve been there, done that, and don’t recommend it!

Note on shoes: If you have not followed the proper protocol for getting a shoe ready for a marathon, it’s better to run in a brand new pair of shoes rather than old, worn shoes. New shoes have the potential to cause blisters, but old shoes can cause more serious injuries to the knees, shins, or feet.

3. Hydrate
Make your water bottle your best friend this week and plan on taking extra trips to the restroom. You may feel bothered at times because of the extra bathroom interruptions, but that type of hydration is needed for race day.

In addition to water, you need to consume sufficient electrolytes throughout the week. Foods rich in sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are very important for hydration. These minerals help the body retain the water you consume and aid in the function of the nervous system.

4. Visualize
You will be more likely to finish the race if you have visualized yourself crossing the finish line beforehand. Any successful athlete has visualized their success before it happens. Try to imagine the race with as much detail as possible. Imagine the colors you will see, the sounds you will hear, the wind, temperature, and so on. Imagine multiple scenarios (sunny race and an overcast race). These things will help as you come across them on race day.

5. Plan a way to reward yourself when it’s over
This is the favorite part of the marathon for many people. You have been beating yourself up for months. You have gotten up early in the morning during the bitter cold and bad weather. You (and your family) have sacrificed many valuable weekend hours just so you could run. When you finish the marathon you will have accomplished a major feat of endurance, and that feat deserves a reward. Plan your reward before the race so you can use it as your carrot to keep you going during the difficult parts of the marathon. This can be very satisfying.

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