You may have just run your last long run before your marathon.
Congratulations, you’ve reached marathon taper time!
Beware, all is not what it seems and the taper can turn seemingly innocuous occurrences that you wouldn’t give a second thought to at any other time of the year into potentially hazardous roadblocks that stand in your way of running. You know, things like sneezing.
I previously wrote about Maranoia, the common condition known to runners and in this post, I wanted to share my top 5 tips to help you get through these last few weeks.
Just because you see other runners around you cutting right back on their training, it doesn’t mean you have to do it. Common reasons for this are usually to rest the body, prepare for the race and avoid injury but for me, you should already have factored this into your training and cutting back like this creates unnecessary anxiety. There’s still plenty of good training you can do between now and race day and while you can reduce the mileage gradually, you still want to maintain the intensity of your runs. Indeed, if you’re like me, you might even be going for the 2 week taper and still have a big run to go. Think of this period as a bit like putting the icing on the cake with the marathon being applying the cherry to the top so keep doing what you’re doing and gradually reduce the volume of training.
If you haven’t already done so, go for a run in the kit you plan to wear on race day. In certain parts of the UK, we don’t always get many breaks with the weather to allow this to happen. I remember training for Paris a few years ago and we had snow a week or two before the race and the first opportunity to wear my race kit was on race day. We’d gone from snow in Scotland to the heat in Paris! Having all your kit ready and knowing that it feels comfortable is good and if you need to change something, you can do so and re-test before the big day. It’s probably a psychological thing but you don’t really want to be going into a race wearing something for the first time.
This can be a good time to start thinking about how you want to run the race. It doesn’t matter whether you’re about to run your first or twenty-first marathon, nerves in the last couple of weeks are natural. I recommend taking one of your last remaining Sunday runs and start at the same time as the race is due to start. You may prefer to run early mornings or in the evenings but I always think it’s good to be used to running at time of day you will be running at in the race. You can plan how you’re going to run the race. Think of how you want to feel as you come to the finish line, the story you want to tell everyone afterwards, the memory you want to have of it then start to get the feel of the pace in your runs so that you go into the race knowing what you need to do.
Stick With What You’ve Tried And Tested
Now is not the time to start trying something new like a different brand of gels or anything that hasn’t already been a regular part of your training. You want to be able to stand on the start line knowing you’ve left nothing to chance. You will be nervous and you don’t want to be hoping that the new thing you’ve got will work ok. This goes for what you eat the night before the race and for breakfast on race day. Try not to make the same mistake as I did by overeating at the hotel on the morning before the Loch Ness Marathon in 2017 and needing to dive into the bushes early in the race!
If you need a distraction, a good thing can be planning the weekend of the race. If you’re doing London then it can be useful to plan when you’re going to go to registration, what sequence of trains you need to get to go to the start, what time you need to get up and have breakfast etc. For me doing Stirling, I’m quite lucky in that it’s not too far to travel so I can sleep in my own bed the night before, have my normal breakfast before heading down the road. Make sure you allow yourself plenty of time on the day to get to the start, the last thing you need is to be rushing around getting to the start. Allow yourself the time to go to the toilet a couple of times before you start running. The best tip I ever learned at London was to go to the toilet as soon as you arrive at the start and when you come out, rejoin the queue as the chances are you’ll be needing again by the time you get to the front of it!
Hopefully you’re feeling a lot more relaxed now and happy that it’s ok for you to go for a run and not sit on the sofa, wrapping yourself in cotton wool and going crazy!
How are you feeling about these last few weeks before the race?
What are your hopes and fears for your marathon?