It’s almost time for you to don your well-worn trainers (no new shoes please!) and head into London to collect your race numbers (experiencing the delights of EXCEL…) and embarking on a monumental journey.
I’ve felt very much a part of the preparation of this year’s marathon and as a consequence am VERY excited about cheering people on; so much so that I’ve had a banner made and EVERYTHING!
I feel that now is the time to share my infinite advice and wisdom, so sit back and enjoy these little pearls…
I know how hard the training is for a marathon. This is because I write the plans, not because I run the miles, heaven forbid and I’ll tell you now, writing plans takes ages! I know how disciplined you need to be throughout the extended training programme and the final week is no exception. So here are some things you can do in the last few days before the race to help prepare the body and mind for the impact the marathon will have.
Hydrate ahead of time
Don’t leave it to the last minute, doing so really is like trying to water a parched plant; most of the water will ‘run off’ and not be absorbed (and believe me, I’ve killed a plant or two in my time; not killed a runner yet, but, heh, it’s early days!).
The key to being well hydrated on race day is to drink well in the days leading up to it. Make sure you drink little and often (and preferably not gin, or any other alcoholic beverages…) Honestly, this abstention will be worth it, and you’ll be the cheapest date going post-race; one half of bitter shandy and you’ll be anyone’s!
However, drinking water alone may not be enough for optimal performance as you need carbohydrates as well, you’ll also need sodium to help the absorption of fluids into your body. There are sports’ drinks available with sodium added, or you can make your own sodium/water/carbo cocktail, using water and orange juice (50/50) and a teaspoon of salt (just pop it in all in a bottle and wiggle it about a bit; remembering to screw the top down first and Tom Cruise’s your uncle!)
Have a hydration plan in mind for race day too. Take a look at the route and see where the water stations are, make a mental note of which mileage points they’re at (and then try not to forget!). There will be stations offering sports’ drinks too, my advice is that you only use these products if you’ve tried and tested them on your body before. Never try something new on race day…unless you’ve got a spare pair of shorts and lots of loo roll…and no dignity…
Rest your body.
Enjoy your taper week, foam roll and stretch and try not to be on your feet too much. Get people to do stuff for you; go on, milk it for all it’s worth!
Replenish yourself with good nutrition, fruits, vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds. Avoid processed foods, junk food, fast food or processed sugars, honestly, your gut will thank you for it and you will have more energy.
Eat high-carb foods, this will ensure that your glycogen stores are fully replaced ready for the big day!
Don’t forget the nitrates! You can find these in beetroots, spinach, celery and Argula lettuce. These nitrates are a powerful weapon in your armoury as they help increase blood flow to the heart and working muscles and you’ll feel really smug too…
Reinforce those positive affirmations:
You CAN do this, you have followed your training plan; you’ve put in those long miles. This means that the day itself can now be a celebration of all that hard work. Do not let the negative committee in your head tell you otherwise! Remember that ‘MORE IS IN YOU’…ALWAYS! And that all your friends and family are rooting for you and do not actually ‘GIVE A SHIT’ how long it takes you, just so long as you’re ok!
The evening before the race:
Eat a carbohydrate-rich meal, but don’t eat new foods. Eat early in the evening to give your body plenty of time to digest and ‘get rid’ of any waste products. Avoid eating high-fibre foods…obvs! Then, it’s early to bed and a good night’s sleep (repeating your mantra as you drift off ‘more is in me; more is in me! and ‘no one gives a shit!’…well, they do, but you know what I mean!
Race day itself:
Eat breakfast at least two hours before, slow-release carbs and some fruit would be ideal; I’d give the All Bran and curried porridge a miss! If you’re used to drinking coffee, then enjoy your morning Americano/cappuccino and a maybe a fresh orange juice. Treat this as your last main energy source, not The Last Supper; you will be OK!
Allow plenty of time to get to the start as you might want to squeeze one last wee (or alternative) out…just take a very deep breath in, shut your eyes and pretend you’re in a French service station if you have to use a portaloo…
If race day is particularly warm, then try to ensure your warm-up doesn’t raise your core temperature too much; forward and reverse lunges and some carry overs would be ok. And don’t ‘give a shit’ if people look at you weirdly; running a marathon is a big deal, so warming up is important.
If you’re working to a specific target time and know what your mile splits need to be, then stick to this plan. It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment and euphoria of those around you and go off too fast; be disciplined, don’t be a competitive nob: stick to YOUR plan.
The same is true of those not aiming for a specific time, you will know what kind of pace you’ve been running at (look at your 20 mile time) and then find a ‘Pace Setter’ who is running a pace that you can comfortably run. You can then stick with them for the first 6-8 miles and see how you feel, then tell them they’re running way too slow for you and speed off (jokes!) this way you should ensure you don’t go off too fast.
And finally, remember to enjoy the experience, you’ve worked hard to earn the right to be there on the start line; soak up the atmosphere and feel the love of all those cheering you on; we do actually ‘give a shit’ but if you’ve had to ‘do a shit’ during the race…we won’t be hanging around; we’ll be off to drink (non sodium-based) cocktails and celebrate your success vicariously!