'm sure you have all completed your training programmes and are now approaching the final stage of your schedules; the 'taper'. Below is a 10 point guide (OK 11) that will help ensure you take care of the finer details that will help your race day run as smooth as possible. Make sure you have a great day by eliminating some of the potential hazards that could hinder your final race prep and put to waste all of the blood, sweat and tears you’ve paid with during your training.
(1) Carbo Loading
Having experimented with this during my marathons to date, I’d recommend a 9 day carbo loading cycle. Carbs are your body’s preferred energy source, so the cycle is designed to ensure your body is ‘fully loaded’ for the race in terms of energy stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver.
Following the 9 day protocol outlined below (assuming a Sunday race), we have 3 days of depletion, 3 days of loading and then 3 final days of maintenance. During these 9 days, ideally you will be training for the first 3, resting during the next 3 and then only very lightly training in the last 3.
The %’s in the table represent the proportion of every meal that you should have made up with carbohydrates. Ideally, these are from your nutrient dense sources such as:
• Sweet Potatoes
• Pasta (if you’re not wheat/gluten intolerant)
but use what you're used to as Race Week isn't the time to start experimenting!! But don’t forget to take in some lean protein too to help slow down the digestion of the carbs & give you steadier energy levels not only during the 9 days but during your training too. Protein is a key element of your nutrition that will speed recovery for your muscles which will need to be constantly repaired and strengthened during your marathon build up.
(2) Sleep - By grabbing the extra z’s during your taper, you’re giving your body the time it needs to repair itself and get ready for the big race. Your body doesn’t get stronger whilst you’re training. It does it when you’re asleep/at rest! So get repairing...
Click here for>> Information on quality sleep for performance by Drew Price and Neuroscientist Russel Foster!
(3) Mock Race Day: Evening Praperation
I’ve found it really helpful to treat the weekend before as a mock race weekend. By working to the same timings that you’re going to need to stick with come the real race weekend, it’ll hopefully come as second nature for you. Think about treating the Saturday as if you were going to race on the Sunday. You’ll need to think about the timings of your meals both the night before and on the day itself, laying out your kit, going through all your checklists etc. Get used to doing it so that you’re mind is at rest when you hit the pillow the night before Race Day.
(4) Mock Race Day Preparation
After a Mock Race Day Evening, get up and go for your run at the same time as you will be racing for real the following Sunday. You want your body to be ready to run at that time of the morning, so you’ll need to get up to get your breakfast down you etc. It’s all about familiarising yourself with what you’re going to do on Race Day.
(5) Hydration - Make sure you start to think about your hydration from about 6 days out. Keep on top of your daily hydration and check the colour of your pee. Light straw colour/clear is what you want, otherwise you may be dehydrated. I swear by Nuun hydration tablets, but stick with whatever you’ve been used to as you don’t want to be starting with any new nutrition at this late stage.
Click here >>James Collins Head Nutritionist for Arsenal Football Club & assists experienced and elite athletes in their nutrition and hydration tells us how to fuel during a marathon.
Easily overlooked but could mean the difference between a ‘comfortable’ race rather than a ‘bloody mess’ when you undo your laces! Keep them short and file down any sharp edges, otherwise you’ll soon know about them as you pound the pavements and you won’t be able to do too much about it mid‐race (barring sticking a plaster over the offending toe!). Make sure you do this at least 5 days before the race, although cutting the nails too much can be just as devastating as not enough!
For most marathons, there’s usually an expo of some sort to head along to. I love a bit of #runnerporn as much as the
next runner, but the day before the marathon is not the best time to be on your feet for a long time. If you can, get to the expo 2 days before the marathon. However, DO NOT buy any new kit to wear for Race Day! If you’re heading there the day before, grab your race pack and get back home/to your accommodation and get your feet up.
(8) Pre Race Day Evening Preparation - Having had a Mock Race Day Evening the weekend before, none of this should come as any surprise. If you’re out for a gentle run today, go out in all your race kit for one final jaunt. Try to chill out as much as possible today. Having gone through your checklist a few times, laid out your kit and gobbled the last meal before bed at a reasonable hour, it’s time to set your alarm clocks and get some shut eye. Marathon Race Day is almost here – its like Christmas Eve for Marathon runners!
This is where you will need to think about your energy intake and put a plan together, for a more detailed idea, read more by Top Nutritionist James Collins
(9) Packing List
Remember, it’s always better to be over prepared! If you’re travelling to another city/country, you will want to go through your list before hitting the road/heading to the airport.
(10) Race Day - a comprehensive race day plan and strategy can be found here
1) Mum WAS right – always Go before you Go!
2) Guzzle breakfast at least 2 before race so that you’re not running with a heavy stomach
3) Have 2 alarm clocks (1 of the non ‐ digital type) set the night before to be safe
4) Avoid unnecessary stress, plan on getting to the starting area in good time
5) Take warm clothes to wear/something to sit on for before/after the race
6) Have pre ‐ designated cheering/meeting places on/after the course for your loved ones
7) Warm up thoroughly (can we insert a link to the warm up articles?)
8) Stick to your race plan
9) make sure you have your name on your racing vest/top for extra support that is priceless when you are hurting
10) Drink small amounts and regularly (feeling thirsty means you’re already dehydrated) And 2 extra ones because... well why not!?
11) don't forget to smile for the cameras and especially as you cross that beautiful finish line
12) once you get that medal, wear it with pride – you’ve earned every single ounce of it!
(10.5) Recovery - You can read the full recovery check list (print this off) by clicking here
This won't necessarily affect your race but it will certainly affect the rest of your week. Recovery is an essential component of your preparation and for me, it starts from the moment you’ve celebrated crossing the line. Don’t stop moving and definitely don’t sit down just yet, as this is a surefire way of seizing up. Instead, enjoy the weight of the medal around your neck, grab what goody bags and food/drink is handed out and keep moving. Ideally, this is where you’ll do one of your first stretching sessions before heading out to grab your stuff from the bag drop and meet up with loved ones. I recommend an ice bath as soon after the race as possible, or mobile ice compression if you can, before possibly grabbing a snooze. However, to kick start your recovery get some quality food and drink in asap as you will have burnt the best part of 2000‐3000 calories over the course of the marathon. So it’s time to replenish your energy stores again and help your body recover from the punishment you’ve just put it through.
The aches and pains can get pretty severe in the first few days after the marathon. This is where stretching, foam rolling, even massage if you can stand the pain or ice baths and as much rest as possible will all help. Even a very gentle swim or walk can help loosen up those tired/stiff limbs. Finally, I'd also recommend walking down stairs backwards if you don’t mind strange looks from passer bys, as walking down them the normal way can be very sore on calves/quads!