It’s The Final Countdown…

Manchester Marathon Race Number with 'Alex' on.

To coin a phrase used by a number of my first time marathon athletes when this landed on their doormats a couple of days before their last long run; “Shit just got real”.

In the last few weeks before your first marathon the reality of the situation can suddenly hit you; so I have a few tips…

Assuming you have followed a sensible training plan and managed a long run of 16-20 miles, then you have done enough to finish a marathon. Whilst I’m not going to say “do whatever you want” in the last 3 weeks before the marathon, its fair to say that providing you don’t do anything completely stupid and injure yourself then you don’t need to panic about doing ‘the perfect taper’.

Having said that; there is plenty of evidence that adhering strictly to a 3 week taper gives significant performance benefits over a 1 week ‘ill disciplined’ taper and most marathon plans follow the science – the challenge for you, the athlete, is trusting the process. When it comes to running during the taper; less, is indeed, more…

After months of large volumes of running, you will start to wonder whether more is in fact more and whether a few more km here and there during the taper might not be a bad idea, particularly in the last week where you will be doing a fraction of the volume of a normal week. But its time to trust the process, remind yourself that there is life outside marathon training and that you can find other things to fill your time!

Carbohydrate loading or ‘carb loading’ has been studied for many decades and their is plenty of evidence that it works. The current thinking, and sports science is constantly changing, is that there is no need to change your diet until 3 days before the race, at which point you need to try and get 8-10g of carbohydrate per kilograms of body weight per day; for a 50kg person this would be 400g of carbohydrate which would be almost 2kg of cooked rice – which would use your entire calorie ‘budget’ for the day just in rice – so you may need to use high carb supplements to achieve this.

In advance of race day, make sure you read the race pack, preferably more than once…

And so we get to race day; I’m going to say it again, if you’ve followed a good marathon training plan they you should know exactly what you’re doing. For each of your long runs you will have planned what you’re doing in the days before, got your kit sorted the day before, practised your nutrition strategy on the long runs and, apart from the extra weight of a race number on your shirt, this should just be one more long run (albeit with admiring fans and a medal at the end).

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