10 pre-race tips for a successful Marathon

Updated: Sep 25

1. Do less: Four weeks pre-event, shorten your long runs. If you don’t, you will more than likely leave your best marathon in a training run. So if you have regularly been hitting the 16 to 18-mile mark for the previous couple of months on your long-run don't worry that you have to hit the magic 22-mile marker to make it!

2. Keep the routine & Practice in your race day kit:  Keep the frequency of your runs but just cut back on the intensity and mileage. Your body likes the routine, so don't stop or do nothing. This won't help. Just be sensible and focus on enjoying your easy runs. If you enjoy running in events, do a quick 5km or a 10km tempo run, or, as a more structured alternative, some 200m sprints with 2 mins rest in-between. Practice in your marathon kit so the gear you are wearing feels good and you avoid any wardrobe malfunctions.

3. Focus on your training positives and avoid #maranoia: Inevitably those around you will ask how you are feeling? Many runners report an increase in self-doubt in the weeks preceding a marathon. Yes, #maranoia is an actual term. Put it, along with your under-training or overtraining fears in a little box, lock it and throw away the key. Instead, focus on the positives from your training and remind yourself that this is what you wanted to do. Additionally, you'll probably sense niggles as your body recovers, and sickness can still take hold. If you do get sick, rest more and perhaps cross train instead by choosing a low-impact piece of equipment in the gym or spin bike. Stay strong. You've got this!

4. Sleep like a pro:  Sleep more and rest in the lead up to the Marathon. If you can get another thirty minutes a day for two weeks beforehand, that's considered optimal preparation. Reviewing the schedules of the elite runners in the group, it seemed they did nothing else except sleep. During your tapering phase, don't replace the "extra" time you now have thanks to lower training volume with other activity. That extra time is for sleep.  Avoid time on your feet the 48-hours before your race. Don't go on a sightseeing walking tour the city the day before your marathon.  You want to arrive at the start line feeling fresh and confident.

5. Travel like a pro: Hydrate well and avoid alcohol. If you're staying with friends, avoid the temptation to stay up late and chit chat/drink like a fish. Stay away from other sick, coughing, spluttering passengers while in transit. Stretch while traveling if on a plane or train. Get up walk around. Take a pre-prepared meal with you if this is practical. Make sure you have pre-booked a taxi for race day.  If you are staying close to the race venue, walking to the start is a good option rather than needing to listen to the 200 others on the event bus talking about what might happen or when their Auntie's, sister's boyfriend nailed seven marathons in seven days with no preparation, on one leg and whilst carrying a washing machine. Stick to the basics. Prearrange a late check out at your hotel.  Organize your transport arrangements to and from the event. Do a dry run if you can. There is no worse feeling than realizing your car is six miles from a Marathon finishing line when you're walking like John Wayne.

6. Eat like a pro: T-minus 7 days, reduce your #protein intake to almost nil for three days. T-minus 4 days, re-introduced the protein and increase your #carbohydrate consumption by 100% to almost 80% of your target #macros to store more carbs in your system. The science says that because you starved your body of protein for three days, when energy arrives in the form of increased carbs,  a few more kilo-joules get tucked away for when they will be needed.

7. Relax and enjoy yourself. The day before the race, eat normally but drink week. I opt for four electrolyte tablets with my 2 liters of water. No alcohol though please.

8. Eat early on race day and pack in the carbs:  Get up four hours before the race and force down as much pre-prepared brown pasta twirls, raisins, apple, almonds and maple syrup as you can stomach.  Opt for two black coffees in your hotel room and one liter of water before you go. Several toilet trips later you will be walking to the start in race kit, feeling like a giant potato. This is a good thing.

9. Use gels:  Almost everyone I know who ias after a facist race time on a Marathon will use gels. Each gel provides approx. 110 calories. Given you'll burn several thousand during a Marathon, this doesn't seem like a lot, but it will help delay the inevitable onset of fatigue. During A typical road marathon , I consume six gels: one before the race, one on the start line, four during the race at 40mins, 80 mins,v120 mins, 120mins, and 160mins respectively. How will you carry the gels? A good solution is a Lycra running belt with no buckles that tucks under your shorts and vest. It amazing how many gels you can stuff into one of these!

10. Prepare how you're getting to and from the Start/Finish lines:  Get yourself ready for race day, including organising your gear well in advance. Get to the race early, scout out where you will leave your bags/kit, have a warm-up, find where the start line and your starting pen is. If you're in a hotel the night before, you need to have considered your transportation options. Choose good, double layered running socks. Don't buy new shoes. Run in the ones you have trained in. 

Finally, Smile! You've earned the right to stand on the start line!  According to common folklore, approximately 1% of the population will run a Marathon in their lifetime. You have already or will be part of that club. I salute you and hope you find some of my experiences useful. Remember they are exactly that-my experiences.