This is an article I wrote back in 2013 ahead of my second marathon. I’m kinda losing my shizzle from time to time this week so dug it out for inspo. I am sharing it with you in the hope you get something positive and reassurming from it! As always, take what you need and leave the rest behind. Oh and iin case you didnt know, you are running a marathon on Sunday and YOU ARE FABULOUS!
It’s almost 18 months since I started training for my first half marathon. I signed up for the Clontarf Half in July and started to build up the miles. My plan was to run it as best I could and if I survived I would sign up for the Dublin Marathon. I am now just under three weeks away from marathon number two and although I am feeling every emotion from anxiety and guilt to excitement and exhilaration, I am so glad I did it!
I learned so much along the way from people who had run it before and also, more importantly, from mistakes I made during training. Mistakes are our best teachers. Here a few things that helped me get through the marathon taper and the marathon itself, I hope they help you run your best race.
With just under two weeks to go (Eeek!) it’s time to taper. After weeks of carefully choreographed long runs, speed intervals, tempo sessions & races, taper time can be tough, but it is vital that you do it. The idea is to wind down, heal any damage caused over the past few brutal weeks and start building your reserves and strength to get you to the start & finish line in Fitzwilliam Square. I try to think of taper as being as important as all of those weeks of running, you need it for optimum performance. So, suck it up like you had to those 20 milers because it’s worth it!
They will haunt you but do not panic, it’s not an injury! Now is the time for your muscles to relax and in doing so they are going to twinge and ache. Phantom pains are totally normal and tend to be your nerves are kicking in. You will conjure up every scenario possible to convince yourself resting is bad for you and that you would be better off running. But at this late stage there’s not much you can do to improve your performance, but there’s a lot you can do to mess it up. Self-doubt will creep in, you’ll think you haven’t done enough, just another speed session will sort it right? Wrong! Whatever program you have followed has worked for someone else so trust the taper and ignore the phantoms!
You are not unfit and you fat!
Now that you have dramatically reduced your running you are not getting your mileage fix, you are out your comfort zone and you may start to feel sluggish, unfit and fat. Don’t be mad!!! Stick to your taper program, you have worked so hard up until now, do not give up! Remember why you are doing this! Keep moving. You have to reduce your mileage but you don’t have to stop completely, remember to add a little cross training in or light jogs to help your mind rather than your body!
Keep well hydrated in the days before the marathon. Dehydration will affect your performance massively, so make drinking water a priority. If you are hydrating properly your urine should be light yellow, take a look!
Your body needs glycogen for the full 26.2 miles. If it runs out it will turn to fat for energy which means your body will have to slow down as it turns to its fat stores. You need to get as many carbs on board during the 48hrs before the marathon. Aim for approx. 4g of carbs per kg of body weight, with every gram of stored carbohydrate you store an extra 3g of water. Successful carb loading means you will put on about 4lbs before race day. You need this to be strong enough to cross the finish line. I just focus on my meals being 80% carbs, the rest being made up of protein & fats.
Stay away from alcohol, it dehydrates the body and will affect both your sleep pattern and performance on the day. Although I have a friend who loves a small glass of red with his pasta the night before – whatever works for you and has been working during training!
Try & test everything you plan to use/wear/drink from/listen to on the day. Do not wear new gear, I always have to fight the urge to buy a new outfit but silence the fashionista and tune into the runner! You do not want any surprises i.e. chafing, blisters etc. The same goes for your earphones and iPod, Garmin, Gel Belt, Sunnies, Cap.
Remember to recharge your Garmin, your iPod or whatever gadgets you will use on the day.
Spend time on your play list if you run with music. I knew the miles that would be hard for me so I downloaded inspirational speeches and listened to those when the going got tough. These really helped spur me on and give me an extra boost.
Be aware of what you wear on your feet the days before the marathon. Wear shoes that are comfortable to minimise any aches or unwanted blisters. I bath my feet regularly the week before in Epsom salts to relax and detox.
Get to bed early the days before. You probably won’t sleep the night before the marathon with nerves and anticipation so get those hours in on Friday and Saturday night.
Have a plan a and plan b. A being your ideal race, B is your fall-back plan. What pace will you run at? When will you take your gels? Having a plan will help with nerves.
Get everything ready well in advance to eliminate stress the night before. Here’s a helpful checklist:
Gear: Hat or visor, runners,
short or long sleeve top (have both ready), Sports bra, Shorts/leggings for race (weather dependant),Socks.
Vaseline or other anti-chafing cream
Running Belt if you run with one
Track suit: I wore an old track suit and threw the bottoms away just before I started and the top a couple of miles in. You’ll be cold starting off.
Water bottles: One for the journey to the start line and one for the race.
Toilet paper – pre race necessity! I snook into the Merrion last year!
Watch or GPS
Gels or sports drink if you’ve been training with them
Energy bar/Banana if you’ll be standing around for a while before the race
Extra socks, top, shorts, pants
Food – SO IMPORTANT
Plastic bag for dirty clothes
Cash (for cake!)
Last year I watched inspirational movies and documentaries the nights before race day. Seeing other people accomplish their dreams helps you focus on how important this is for you and gives you that extra boost. Seeing others really living their dream helps to erase any self-doubt you might be feeling.
Remember why you are doing this. Keep that at the forefront of your mind throughout and you will get to the finish line. This year I’ll reread the final chapters of Gerry Duffys incredibly inspirational book Tick Tock Ten. If he can run a deca triathlon I can run 26.2 miles!
The most important tip…
Run your race. Don’t worry about anyone else on the course but yourself. You have sacrificed a lot and earned your place at the start line. This is your chance. Don’t worry about anyone else’s pace, there will always be someone faster or stronger than you. Focus on doing YOUR very best, enjoy the experience of each mile, YOUR marathon.
Remember that running is a privilege, this is your choice, enjoy the amazing journey ahead!