How to nail the final weeks before the marathon

April is finally here and the London Marathon is just a few short weeks away, so this  blog is designed to give you the tips you need to get the final weeks spot on.

Many runners will have found their training a little interrupted by recent weather conditions, and the temptation might now be to try to catch up for missed runs or illness. As we approach ‘the taper’ (aka the reduction of exercise before a competition or race) the biggest danger will be trying to do too much too close to race day leaving yourself tired.

Everything you need to know about tapering

The taper is all about reducing your training gradually to leave your fresh on race day without losing fitness.

When should I run my last longest run?

Your longest key long run should be 3-4 weeks out – no closer than that. Once you’re 2 weeks out, this might reduce to 1 hour 45 minute runs, with the final 30 minutes at your goal race pace. Once you’re a week out, take it down to 75 minutes or so – very easy and relaxed.

How long should my last key run be?

Your key long run doesn’t need to be more than 3 hours 30 minutes (no matter what mileage that gives you) and for many 2 hours 45 minutes to 3 hours 15 minutes is enough. Consider running the final 60 minutes at your goal race pace.

Tip: Consider a park run or faster 5km run on the Saturday the week before the race, as it’s a great way to stay feeling ‘sharp’.

Tip: Aim to keep the frequency of your running the same, so if you are running 3-4 times a week normally, keep to 3-4 runs a week in the final 2 weeks. However, the volume will reduce by about 30% two weeks out, and then in race week keep yourself ticking over with some 30 minute runs.

The final week

Reduce your training to just some easy runs that are no longer than 30 minutes. Get plenty of rest and don’t be tempted to start tackling all your big DIY jobs… spend the extra time with your feet up.

Stick to your normal diet with a slight emphasis on carbohydrates – don’t go mad with a carb load. Aim to maintain the fuel you had in your peak weeks of training, because as you cut back your runs you’ll store more of that precious carbohydrate as glycogen naturally.

Stay sensibly hydrated all week with 2-3 litres of fluids, perhaps including some electrolytes.

Look back at all the good training you have achieved when you have any negative thoughts. Aim to draw out 5-10 real key positives from your training, write them down and reinforce them in your mind.

This is not the time to try or do anything different – stick to your routine, don’t get caught up with trying new products or kit at this stage.

As you’re not training as much you may feel a little sluggish. This is totally normal. You may also find you are a little nervous and irrational with loved ones… warn them in advance!

Take care at the expo! It’s an amazing and inspiring time going to pick up your number, but if you spend hours and hours on your feet you’ll wake up the next day feeling tired and heavy. Get in, get inspired, get your number, catch up with the Heads Together team, then get home and put your feet up.

Get your race kit ready including shoes, race number and pins, spare laces, Vaseline, a hat, gloves, old clothes, a bin liner, toilet paper, food for after the race and anything else you may need – also, make sure to plan where you will meet your friends and family afterwards.

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The final 24 hours

Have a very relaxed day! Stay off your feet as much as possible – watch a movie, read a book – but keep your activity to the essentials.

Stay positive and focused about your race plan. Remind yourself of those key positives, then try to relax about the next day.

Try a 10-15 minute jog the day before the race. This works for many runners to keep their legs fresh for the next day and also to help calm the nerves. Do this in the morning and keep it super easy.

Graze on carbohydrates and have a number of small meals. Avoid a pasta party and huge main meal on the Saturday night – it will likely only leave you feeling bloated and sluggish when you wake up. Try to eat your main meal relatively early at 6-7pm, and remember if you are staying over in London you’ll need to plan where you eat in advance.

Stay hydrated but don’t overdo it. Small regular sips on water or water with electrolytes throughout the day do the job. And try to avoid caffeine or alcohol – especially later into the evening.

You may not have the greatest sleep the night before. This is totally normal (and understandable!). The key thing is to stay with your feet up, so read a book if you need to, but don’t get up and walk about your house/hotel.

Good luck and we will see you at the expo!

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