Having just completed the Berlin Marathon, Anthony Doyle knows well how you are feeling at this stage of your marathon journey and has some practical and valuable advice to keep you motivated and feeling strong.
You have spent the past three to four months training hard, running hundreds of miles and probably sacrificing much of your social life to get yourself marathon ready. At this stage of your training, you should have built up to and run at least two to three 18-22-mile distances in your long runs.
With only weeks to go until you take to the start line and aim to complete this year’s KBC Dublin Marathon, you should be reducing your training load and allowing your body and mind to recover in preparation for marathon day. This period of your training schedule is known to all long-distance runners as ‘tapering’.
Staying motivated while tapering
I find that from 10 days to one week out from the marathon, I start to feel a little restless. The marathon can’t come quick enough! Apart from getting out and doing some snappy short runs to keep your legs moving, you will still find that you have plenty of energy and this is a good thing. Research has showed that tapering is essential for running a successful race. Some studies found that tapering properly can give you up to three per cent improvement in your performance. This can be the difference between running a new PB, or not.
You have done all the hard work and you are in a good place. Appreciate the easier training sessions in the final few days and use this time to put the final touches to your marathon preparations. Cutting back on your mileage, eating more and sleeping in all sound great in theory but in practice you can find yourself feeling restless and in some cases a bit grumpy as well as having a fear of losing your fitness.
It’s extremely important that you recover well from your final long training run and reduce your mileage in the two to three weeks leading up to your marathon in order to reach your optimum level of performance.
Flicks and chill
To reassure yourself on your decision to run a marathon, why not watch some motivational movies or Netflix documentaries.
My top flicks are:
- Eliud (YouTube)
- The Barkley Marathons (Netflix)
- Finding Traction (Netflix)
- Losing Sight of Shore (Netflix)
Trust your training
After months of training for your marathon, it is common to feel more than a little anxious as race day gets near. In the final days leading up to your race, you will want to do everything you can to ensure all the hard work you have put in is not undone by a sudden last-minute mishap. Take some time out and write down your plan for the week leading up to and including your race. I always set myself short-term goals in the marathon. An example of this is to break your marathon down into 5km or 10km blocks and run these distances. I find this helps me to stay focused as well as maintaining good energy levels.
Do not start too fast
When the marathon starts, it may take up to 10 minutes before you to cross the starting line especially if you have lined up towards the back of your designated wave. Once you start to move forward, use this time to focus on your thoughts, stay calm and relaxed. Many beginners start out too fast and pay the price for this mistake in a very short period. Aim to start out at a moderate pace, be in control of your breathing (where you can hold a conversation comfortably). Give your body time to settle into a good running rhythm and maintain the same pace for the entire distance.
You have got this!
You’ve done the hard work. Take confidence from this. Appreciate what you are about to take on and don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Research has shown that smiling can keep you relaxed, help you work through pain and maintain a positive mindset! Kipchoge is known for using this tactic and if it is good enough for him, I think we could all give it a try!
Example race week training plan:
8-10 miles: 2 miles easy pace (EP); 4-6 miles marathon pace (MP); 2 miles EP
3-5 miles EP
1 mile warm up; 8×1 minute half-marathon pace with 30-second slow jog recovery; 1 mile cool down
Anthony Doyle is a Health and Fitness Lifestyle Coach and Personal Trainer