It happens to a lot of runners. You set your sights on a big race, log your miles and put your social life on hold, only to run into a roadblock in the last four to six weeks – that ‘monster month' when you're at your peak but still weeks away from race day.
After all that hard work, are your race dreams shot? Not as long as you stay focused.
"In the last few weeks, people think they can play catch-up, when it's of no benefit," says coach Keith Anderson (fullpotential.co.uk). "You need to stay strong mentally." So stop panic-training and take the smart detours around your obstacles.
Roadblock: You missed a long run
If you can't get in one – or even a few – of your final long runs, don't panic. "Look back at all the training you have done. Long runs are just one of the bricks in the wall," says Anderson.
At this point in your training, you've probably completed several long runs, so you already have the endurance you'll need to finish. The extra rest may work in your favour.
If you've missed lots of key workouts, don't be afraid to reset your racing goals. Instead of setting a PB, maybe run this race for experience.
Roadblock: You start to ache
In the month leading up to a marathon, twinges that you've been able to ignore tend to intensify. "No one gets through training without some aches and pains," says Lewis Maharam, medical director of the New York City Marathon.
When you're feeling achy, try the standard treatment of rest, ice, compression and elevation. You may need to scale back your mileage by 30 to 50 per cent. To stay in shape, do some cycling or pool running.
Of course, if you can't walk or run without pain, the only running you should do is to a doctor. A physiotherapist can work out if your injury is something you can work through, or whether you should take a step back, and focus on another race.
Roadblock: You're bored
If you look at that 20-miler on your schedule and feel like you can't drum up the will to get out of the door, you're not alone. It can happen any time, but seasoned runners are especially susceptible to burnout in the final weeks before race day.
But you can snap out of it. Try doing something different: swap a hard run with an easy one, run with a friend, or have someone drop you off 20 miles from home and run back.
"You need variety in your training to stop you from becoming stale and bored, and stay away from this mindset that you've got to keep doing more and more every week," says Anderson. The point is to remember why you enjoy running in the first place.