With one week to go until race day, it's all about staying rested and getting mentally prepared. After months of hard marathon training, you'd think runners would embrace the R&R of the taper. Not always. Both veterans and newcomers often find it difficult to scale back their mileage, kick up their feet, and coast into race day. "One of the best gifts you can give yourself is well-rested legs on race day," says Janet Hamilton, an exercise physiologist and author of Running Strong And Injury-Free (Running Strong). To get those rested legs, coaches typically recommend a taper of two to three weeks but even if you're a week out from the start and you haven't started your taper, no is the time to make all the difference.
In the final week, aim to sleep for eight hours a night and stay off your feet as much as you can – reducing stress on your body will allow it to top off its glycogen and maintain adequate hydration levels. To combat nerves, schedule film nights, start a new book, or visualise races you've enjoyed. "Pump your mind full of positives," says Cindra Kamphoff, PhD, associate professor of sports psychology at Minnesota State University, US. "Use all your senses to create how you'd like your race to go."
HOW TO RUN IT
"This is a time of high nerves, and some athletes feel they need to run to calm themselves," says Hamilton. This is fine – but take it easy and reduce your running to just four days this week. New marathoners should run no more than three or four miles at a time, while advanced runners can do a couple of six-milers early in the week.
A very light, race-pace workout early in the week can help you stay sharp: run one to four miles at marathon pace with a one-mile warm-up and cool-down.
However, first-timers looking to simply finish shouldn't worry about a sharpening workout. "It's more important to get to the start well-rested and injury-free," says Hamilton.