Just a month left until marathon day. Yikes! But never mind, you’ve done the most important part of your training now, right?
Wrong. In fact, the last four weeks before a marathon can play a larger role in your finishing time than the entire preceding 16 weeks of training. During these all-important 30 days, you’ll need to bring all of your hard work together and advance your fitness to its highest possible state. The good news is that this last push is one of those rare times when training more easily will actually make you fitter. Here’s what you should be doing now in order to nail the final furlong before the #missionmarathon London Marathon start line.
1. GO LONG
You’ll have heard of 'tapering' before a marathon, and that’s important (more of this in a minute), but before you take your foot off the accelerator you need to drive further than you have before: with the longest of your long runs. That means an 18-20 miler about three or four weeks before race day. Scientifically, this acts as a stimulus to store more glycogen in your legs and improve the oxygen-carrying potential of your blood vessels. But in simple terms, it’s a dress rehearsal for your body before the big show. Just be sure to recover properly afterwards (something like a Vifit Sport recovery shake is ideal). This should be the longest run of your training programme and should not be taken lightly – even if there is a full marathon on the horizon.
2. LIGHT THE TAPER
With your long run out of the way, it’s time to taper down. Luckily, this is just a case of simple arithmetic: in the last three weeks, reduce your peak mileage by 30% in the first week, 50% in the second and 70% in race week (not including the marathon itself). Stay fueled up and rebuild your energy with something like Vifit Sport with 20g of protein. This all gives your body a chance for final rest and repair, as well as an opportunity to convert your slow twitch muscle into fast twitch, giving you that invaluable burst of pace you’ll need during a race. Just don’t get greedy. Yes, you could run further, but that will hurt – not help – your race. A marathon is one test where last minute cramming doesn’t produce results.
3. DRESS TO IMPRESS
As you move into the final fortnight, your training runs are getting noticeably shorter. Which is the perfect opportunity to practice your marathon pace – in your marathon kit. Aim for at least a couple of three mile runs at your exact race pace, in the trainers and clothes you’re intending to wear on the big day. Besides boosting your confidence, this’ll provide the last little piece of conditioning you’ll need to lock into your rhythm on marathon day. Plus, it’ll allow you to make any necessary comfort tweaks to your outfit – and dramatically reduce your chances of blisters and chafing during your marathon. If possible, try these runs with the sports drinks and energy gels being provided on the day. After all, your stomach needs conditioning too.
4. FUEL SMART
Your golden rule now is carb-loading. And your absolute no-no is fat-loading. Fatty snacks will slow your all-important muscle recovery, while carbohydrates will build your crucial glycogen stores. It’s the carbs after all – not fat or protein – that’ll fuel you on race day. This doesn’t mean increasing the amount you eat – since you’re tapering you’ll be expending fewer calories. Instead, you just need to increase the percentage of your calories that come from carbohydrate rich foods, like pasta, potatoes, bread, and fruit juice.
5. CHILL OUT
In the final week before a marathon, you should reduce the outside stresses in your life as much as possible. Work ahead to have office projects under control, politely refuse social invitations, steer completely clear of booze and focus your energy on sleeping like a champ. Mental energy can be just as important as physical energy, so you need to ensure both banks are topped up. An easy way to help this process is to watch comedy films or TV shows in the evenings during race week. The simple act of smiling or laughing will help allay any stress or nervous energy, reminding you that you’re lucky to be able to run this race in the first place. Not to mention how delicious that first post-race pint will taste.