There’s only a week to go to the 2013 Dublin Marathon. Those of us who have run marathons before will already know how we’ll manage the next seven days – while still feeling excited and slightly apprehensive, of course. (You never take a marathon for granted, no matter how experienced you are.)
If next Monday’s race is your first marathon then you’re in uncharted waters. How should you prepare? How much should you run this week? Do you really need to eat your body weight in pasta the night before the marathon?
Different runners have different rituals and techniques for the pre-race week, all developed through experience and advice.
So, with that derrière-covering caveat made clear, here’s what I’ll be doing this week.
Sleep: Getting plenty of sleep should be your top priority this week, so that you recharge your batteries after months of training. Your goal is to be as fresh as possible at the start line on race day.
Start tonight: go to bed as early as you can. Children and work can make this hard, I’m sure, so just do your best – a quick nap can do wonders. Television and the internet are the enemy here: this is not the week to start a new boxed-set or to get sucked into a YouTube black hole. Cut back on caffeine and have your evening meal as early as possible.
Expect not to get much sleep on the night before the marathon: you’ll be fizzing with adrenaline and excitement. Instead, plan to get plenty of sleep on Friday night and maybe even some naps during Saturday and Sunday. Any sleep you get on Sunday night will then be a bonus – and even with little sleep on the night before the race, adrenaline at the start line will see you through.
Running: Looking over my old training plans, I see that I ran my two best marathon times after a final week where I only ran twice, each time just for a mile or two. I reckon that recovery is more important for me than more miles in the marathon build-up. So, this week I’ll go out for two miles on Wednesday evening and just one mile on Sunday morning, the day before the race, to get in the mood and shoo away the butterflies.
Other runners prefer to keep their regular running schedule but with less distance. If it’s your first marathon, then let tiredness be your judge – if you feel like you need to recover and rest up, then you probably do. But I’d advise less running and more rest than what it says in your marathon training plan.
Hydration: Like sleep, watering yourself is something to attend to all week. Regular sips are more effective at hydrating you than glugging back a bottle in one go. Always have water with you. Cut back on caffeine and alcohol.
Diet: You’ve probably heard of carb-loading, the idea that you eat loads of carbohydrates in the days before a marathon. On Friday I’ll start to increase my normal carb intake – not huge plates of pasta for every meal but regular meals with a little more carb content that usual. Between meals I’ll snack on things like fig rolls – and I’ll ensure I’m well-hydrated too, of course.
Include fresh fruit and vegetables too, so that your system stays regular and you don’t feel constipated on the morning of the race.
Gear: Check your race-day running gear today – avoid the nasty surprise of finding it still in the laundry basket the night before the race. Make sure you already have essentials like Vaseline (for pre-race anti-chafing), Sudocreme (for post-race treatment of any chafing) and plasters.
Also, do you have bin liners? They make ideal rain-proof ponchos for keeping warm while you wait at the start. Just cut a hole in the bottom of your bin liner and stick your head through it!
Logistics: Do you know how to get to the start area? Will you need to find a parking space? Plan your race-day morning so that you have plenty of time and arrive relaxed. There’s no such thing as arriving too early – you can relax, find a toilet, warm up, chat with other runners and start focusing on the race, while last-minuters panic and expend valuable energy.
Good luck with your final week of marathon preparation!