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Marathon Race Week Training - the do's and don'ts



You've put in the work, now it's time to prepare for your marathon. Preparing for a marathon is a great experience with training programs lasting 16 weeks or more. Done right, knowing how to handle the week of your event is easy as you welcome the lighter training load and enjoy the rest.


While a taper period in training (reducing load) is welcomed by me with sleep ins and fresher legs, some people often get overwhelmed and feel they are losing fitness, they become frustrated and feel slow.


Race week can be confusing with lots going on with travel plans, pet sitting, wrapping up work to name a few. The final week before the race is crucial so that you are on the start line focused, prepared and ready to run. Here are the essential do’s and don’ts to ensure you're ready for your marathon.


Do’s:


1. Taper Properly in your Marathon Training Prep

Reduce your duration and intensity in training: Tapering is the process of reducing training load to freshen up before an event. It helps your body recover and build strength along with building your immunity. Reduce your running volume in the final week. Include a couple of shakeout runs, a race pace test run (example below) and a light strength workout to keep mobile without overload.


Include a small stride out and pace test preparation session no closer than three days out from your event. Keep the pick ups no longer than 45/60 seconds, then add a couple of 3-5min efforts afterwards running at your target race pace.


If you've tapered and prepared properly with a reduced load and intensity, this session will feel easy and give you the confidence for the weekend. Remember, we are no longer building fitness and endurance, we are mentally preparing for the race.



2. Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of fluids: Maintain optimal hydration throughout the week. Focus on water and electrolyte-rich drinks that are of high quality. You'll know you're hydrated well if your pee is clear and your peeing often.


From four days out, I'm drinking 2.5 to 3 litres of water each day with an electrolyte source such as Trainade, Skratch Labs or Pure Sports.


I'm also taking in a daily carbohydrate drink such as Tailwind or Maurten to plump myself full of glycogen.


Limit coffee and alcohol. These can dehydrate you and affect your sleep. If you plan on using caffeine as a race aid at the event I recommend reducing your intake of caffeine this week as you'll feel the effects of caffeine greater during your race. Trust me, for a marathon in the tail end you'll thank me for this.


3. Prioritize Sleep and Recovery

Get enough rest: Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is crucial for recovery and performance all throughout training. Limit screen time before bed. The training load has decreased so there should be more sleep ins.


Some of my best nights sleep are a steam room and magnesium supplement before bed. I have a pop up steam room at home from Sauna Pod that works well and finding benefit with Pillar Performance Magnesium.


4. Fuel Wisely

Eat balanced meals: Don't change too much in your diet than what you have normally eaten during heavy training weeks. I do recommend limiting highly processed foods and anything overly stimulating like sugar and caffeine.


There is enough anxiety in the thought of your race this weekend, we don't need that amplified!


5. Plan Your Race Day Logistics

Prepare your gear and race plan: Lay out your outfit, shoes and any nutrition you'll need and check in with friends who are also running to make sure nothing is forgotten. I am one to overpack and overthink these events and usually come home with clothes and equipment not even used.


Keep it simple. Wear your race gear and pack your gels in your shorts or pack and memorise where you have each item so you're not fumbling on the race.


Race event schedules are usually out in the 2 weeks before an event so make sure you read up on the route, logistics and other items such as drop bag locations and spectator spots.


6. Mentally prepare and think beyond your event

Relax and visualise your race and plan: How will you execute your run, how will you pace? Write down your plan or talk this through with your coach if you have one or bounce your ideas off an experienced running friend.


Read a running book or inspirational story with all the extra time you have instead of training! Draw on other athletes successes to lift your mental game and belief.


Often we feel we haven't done enough in our prep. There is never a perfect prep for an event, if you know of one then I want to know! Instead of feeling disappointed in yourself for certain training markers you may of missed due to sickness or other factors, focus on the positives and what worked for you in your training and lead up. Draw on other times in your life where you've performed or prevailed against all odds. Running a marathon is as much mental as it is physical.


A runners low after an event is a real thing. I often feel flat and deflated in the mind after a big event, the hype has gone and life returns to normal. Think beyond your event with another challenge or race in the pipeline. This keeps you motivated and excited for your next event.


Don’ts:

1. Don’t Overtrain or Do Something New

Now is not the time to push too hard: Avoid intense workouts or long runs. Your body needs to be fresh and rested. If you missed sessions in your prep now is not the time to make it up! Train sessions that you have been doing in the previous weeks with a focus on a reduction in intensity and duration.


A general rule is 50% or less volume than some of your bigger mileage weeks.


2. Don’t Try New Foods

Don’t experiment with your diet: Stick to familiar foods to avoid digestive issues. Save new recipes for after the race. Try and limit being influenced by a new supplement or quick fix recipe you see on the socials. Instead, reach for foods that make you feel comfortable and has worked for you in the past as refuelling after and preparing before training runs.


3. Don’t Neglect Minor Injuries

Pain needs attention, not neglect: Address any niggles or aches that may surface or have been lingering for a while. Consult a professional if needed to help with release. Often, small levels of discomfort during the final days before an event can amplify greatly in our minds. It's important to treat any niggles or discomfort early before they get out of hand.


4. Don’t Skip Mental Preparation

Visualization and relax: Mental readiness is as important as physical. Visualise the race and practice mindfulness.


I'll often set a yoga or mindfulness playlist on spotify, lay out a yoga mat in the lounge room and settle into gentle stretching before bed. Not only does this promote recovery and muscle release it also helps me relax and allow myself time to mentally prepare for the race. This gives time to reflect on training, sacrifices and effort put in during the weeks prior, before visualising the race and playing out the event in my mind.


5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Don’t get distracted by other runners: Focus on your race and your goals. Stay confident in your training and comfortable with who you are. Does it really matter that your friends long run was 2km more than yours? Trust that you have done the work and this is your journey, no one else's.


Final Comments

The final week before a marathon is about fine-tuning and preparation. By following these do’s and don’ts, you'll be in the best position to enjoy your race and achieve your goals. We're a team of coaches who can help and guide you to running greatness, get in touch if you're wanting support in your running journey. Good luck!


Jamie

Head Coach - Run Vault Performance

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