Maximise Your Marathon Experience: 4 Tips To Ensure You're Ready For Race Day

Are your ready for Marathon day? The training's in the can, you're kit is tried and tested, and you're ready for action!

However, there are a few things you can do this week to help you maximise your race day experience. Great Britain International  and Let's Get Running Coach Beth Carter gives us her 4 top tips to follow in the week leading up to the race.


1. Visualise The Race

This is a really great idea. Try to be as specific and detailed as possible. Imagine yourself on the start line, take into account the temperature, the people around you, what your wearing, just as many details as possible. Then imagine the gun as it sounds, the feeling of the other runners around you, the elbows, the quick start. This will help prepare you to remain calm, confident and run your own race.

Make sure you visualise the positive and the negative scenarios of the race. Think about specific situations that might come up, for example an untied shoe lace or missing a drink station. These can play on your mind if you have not mentally prepared and planned for them.  Only focus on what you can control on race day. You can't change the weather by worrying about it-  but you can wear a lightweight vest if its hot, or wear a cap if you hate running with sun in your eyes!

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It doesn't matter if you're beginner or elite, at some point the race is going to hurt! In this situation the runners who  can replace negative thoughts with positive ones are the ones that succeed. Think of what you will say to yourself when these these thoughts start coming into your head. Thoughts like; “this is hurting too much", "I have lost it- I am getting overtaken" and "I am never going to beat my personal best now” are common. Prepare yourself for this so you know exactly what to say to yourself, replacing the thought with something positive.

Some runners like to come up with a diversion to distract their mind when going through a tough patch. Some athletes count to 100 in their head while other concentrate on keeping good running form. Imagine what world class marathoners look like and emulate them. Keep the legs 'turning over', arms tucked in swinging forward and back, and hips high.  

When the going gets tough you may also find it helpful to break up the race. Often a mile can seem a long way so try and think “hey its only 3-4 minutes before I hit half way of this mile”. Breaking the run into manageable chunks is less mentally distressing than counting down the mile markers. 

Most importantly, be positive and confident. In this last week think about all the good workouts you have done and positive race results you might have had.

2. Eat more carbs

There is 101 different conflicting opinions about how you should fuel yourself in the final week before the Marathon. However, it is clear that you should be eating more carbohydrate in the lead up to the marathon. Once you begin reducing your training load, slowly increase your carbohydrate intake. Tapering plus adding fuel to the muscles, helps the body to load its muscle glycogen capacity so that when race day comes round, your muscles are fully loaded and you don’t need to cram last minute. 

You can begin carb loading around 5 days before the race. Start by very gradually increasing your carbohydrate for the first few days, and then in the two days before the race, start to really increase the carbs. Aim for a carb intake close to 3.6 to 5.5 grams per pound of body weight in those one to two days before the race. The easiest way to increase your carb load would be to include carbohydrate rich foods at every meal and snack. Examples of foods rich in carbohydrates include pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, fruits. You may also be surprised to know that simple sugars are also ok in the lead up to the race because these foods are quick to digest and don’t often contain too much fibre which can cause GI stress. However there are plenty of healthy carbohydrate rich foods to choose from and we recommend sticking to the foods you are used to.   

3. Stretch a little or have an easy massage

We would recommend a light massage or some light stretching before race day. This can help increase blood flow to the muscles and also reduce muscle soreness. If you are used to getting a massage a few days before race day then this is great and will really help to loosen up any tight spots and help the body feel ready to go on race day. Keep it light as a deep tissue massage can sometimes leave the legs feeling heavy and sluggish  and its not worth the risk. 

Easy stretching will also help to open up the muscles and joints, and help you to loosen up the legs. A hot bath followed by a stretch can work really well, because the muscles are warm and relaxed and will therefore stretch more efficiently. 

4. Have a race plan

Having a race plan and sticking to it as much as possible in the early stages is really important. It will help you to relax and prevent you getting carried away. The first few miles are key- there are lots of distractions but draw confidence from your plan (you know what you are doing!) and stick to the task at hand. Don’t panic if you are still running a little slower in these stages, the more energy you can conserve at this point the more you will have in the final 10k. We advise checking your place over the first couple of miles just to give you some initial feedback but then trying to wait until each 5k marker to review your pace. Looking down at you watch and going through the timing calculations is be exhausting, and it can cause spikes in effort as you subconsciously regulate your effort in light of the watches feedback.

Stick to your fuelling plan. Thinking too much is waste of energy so do all your thinking beforehand! Hopefully you have practised your fuelling plan in training too. 

The last half of the marathon is always going to be tough. However, if you have done the training and were conservative over the first few miles, and taken on adequate carbohydrates and fluids, you will run well in the last 10k. During this last half of the race, try to keep the mind and the body as relaxed as possible. Be positive and distract the mind with those mental cues.