How to manage the marathon countdown

How to manage the marathon countdown

1+ month before D-day: check your kit

You may have read this on all marathon-related blogs and heard it from fellow runners. Never ever race with brand new kit. 26.2 miles can be a very long and painful way with blisters, bloody nipples and chaffing.

Your shoes may be worn out from training (provided you don't have speedy shoes dedicated to racing), so think about replacing them and breaking the new ones in. But be careful to have enough time to fully adapt and understand how your body works with these new shiny shoes.

Think about laying out your outfit beforehand too. This not only helps you to pick the material and clothes that you feel most comfortable and confident in; there is also real psychological power in preparing how you're going to look and replicate race day conditions.

As an example, marathon runners often pack:

  • A pair of shorts/leggings
  • A fitted running bra (for women)
  • A running t-shirt/vest (depending on the weather, you can layer up)
  • Running shoes & socks
  • A pair of protective running insoles
  • Vaseline or similar (if you experience chaffing)
  • Running belt
  • Gels and/or water if it is part of your hydration/fueling plan
  • Neck tube to be protected from the sun or stay warm during colder days
  • Watch/phone and any technology you'll think you'll need to record your run
  • Extra layers to wait for the start and to put in after you cross the finish line

1/3 weeks before D-day: start tapering

Some find it extremely frustrating as they can't go on runs as often as they used to, others love to let training go and get ready for D-day. But, wherever you're on the spectrum and even for elite athletes, tapering is essential to reduce the fatigue of training and be able to perform.

According to Runner's World, the optimal number of days to taper for the most popular race distances are:

  • 19 to 22 days for a marathon
  • 11 to 14 days for 15km to 30km
  • and, 7 to 10 days for 5km to 10km

Ideally, tapering will be about finding the right balance between maintaining the fitness you built up during training and decreasing fatigue you built up during this training too. To do this, most coaches recommend cutting back training volume (aka running mileage), but maintaining training intensity.

It might not be enjoyable at first because you know you can run for longer and achieve more, but you'll eventually see the benefits when race day comes.

1 week before D-day: increase hydration and rest

You might start to feel really excited, nervous; but all your efforts (or mistakes) on race week will count. Make sure you start drinking a bit more than usual days before the marathon so that your body stays hydrated well ahead of the race and doesn't start cramping while you're racing.

Also, try to limit high stress/high intensity activities (such as testing out a new sport, going out until sunrise or taking on a demanding project at work). Your body needs to rest, your mind does too, and compromising on sleep might increase the risk of injury during the race.

2 to 3 days before D-day: make sure to eat enough

We've all heard about carb load. The objective of carbohydrate loading is to maximise the stores of glycogen in your liver. Your muscles will then be able to tap into this same glycogen during an endurance event before you run out of energy.

Carbohydrates help keep hydration in, which is also a key aspect of marathon racing.

But be careful to test it out - for example during training before long runs: without training your gut on carb-heavy meals, you could make your stomach upset.

As an example, try out these power foods:

  • Potatoes, pasta or rice
  • Oats
  • Pancakes
  • Bagels

The day before: lay out your kit

Flat lays are popular on the gram, but we wouldn't recommend them enough off the gram too.

Let's pause for a second: what will actually happen the morning of the race?

You'll most likely wake up early (after a restless night) even if the event only starts between 8-10am. Then, you'll need to fuel correctly and early, get ready, apply any cream/vaseline, pin your bib, travel to the event, check that your support crew knows what how they will need to help, navigate between the runners, warm up... while probably trying to calm your nerves.

This is where you might want to avoid any unnecessary stress and additional item on the to-do list. Lay out your kit the day before the long-awaited race. This way, you can wake up stress-free and anticipate any surprise.

The aftermath: recover properly

The medal is now around your neck or stands alongside your other trophies. But, don't forget to give your body the recovery it deserves, with these few ideas:

  • Stretch, book a deep tissue (or thai) massage
  • Continue to drink a lot of water
  • Eat nutritious protein-rich meals
  • Make sure you get good nights of sleep
  • Wear walking insoles when you're out on walks to avoid injury

Now you are all ready to run these 26.2 miles and reach the end of the line stronger. All the Enertor team wishes you the best of luck on your marathon, may stay away from pain and injury and the pleasurable experience you've dreamt about.

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