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While our big thing is to help new runners start running, we also help those wanting to go faster and further with our awesome coaches. That includes getting them to their first marathon race!

So, if you have a marathon coming up, check out here what you should be doing for the best preparation for the big day!

What should you be doing a week before your marathon?

With London Marathon just days away, preparations are being made to taper down the mileage, get the diet right and ensure the running kit is tip top!

The weeks leading up to the big day…

A couple of weeks before you should now be in tapering mode. You would’ve been getting to your furthest distance two to three weeks before the race and now you should be in this final phase, and doesn’t it feel good! You’re now gradually reducing the mileage in the weeks before your race so as not to put your muscles under any unnecessary stress. 

By now, you know you have the miles in your legs – it’s now time to takes those miles down and enjoy what is to come!   

Your programme should have you reducing the mileage so that for the weekend before your race you should be at 8-10 miles for a marathon and 6-8 for a half marathon.

In the final week, it’s important not to push too hard, so avoid speed and hills.  Ensure you are getting time on your feet for 30-60 minutes each day (or every other day).

Take some time to rest and perhaps watch a motivational movie to get you fired up!

Should I push, or hold back?

We sometimes hear of runners experiencing a niggle just before their final long run, and they wonder if they should push on regardless for that final training run.  We would always say to hold back and not risk doing yourself an injury in these final stages.  Don’t underestimate what your body will achieve on the day.  If you aggravate a niggle, you may not be on the start line at all, or you will be nursing something a lot worse for a full 26.2! That final long run will not determine whether you succeed or not but aggravating that niggle will!

Am I injured?

There is such a thing as Maranoia… the paranoia many runners feel before a race that they have not prepared enough or that they are suffering a last-minute injury or niggle.  This happens to most runners – both seasoned and first-timers. This can be particularly prevalent before a big event such as the London Marathon!   Don’t be tempted to go out and do one last quick run to try and boost your confidence – that can do more damage than good.  Continue to eat well and sleep well and all will be well.  If something is going to go wrong, it is out of your control right now and you could be worrying for nothing – so don’t waste your energy on dwelling on it… you will need that for the race!

One week before

You can slowly start to increase your carbohydrate intake during these last 7 days. It will be the dominant form of energy source, but our bodies can only store a limited amount so you will need to keep this topped up during this race… more on that later!

Don’t be tempted to overeat on the days leading up to your race – simply increase your carbs at the cost of some fat. Be mindful of your sodium intake too.  Taking on too much salt can result in cramping or weakness on race day.

If you’re needing a push with your self-belief and motivation, pop on one of the films we recommend to get you fired up!

Don’t wing it… set out a plan for your pre-race prep.  From what you are going to eat and drink beforehand, to ensuring you have tested everything you are wearing and are going to consume during the race.

The Day Before

It is wise to have practised with the foods you are going to be eating right before your race.  The last thing you want is a reaction to a new food or a get adventurous with a hotter curry! You’ll want to go for foods that are rich in carbohydrates like pasta, potatoes, rice and bread.  Eat early enough that you can easily digest it in good time so that it doesn’t sit uncomfortably. Having time to eat and relax should mean you have a good night’s sleep before race day!

The Morning

Carbs are King!  Ensure you have a breakfast rich in carbs, again, with foods you have practiced with. Good choices are toast, porridge, cereal and bagels.  Keep fat and fibre to a minimum on race day as they can sometimes cause an upset stomach – nobody wants that!  Eating 3-4 hours before the race starts is optimal. 

Don’t forget about the fluids too! Aim to drink around 1/10th of your body weight in ounces 4 hours before. This will give you time to flush away any excess fluids.  You can tell if you are still dehydrated by the colour of your urine. Light yellow is good… if it’s dark, drink a little more.

Keep a drink with you and take a drink little and often. Dehydration can be the downfall of many a race – in fact, just 2% of bodyweight reduction has been shown to negatively impact race performance.

During the Race

Hopefully, by the time you are reading this, you have been practising with fuelling during your runs and worked out what works best for you. Don’t try anything new on race day!! For anything over 60 minutes, you should be taking on fuel so that you can keep those carbohydrate reserves topped up! Carb loading in the days before will only go so far.  If your body were a car, you wouldn’t go on a long journey without enough fuel… same goes for you! 

You can fuel with things like Gels, Jelly Babies, dried fruit and nuts or things like flapjack bars. You should be aiming for 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour.  The faster you’re running, the more you need. So a 3-4 hour marathon pace would be nearer to 60g and a 4-5 hour marathon time would require around 30g per hour.

Examples of 30g of carbs are around 40g of raisins, six Jelly Babies, two average bananas and most Gels have around 20-25g per sachet. Be careful not to overconsume – this can play havoc with your stomach and may cause you to vomit.

When and how often?

Start your re-fuelling at around 45 minutes into your run and then continue every five miles or thirty minutes, depending on your pace.

Don’t forget the H20! 

We may have mentioned fluids, but it’s worth a reminder! Drink little and often to ensure your carbohydrates are being consumed and you are keeping hydrated.  Don’t be tempted to swig back lots in one go, it could give you a stitch or a poor stomach.

After the Race

Now the recovery starts.  Continue to consume fluids little and often and consume carbohydrates and electrolytes to help with rehydration. A celebratory meal is in order, but try and ensure it is rich in carbs, such as pasta, rice, potatoes and bread to top up those reserves which are likely to be depleted.

Most important of all…

Try to enjoy your first marathon. There are no expectations for this one – it will be your personal best!  You are about to achieve an amazing thing and be part of a very special club.

Good luck!

And so you should!! 26.2!!!

Are you reading this with a marathon in mind… but don’t know where to start? We have just the team to help! Take a look at our VIP coached membership and the team that will support you to your first marathon!