Marathon season has well and truly started. The roads, parks, and lake trails are full of people training hard for potentially one of the longest races of their lives to date. The famous LONDON Marathon will be held this coming Sunday 23rd April. The long runs are completed and taper training is in full swing in readiness for the big day.
Tapering involves the reduction of exercise before a race or competition. It is needed to enhance and ensure best performance ‘on the day’. It is usually a 2-3week process and by now, this close to the London marathon, all runners will be in the ‘race week’ phase of tapering. This is vital for staying rested and getting mentally prepared. Running would have been reduced to just four days of running. New marathoners are advised not to run for more than 4 miles at a time, at marathon pace, whereas advanced runners could have completed a couple of 6 mile runs earlier in the week. Be sure to include a 1-mile warmup and cool down into those runs.
Runners, if you haven’t already done so during race week, aim to sleep eight hours a night and stay off your feet as much as possible. This will reduce the stress on your body and allow it to top off its glycogen store. Maintain adequate hydration levels and engage in activities to chill you out and combat nerves. Watch a movie, read a new book and use visualization techniques with races you have already completed and enjoyed to get you psychologically ready for Sunday.
Runners you must congratulate yourself on a successful training cycle, being well into the ‘tapering’ phase. Most of you will have a love-hate relationship with tapering. All the super-long runs are completed and that feels good but now the anxiety of the up and coming marathon can set in as there is less running to distract a busy mind. Calming your mind is helped by good rest and early bedtimes.
To aid your anxiety do the following:
- Allow yourself the mental and physical rest that your body needs before you ask it to ‘push its limits’ on Sunday. Immerse yourself with positive people, both energies and thoughts who will support you. Be sure to avoid any toxicity – those who suck the joy out of life and others, need to be avoided at this vital prep stage.
- Use a positive mantra – I always say “I can, I will, I am” but we need a specific taper mantra and a good friend once told me this one “I am calm, I am strong, I am prepared”. Use it frequently, say it over and over to calm your mind and to remind you that you are prepared for this and ready for the race. On the day use it at the start line and if times get tough along the way – you will be amazed at how much your body will react to such mantras.
- Plan in your mind a race day strategy that is realistic to you and the training that you have managed to achieve (taking into account any unforeseen injuries etc.). Key to this is a realistic, flexible plan especially if a first-timer or going for a personal record.
You never know what may transpire on the day but you can try and plan for most eventualities. Plan A may consider good weather, health and training, Plan B may consider decent weather, feeling average and okay training and Plan C consider both hot and humid weather, barely adequate training, and a lack of sleep the night before race day. Take time to write out a strategy (for every plan A, B and C) with the good, bad and the ugly points to reduce the fear of the unknown and to empower oneself.
On the day ‘feel’ what your body needs and pace yourself by ‘feel’ on race day. Run smart on the day, modify your pace by listening to your body and the responses that it gives you along the way during any hills, changes in temperature and wind.