We all get those pre-marathon race nerves. It is something we can’t control but think of these kind of emotions as a positive thing.
The fact you feel a bit jittery is because you’ve been committed to a long training journey to get to the startline, which in itself, takes a bucket load of dedication, sacrifice and work.
Although running a marathon isn’t for the faint-hearted, technically, the toughest part of the process is done when you gear up to get going over 26.2 miles / 42.195km.
So, to help make sure your transition from tapering to race day goes as smoothly as possible, take on board my top last-minute marathon preparation and race tips.
1) Stick to your plans and what you know
The days leading up to race day and then the day itself is not a time to make any sudden or drastic changes to your set plans, and likewise, your nutrition and general regime. Stick to what has been working for you and trust the process, don’t be tempted to try something different when there is no need.
It’s your race – so run at your pace and don’t be swayed by what others are doing. Avoid the classic of setting off too fast and paying for it a few miles in.
2) Prepare your race kit in advance
It may sound obvious but I’ve seen hundreds of runners frantically trying to attach their race numbers and timing chips with minutes to go before the start. Failure to prepare properly and making sure you have all the correct kit you need can bring on unnecessary stress.
Generally, you will pick up your race pack ahead of the event. This means you can get everything ready the night before, be less rushed in the morning and sleep a little easier!
3) What shall I wear for a marathon?
Again, this, by now, should be something you know the answer to having run plenty of training miles and tested out which clothing works and what doesn’t for you.
Generally, avoid cotton t-shirts and really tight-fitted clothing. Instead, go for cool, light colours and nylon wear that will absorb your sweat. You should also plan how you’re going to carry energy gels and boosters (a running belt is a good idea).
4) Don’t try different trainers on race day!
I touched on this above but changing your footwear or wearing a brand-new pair of runners on race day is an absolute no-no!
You want to start building your energy stores two to three days before the marathon by eating foods rich in carbohydrates and glycogen. Pasta, potatoes, bread, rice, oatmeal, yoghurt and whole fruit will help boost those stores and enable your body to dig into these reserves during the run – probably entering the last six miles / 10km – when you need it most. In fact, the school of thought is a marathon doesn’t really begin until this milestone.
It is also important to plan your nutrition and eat sensibly, as well as avoid eating too late into the night.
On race day, there is no need to carb-up but go for a light food option such as porridge or cereal.
6) Make sure your hydration is on point
In the lead up to the run, consume plenty of water, plan your sports drink intake and what you will need/works for you throughout.
7) Familiarise yourself with race day rules, regulations and the route
Knowing what to expect can help you visualise your race and calm nerves. With regards to the route, it’s useful to be aware of landmarks you may experience along the way, and as a result, you can build mini targets. Ahead of the run, just ensure you’ve read the event’s instructions and always double, double check the start time!
8) Don’t forget to chill out…
While there is a lot to take onboard and your mind (if you’re anything like me) can’t think of anything else beside the marathon, be sure to rest and follow the taper phase of your training programme. Rest is crucial, that said, it’s important to keep moving around the day before, go for a long walk and stretch.
Jog, move around and get the blood pumping before you run. It’s actually a good thing to work up a sweat so you don’t feel cold when the starter’s gun goes off. Make sure you also plan a toilet stop before you get going!
10) Set two goals
Marathon running is unfortunately unpredictable and is very much an ‘on the day event’ where anything can happen. Indeed, sometimes things don’t go to script regardless of great preparation.
Conditions can play havoc with your plans. That’s why it’s worth setting two goals, with the first one being your top target and then your second, a back-up!
But, just remember, most importantly, go out there, enjoy it and give it your best shot! It’s a cool experience whatever happens and you have every reason to be proud!