8 tips to ensure marathon success
With marathon season in full swing and the London marathon this weekend, we’ve gathered some top tips on how to run your best race yet from Outpatient Lead Physiotherapist at the Running MOT clinic at HCA at The Shard, Emily Drakes:
1 Stick to your plan
The biggest cause of a bad race is setting off too fast. It’s easily done with all the excitement and adrenaline at the start, so you may have to actively slow down to stick to your planned pace.
Don’t be tempted to change your target at this late stage. If you put too much pressure on your body now, you’ll either injure yourself in training or end up disappointed on the day. Also, bear in mind if there is particularly hot weather forecast, you may need to adjust your pace to have a manageable race.
2 Keep it consistent
On race day try to do exactly what you’ve been doing on your long training runs. Wear the same clothes and trainers, eat the same breakfast and take on the same fluid and snacks on the way round. Any last-minute changes could have unwelcome consequences!
3 Wrap yourself in cotton wool
The worst thing would be to injure yourself now when the marathon is just around the corner. Stay away from competitive sports in the last two weeks; the cost of injury at this stage is too high to risk it. Enjoy the restful time to get your legs in the best shape for the run.
4 Review your goal
Depending on how your training has gone you may have to adjust your original goal. Be honest with yourself as you will need to keep a manageable pace for at least 20 miles. If you set out at a pace relevant to your original goal, but haven’t done the training for it, you’ll soon run into trouble during a marathon.
5 Plan your day
If it’s a big marathon event then you’ll need to factor in time to get there, drop bags and consider what you’ll need to take. It’s a good idea to have a bin bag or old jumper that you can throw away to keep warm at the start as you’re often standing around. Post-race, know where you’re going to meet people, as phones often go down when there are so many people in one spot trying to call each other. Having flip flops in your bag is the best tip I’ve had as you’ll be desperate to get your trainers off by the end!
6 Silence the doubts
It’s normal when you’re winding down to a marathon to experience ‘taper madness’ where you start to worry that you haven’t done enough, and things will go wrong. There’s no more training that you can do to improve your performance now – the most important thing to focus on is your mind. You have to remember that you’ve trained well for this race and believe that your body is capable of running the full distance. Break the race into manageable chunks to give yourself mini-goals, such as 4x10k’s.
It’s too late to improve your fitness at this stage. Don’t get trapped into thinking that the more sessions you do the better – rest and recovery are an essential part of the training process and quality is better than quantity. The whole idea behind running your long runs at slower than your race pace is because you are doing a high weekly mileage. To be able to run the marathon miles at race pace this rest phase allows your legs to recover and get ready for the 26.2 miles.
8 And finally, enjoy yourself!
Running a marathon is a huge achievement and I’ve always seen the day as a celebration of all the training! When you’re happy and relaxed, you’re a better runner, so try to maintain that feeling as the miles tick on. The crowds are a huge help and having your name on your top can be a nice touch when you’re feeling low. Although you’ll almost certainly wish you’d never signed up at some point during the race, at the end you’d be surprised about how quickly you feel like you want to do it again!