The 9 best things to do the week leading up to your marathon to nail your nutrition and run your best race ever.
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Hey marathoners! If you’re running a marathon soon, congrats! If you’ve followed your training plans (ahem!) then you should be tapering mileage to rest your legs and build up energy stores. Take this time to look back at how far your training has taken you.
Did you ever think you’d use the word “only” to describe running anything under 16 miles? Ha! I didn’t either. It’s amazing what you can train your body (and mind) to do. Have trust in your training and get pumped because your race weekend is going to be awesome!
Here are my best tips for preparing the week before the marathon:
1. Rest your legs
Thinking of taking a walking tour of the city? Going out and dancing on Friday night? Popping into a kickboxing class? These are all BAD ideas. As tempting as it may be to explore the city or go out with your friends, hold off. There’s no need to lay on the couch all day or have your roommate wait on you hand and foot, but try to stay off your feet and save unnecessary tasks for another day. Your training plan will still have some runs in store for you – the mileage may feel light, but that’s on purpose!
2. Carb load
This does not mean downing fettuccini alfredo minutes before the race– a la Michael Scott. However, it does mean adding a little extra fruit to your oatmeal, having a whole grain roll with your salad, and scooping extra brown rice onto your dinner plate. Try also incorporating extra snacks, like an apple with peanut butter, cheese and crackers or yogurt and fruit.
Basically, add a little more whole grain cereal, fruit, beans, lentils, brown rice, quinoa, potato, and other carbohydrates to your meals for the WHOLE week. Don’t wait until the day before the race to fuel up. Cutting back on mileage (tapering) while increasing your carbohydrate intake helps to build up glycogen stores in your muscles and liver, so you can tap into those reserves come race day.
3. Organize your cheerleaders
When I’m not racing, I’m cheering! And I’m sure your friends and family want to cheer you on, too. Let them know your approximate pace and make sure they download the tracking app. Have them tell you where they plan to be and which corner/side of the street. Knowing their location will give you something to look forward to, especially for the last half of the race.
4. Put your name on your shirt
This week, you should figure out exactly what you’re going to wear for race day. Lay out your clothes with your bib already attached. Use electrical tape, puffy paint, or permanent marker to write your name on your shirt – nice and big! The energy on race day is incredible and spectators love to call out your name. Trust me, it offers a huge mental boost and there will be a point when it’ll make all the difference to hear “yeahhhhhh Natalie, you can do it!”
5. Pack your pre-race (disposable) bag
Waiting at the start can get a bit chilly, so layer up with clothes you’ve been meaning to donate. There are donation bins near the starting line so be sure to strip them off and toss them in. Seriously, don’t be one of the fools who tosses a sweatshirt on the race course for others to trip on – not cool.
You’ll also want to pack water, juice, or a sports drink to sip on and your breakfast or snack if you’re planning on eating on the go. Just make sure it’s what you’ve been eating before your long runs and pay attention to the timing. Remember, nothing new on race day! And, take some toilet paper with you – there are 50,000 people running this race and the port-a-potties are bound to run out of toilet paper at some point.
6. Pack your post-race bag
Whether you’re checking a bag or meeting up with a pal who will have it for you, think about how you feel after long runs and what helps you feel comfortable. No matter what, you’re going to be sore, but simple things like a change of clothes and comfy shoes can make a big difference. I want nothing more than to take my running shoes off post-race. Plus, pack a few of your favorite post-race snacks so you’re not scrambling to find it at a corner store.
7. Go to bed at a decent hour
Chances are your mind will be racing the night before the marathon, and it’ll be difficult to get a great night’s sleep. Have a “wind down” game plan for the evening. Turn off the TV. Put away the laptop. Charge your phone. Set your alarm (and don’t forget about daylight savings!). Take a hot shower. Read a book. Turn off the lights. Rest your eyes. Do what you need to do to relax and get some rest.
8. HAVE FUN!
Whether it’s your first or your 17th marathon, the race is an experience you’ll never forget. Take it all in and remember how hard you worked to get there. Put a smile on your face and trust your training. You’ve got this!
9. Recover smart
Obviously, the dietitian in me had to throw this in. After you’ve run 26.2 miles, you’ve done a number on your muscles and they need the right nutrients to heal and repair. Aim to eat within 30-45 minutes of crossing the finish line. Even if it’s something small to start with, like a chocolate milk, Greek yogurt, or banana with peanut butter. Whatever you do, make sure there is some protein (think dairy, chicken, fish, nuts, beans, tofu) and some carbohydrate (like fruit, yogurt, milk, cereal, bread, pretzels).
And I’m not going to be a total downer and tell you not to treat yourself. Go ahead! Cheers your accomplishment with a beer or an ice cream cone, have fries with your burger, and enjoy every bite of that mac and cheese. But, make sure you’re not overdoing the junk. You’ve pushed your body…not just on race day, but for weeks and weeks of training.
Eating well is important no matter what, but post-race, you’ll want all the antioxidants you can get to keep your immune system strong, a good dose of protein to help muscles heal, and carbs for energy. So, focus on getting plenty of veggies and fruit, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. Your body will thank you!
Lastly, here are some related articles for runners that you might want to check out!