Six Last Minute Marathon Tips

Is your marathon looming, and you’re looking for some last minute marathon tips?

It can be easy in these final few weeks to get excited about your marathon, and do something rash or make a change to your routine that ends up having a negative effect on your marathon!

So how is the best way to spend those last few days and months before your big marathon?

Here are my six key last minute marathon tips you have to get right to ensure you’re ready to go on marathon day: 

1. Don’t Try To Cram Workouts During Your Taper

Your taper exists for one reason – to get you to the start line in the best possible condition.

During your taper, you have to gradually decrease your training volume.  This allows to arrive at the marathon rested, recovered, and primed.

Trying to squeeze in last-minute long runs or training sessions during your taper simply doesn’t work.

In fact, you can look at it like this – in the 2-3 weeks prior to your marathon, there’s nothing you can do that will improve your marathon fitness.  Instead, all you can do is preserve what’s already been banked.

Related: What’s The Optimal Marathon Taper Length?

2. Dress Rehearsal (Trial Everything)

One thing students of my Marathon Training Masterclass will be familiar with is the marathon dress rehearsal.

I advocate every runner – beginner or advanced – do at least one marathon dress rehearsal in the weeks before their run.

A dress rehearsal is simply a long run in which you simulate marathon conditions as closely as possible.

This means running in the same socks, shoes, and gear.

It also means taking the same fuel, and hydrating as you plan to in the marathon. 

The dress rehearsal helps you identify any snags or weaknesses in your strategy.

Maybe your socks start to rub, but only after 14 miles.

Maybe you get sore shoulders, or you realise you can’t stomach more than two energy gels without wanting to puke.

Either way, best to find out sooner rather than later so you can address it. 

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3. Don’t Try Anything New!

Never tried yoga in your life?

Then the week before your marathon is not the time to throw yourself into downward facing dogs!

Many runners find they’ve got some restless energy during their taper, so try and replace their run workouts with something different. 

Trust me, the run-up to your marathon is not the time to take a trial capoeira class!

Neither is it the time to go to the gym and try a workout for the first time.

If your body is not used to these movements, you can easily do damage. 

And remember, your taper is all about preservation!

4. Catch Up On Sleep

One of the most effective ways to recover, both physically and mentally, is simply to sleep.

Take advantage of the fact you don’t need to train so much, and add an extra hour in bed to your schedule. 

You should find the benefits stretch into your work and personal life too.

And your body will thank you come marathon day, as it lines up and is fully prepped.

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5. Eat Well

Eat well means eat a plentiful amount, but also to eat good quality food!

You should be increasing your carbohydrate intake in the week prior to your marathon, but do so sensibly.

No binge eating is required!

And carb-loading doesn’t mean junk food – pastas, breads, rice, and potato dishes are all the classics.   

Remember that eating greasy, cheap, or nutritionally bankrupt foods can have a negative effect on your health, and therefore marathon performance. 

6. Mental Preparation

This is often neglected, but is a key last minute marathon tip!

Run through the day of the race in your head, to help find any holes in your plans, and be prepared for contingencies.

Think of how you’ll prepare on marathon morning, and map out your journey to the start line.

Know what you have to do at the start line – whether it’s visit the toilet, warm-up, prepare your GPS, or take a last-minute gel (or all of the above).

Then visualise the entire marathon course, considering your pace strategy.

Remind yourself where the aid stations and bathroom stops are.

Remind yourself of your fuelling and hydration strategy.

Think through your contingency options – what you’ll do if you suffer an injury, whether you’ll walk if you get fatigued, etc.

And finally, mentally visualise crossing the finish line!

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Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of His work has been featured in Runner's World,, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and playing with his two tiny kids. More at his bio.

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