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Six Last Minute Marathon Tips To Get Your Ready For Race Day

The golden rules of marathon prep.

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

It can be easy to get excited about your marathon in these final few weeks. You may be tempted to do something rash or change your routine, which may ultimately have a negative effect on race day.

However, you don’t want to steer off course or do anything that could jeopardize all of the hard work you’ve put into your marathon.

Whether this is your first marathon or your tenth, here are my six last minute marathon tips you have to get right to ensure you’re ready to go on race day. 

A person running along the coast.

#1: Don’t Try To Cram In Workouts During Your Taper

Your taper exists in your training plan for one reason – to get you to the start line in the best shape possible.

During your taper, you gradually decrease your training volume. This allows you to get to your marathon rested, recovered, and primed.

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

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

The hard work is done. Now we just maintain our fitness and coast through the marathon.

Related: What’s The Optimal Marathon Taper Length?

People running a marathon.

#2: Dress Rehearsal (Trial Everything)

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

As a running coach, I advocate every runner – beginner or advanced – do at least one marathon dress rehearsal in the weeks before their race.

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, consuming the same fuel, and hydrating as you plan to do in the marathon. 

The dress rehearsal helps you identify any snags or weaknesses in your strategy. Maybe your socks start to rub, or you begin chafing under your arms, but only after 14 miles.

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

Either way, it is best to find out with plenty of time to go so you can address whatever situation arises. 

A person tying their shoe.

#3: Don’t Try Anything New!

One of the most important tips for running a marathon is never to try anything new on race day, or even leading up to race day.

Ever 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 have some restless energy during their taper, so they try replacing 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 will undoubtedly become completely sore or, worse, injured. 

Remember marathon runners, your taper is all about preservation! Try out that kickboxing class post-marathon.

#4: Catch Up On Sleep

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

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

You should find the benefits stretch into your work and personal life, too. Your body will thank you for the good nights of sleep come marathon day.

A bowl of pasta.

5. Eat Well

Eating well means eating a plentiful amount of food and good-quality food.

You should increase your carbohydrate intake slightly during the week before your marathon but do so sensibly. You want to ensure your glycogen stores are topped off before the big day.

No binge eating is required!

Carb-loading doesn’t mean junk foodpasta, bread, rice, and potato dishes are all classics.   

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

#6: Mental Preparation

This is often neglected, but it is a key one of our last-minute marathon top tips.

Run through the day of the race in your head to help you find any holes in your plans and be prepared for contingencies. Think of how you’ll prepare on marathon morning, and map 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, visualize the entire marathon course, considering your marathon 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.

Finally, mentally visualize crossing the finish line.

Now, enjoy the expo and race day, and good luck!

For a race day checklist, look at this next guide:

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Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, 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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