The New Jersey Marathon which I have been training for all of 2018 so far, is only 12 days away. My long, long training runs are behind me and this week I begin to taper. Now it’s all about getting to the starting line.
The priority for the last two weeks is getting lots of rest, eating the right foods, being fully hydrated, and not getting injured. Those are the only things I can control at this point. But those are huge and can make or break the marathon.
Get lots of rest
The challenge during the “taper” when your weekly mileage takes a nose dive, is not filling the time and using that energy for other activities – like undertaking a major home improvement project or staying out late. I’m planning to be very disciplined over the next 2 weeks and go to bed early. I will also continue my meditation sessions and may also work in a massage, or at the very least spend time relaxing on the couch catching up on Netflix.
I have been running and racing for 22 years, so I’ve had a lot of time to experiment with food choices. The one thing I’ve learned is that we are all unique in what foods work for us and what don’t. Specific food choices need to be figured out during training with some trial and error. By 2 weeks out, we should know what particular foods will work for us, so the question becomes, what to eat when? We’ve all heard about “carbo-loading” but it isn’t necessary to eat additional carbohydrates for weeks leading up to the big race, but rather about 3-5 days (Read “The Right Way to Carbo-load Before a Race,” Runner’s World). Right now, protein is important to repair the muscles I’ve worked so hard during training. I found this Marathon Meal Plan (that also provides vegetarian and vegan options) from performance nutritionist James Collins is worth checking out.
This seems like a no brainer, but sometimes we forget. I fill a 20oz water bottle at bed time. What ever I don’t drink then or during the night, I finish in the morning. It’s good hydrate first thing in the morning, since going without for about 8 hours can dehydrate us. I refill the bottle a couple times during the day and make sure I finish it with lunch and again with dinner.
Don’t get injured!
Tapering down from the peak mileage of training allows the body to recover fully, rest (as I noted above), and also lowers the risk of injury in the last week. But just as you don’t want to spend the energy taking on other projects, you also want to be cautious in how you are spending your time. As my coach wrote in his blog last week, “Please don’t do anything stupid. No moving furniture (and throw out your back). No riding motorcycles (and get into accidents).” – true stories apparently.
Let go of what you can’t control
Getting to the starting line of a marathon takes a lot of work. Staying disciplined and focused about those things we can control will make a huge difference on race day. What won’t help is obsessing about the weather. As those who rain Boston yesterday observed, there is simply nothing we can do about the weather. Resist the urge to check the long-term forecast. It’s rarely that accurate and could add to your anxiety. Just check the weather as you’re getting ready to make the decisions about what you’re going to wear. Don’t try any thing new that you didn’t already test out during training (apparel and nutrition).
So that’s it. In the days leading up to the race, you just want to properly prepare for whatever might come along. We’ll talk more about all the last minute preparations next week.
This week in Marathon Training