Ready to go? The final countdown to the Dublin Marathon
Try to accept that less is more this month and let your body build up reserves of energy and strength for the big day
Running too much this marathon month or taking up any new activities will only leave our legs heavy, tired and more prone to injury. Photograph: iStock
Marathon month has arrived and already the nerves are building. There are 20,000 people who have spent the summer running (and talking about running). In less than four weeks, they will line up at the start line and follow the 26.2 miles around Dublin city, each with a different goal and reason for running. Between now and then, they will start to wind down their running mileage and move into what is called the “taper” phase.
With tapering, the mileage is reduced and the body gets a chance to consolidate the training and build up reserves of energy and strength for the big day. On paper, tapering sounds fabulous. Short runs, early bed times, relaxing baths, good food and watching marathon movies hardly feels like a tough month. Yet, after a summer of weekend long runs and all the preparation and recovery that they involve, many runners feel a little lost and restless without their weekly long-run ritual.
It is understandable to feel slightly uncomfortable about having a time gap at the weekend which was one filled by running. It’s natural to fear you may lose fitness and strength as you wind down the miles you have worked so hard to build up. Most runners will complete their last ‘long’ run this weekend before winding down for the remaining three weeks. That is a long time to have on your hands to worry about what you could be doing and to resist the temptation of running a few extra miles. We have to remember that running too much this marathon month or taking up any new activities will only leave our legs heavy, tired and more prone to injury.
Go a little crazy
It is perfectly acceptable to go a little crazy in these taper days. Expect your legs to feel heavier and your body to feel fatigued in the next few weeks and try not to panic. This is normal. Accept that tapering has worked well for runners for years and you will be no different. Don’t spend the next few weeks wondering how you will run 26 miles when 18-20 is the longest you have run to date. It will all work out and you just have to trust your training plan. Don’t waste your energy worrying about something that is outside of your control. Instead, focus on what you can do to replace fear and anxiety with calm.
As the month progresses, there will be days where you will feel quietly confident but plenty of other days where doubts will creep in. Time spent on the internet or chatting to other runners will make you question your training approach.
Remember, there are many ways to train for a marathon and now is not the time to try anything new. Moments of anxiety will take you by surprise. Whether it is the feeling you get when handed your race number at the Race Expo or the first time you notice the signs advising of road closures on marathon day, there will be moments when the enormity of the task ahead hits home.
The marathon becomes more real every day and the reality of what lies ahead can send our head spinning. All these emotions are good and part of our marathon adventure. Believe me that all runners will have the same ups and downs in the coming weeks.
It takes a lot of discipline to accept that less is more in this marathon month. You will not get any fitter this month, you will only burn up energy you will need for marathon day if you over train. Consider rest a time when your body is getting stronger and sharper for marathon day. If you are feeling a little edgy about the prospect of a ‘quiet’ October, there are plenty of other things you can do to fill the long weekends. Practise your marathon day visualisation, plan your marathon weekend food, watch marathon movies, write your worries on paper, research the race route and maybe even drive the distance. If you are a local, try running the last six miles of the marathon route over the next few weeks. The more familiar you are with the final few miles, the faster they will go on race day.
I’m hoping that all my lecturing earlier this summer about keeping a training diary has made you put pen to paper and you have your summer of running written down. Now is when the diary really becomes valuable. Even a quick glance over the entries will remind you of moments, miles and setbacks that are now in the past but which have shaped your marathon experience. Each of these miles has brought your body closer to today.
Even if you have not been diligent with your note-taking, think back over the summer and try and remember the lessons you have learnt. We often forget the hard work we have invested all summer long and focus on the few small negative components of our training. Revisiting your marathon journey will give you confidence, acceptance and contentment in knowing that the groundwork is complete. You are a completely different runner than the one you were back in May, when your long run was logged in minutes rather than hours.
It’s hard to believe that this time next month it will all be over. You will be wearing your medal and you will be a marathoner. Take control of these remaining weeks and set yourself up for a day to remember and a lifetime of memories. Consider all can you do these next few weeks to settle the nerves, build confidence and prepare your body. It will stand to you at the start line and even more importantly as you enter the unknown territory of the last few exciting miles.
I will be cheering you all on from the sidelines.
I cannot wait.
Roll on the big day.
Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie