Seven-step guide: final countdown to the Dublin Marathon
Some last-minute tips for first-timers to get the most out of the day
Nothing is more encouraging than a road lined with supporters cheering your name.
It is Dublin Marathon week and on Sunday morning 20,000 men and women who have dedicated their summer to training will follow the leaders along the 26.2 mile route through the streets of the capital.
For many, this will be their first time to attempt such a challenge.
It is only natural to flit between feelings of excitement and apprehension in this final week of preparation.
First -time nerves
Most runners will have run close to 20 miles in preparation but will question their ability to complete the unknown miles on tired legs. The last long run may seem like a distant memory. Heavy legs and phantom pains in this tapering phase might tempt you to run a few extra miles just to be sure you still are fit enough for marathon day. Don’t do it. No amount of extra miles run this week will make marathon day more enjoyable. In fact, doing too much this week is likely to make the body tired instead of fresh.
Rest and repair
You will not get any fitter this week but you can get stronger and better prepared by making time to allow the body rest, repair and get ready for the weekend. Not many of us sleep well the night before the big day, so take the pressure off Saturday night and focus on sleep now. Bank your sleep early in the week so you are less anxious about getting good rest on the night before the marathon.
Similarly, consider your food and hydration. Start early in the week by preparing good food, shopping for weekend essentials and keeping well-hydrated. These are simple tasks but are often ignored until marathon weekend.
Make a list
Questions and doubts may consume thoughts and energy on marathon week. Take all the worries from your head and put them on paper. Consider what you are afraid of happening in the marathon. Come up with a plan of what you will do if these situations arise. Having a strategy in place for all scenarios lifts the uncertainty. We are only in control of so much, but if we can start the race knowing we have a prepared for any situation that may arise, we are more likely to make a rational decision along the route should an injury, upset stomach or cramp arise.
Choose your experts
Everyone is keen to share their marathon advice and experience and first-timers are eager to learn anything that can give them the edge this week. Remember, you may hear advice that contradicts your training plan and could lead to your questioning your preparation. Accept there are many ways of training for a marathon but continue with your training plan that has got you this far. At this point, you are the only expert in your training. You know your body and what has worked for you so far. Listen to all advice but remember it’s too late now to train differently and what works for one runner may not work for another.
Avoid last-minute panics by getting organised early in the week. Arrange with your supporters where to be en-route and what you would like them to bring. Make a list of everything you need to bring with you on race day and take a little time out to visualise your weekend. Plan the logistics for both the race expo and the main event.
One very simple yet powerful trick involves writing your name on your tee-shirt. Nothing is more encouraging than a road lined with supporters cheering your name. It may sound a silly thing to do but most of my marathon runners have been pleasantly surprised at how uplifting it is to be cheered by strangers shouting their name.
Find your pace
I would be a rich lady if I had a euro for every runner that has regretted starting too fast in the marathon. There is a power atmosphere on the day which pulls you faster in the first few miles. With fresh legs and buckets of enthusiasm, it takes discipline to hold yourself back. A conservative pace at the start is essential for a first-timer who has no experience of how they might feel at 20 miles. Take a little time this week to work out your pacing strategy. Decide what your starting pace for the first few miles should be and don’t be tempted to go faster, no matter how good you feel at the start. It’s much better to reserve that energy for the final few miles.
Savour the week
This is your last week of excitement and build-up to race day. Look over your training notes at all you have achieved so far. Believe your body will perform for you on the day. Trust your training, rest your body and prepare everything in advance to set yourself up for a relaxed and calm marathon weekend. It is only natural to be apprehensive about something you have never done before.
However, if you have completed your training, even with a few blips along the way, chances are the marathon might actually be more enjoyable than you ever imagined. I look forward to cheering you all on along the route on Sunday.
What lucky runners you are to be able to line up to a marathon start line. There are plenty of people who can only dream of being in your shoes. Go out and choose to enjoy the day. This time next week it will all be a memory. Let’s make it a good one.
Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. She trains beginners and marathoners and everyone in between to enjoy running and stay injury free. Jennings is also the creator of all our Irish Times Get Running programmes – Beginners Get Running, Get Running 10k and Get Running Stay Running