The countdown to the marathon is on. What should I do now?
Remember you are so fortunate to have a body that is able to take on a marathon
Having your name plastered across your t-shirt in large print may seem a little strange but it is the single biggest, yet simplest, thing you can do this week to make your marathon easier.
The countdown is on for all the lucky KBC Dublin Marathon runners. In less than two weeks the mileage, nerves, excitement and expectations will all come together. Once the first mile is complete and the runners settle into a rhythm everyone will start to relax, soak up the atmosphere and experience a day like no other. But between now and then there is plenty of time for a marathoner-in-waiting to spend their time doubting themselves.
Believe in yourself
There are many ways to train for a marathon and you have chosen one path. Trust that training plan and don’t question your training strategy now. Accept that you have done what you can and do not compare your training with that of another runner. Think about all you have learned about yourself, all the miles you have completed, all the setbacks you have overcome and all the lessons you have learned. Every individual’s route to the marathon is different. Your route was the right one for you this year.
Don’t worry about worrying
It is normal at this stage of training to question our strength to get to the finish line. In fact many runners spend endless hours worrying about everything that could possibly go wrong on the day. As the questions start, it is worth writing down what you are actually concerned about happening on race day. 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 and stops the fears spinning around in your head. Once on paper it will feel less of a burden. You can also be fairly certain that most things we worry about never happen.
Put the feet up
Your training plan might be making you nervous as you see the mileage gradually reducing as we strive for fresher legs. Try not to replace these hours off your feet with new activities. Although we know we need to build our reserves, most of us are not great at sitting still. Use the time to get inspired by watching marathon movies, rereading your training log or indeed take a complete break from all running related talk and do something completely different. Avoid spending time with nervous marathoners discussing the big day. It won’t help you relax. Not many of us sleep well the night before the marathon, so try and get an extra hour of sleep where you can this week.
Get your name on your t-shirt
Having your name plastered across your t-shirt in large print may seem a little strange but it is the single biggest, yet simplest, thing you can do this week to make your marathon easier. The personal cheers from the side-lines of strangers will give you a lift like no other when you need it and that is enough to carry many a runner along the path to success. Once you have your t-shirt organised, write down a list of everything else you need to bring with you on marathon day. Think about everything from clothing to food, technology to safety pins. Avoid race day panics by having everything you need at home and a list written out to double check on race weekend.
Imagine your perfect day
It really helps to visualise your whole race day right from your alarm going off until you cross that finish line. Can you picture your marathon day including your journey from home to the start line? A really helpful way to visualise the marathon and make it seem more manageable is to print out a map of the course route and make it personal. Highlight the locations where you expect your supporters to be, the points on the route where you are planning to fuel and the locations of the main hills, toilets or landmarks you are familiar with. Break up your marathon into these mini milestones. If you are local, try running the last few miles of the marathon route this week. The more familiar you are with the final few roads, the faster they will pass on race day.
Practise marathon pace
Although the mileage drops in these final weeks, our training continues in a different guise. We need to get comfortable and confident at our marathon pace and become disciplined at staying with it even if our body feels stronger than usual. Work out a realistic pace for your first 3 miles and 6 miles. Write it down. The best way to sabotage your marathon is to start too fast. If you can control your pace in these few miles, you will be more relaxed and make much better decisions throughout the rest of the race. Practise running at this marathon pace, even if it feels easy, in some of your shorter training runs this week. Sometimes holding ourselves back can be harder than pushing onwards.
Count your lucky stars
Remember that not many people get an opportunity to be in your shoes. You are so fortunate to have a race ticket and a body that is in a position to take on the marathon. Yes indeed you have worked hard to be here and deserve the cheers, the atmosphere and indeed the bling and the glory at the end. Make the decision that you are going to embrace the next few weeks including the moments where you doubt yourself. Appreciate all you have learned, how much your body has done for you and remember that the marathon is more than just one day. It started the day you signed up. Regardless of what happens on marathon day you have achieved so much in a few months.
What is to come is just the icing on the cake.
Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie.