During my taper and the week leading up to my marathons, my natural tendency is to morph into a giant bundle of nerves.
…Did I run enough miles?
…Did I do enough strength training?
…Hmmm. I forgot to do much speed work, does that mean I’m going to have a slow marathon?
…Am I eating enough? Or am I eating too much?
I find myself questioning my entire training process.
However, race week is the time to actually put all those doubts and fears aside and trust in your training. Remember those 20-mile runs at 4 a.m., your high weekly mileage and the runs where you were consistently hitting your goal paces? Glance at your training log to remind yourself that you ARE ready.
In order to put my mind at ease and get into the best mindset for my marathons, I like to follow these simple guidelines:
Get at least 8-9 quality hours of sleep during the week leading up to the marathon, especially two nights prior to the race. Race nerves may make it a little tricky to get in a solid night’s sleep the night before the race, but that shouldn’t be a problem as long as you don’t already have a large sleep deficit.
Start incorporating more healthy carbs into your diet during the second half of the week leading up to your race. I don’t overdo it with a giant meal the night before the race because it makes me feel sluggish and it’s better to gradually build up your glycogen stores. My favorite pre-marathon meal is a non-greasy homemade pizza, which offers a nice combination of carbs and protein.
Two nights before getting ready for a race, I like to set out my racing gear and goodies to make sure I’m not forgetting anything.
For a warm weather marathon
— Racing shoes (with at least 30 miles on them)
— Garmin 910XT watch (and charger!)
— Sparkly Soul headband
— SPI belt (for holding nutrition)
— 5 gels (I like vanilla Hammer Nutrition gels, salted caramel GUs and Roctane GUs, every 5-6 miles during a marathon)
— iPod shuffle and headphones (with a playlist already created)
— Running sunglasses (I just use cheap $15 dollar sunglasses from Target)
— My favorite running socks
— Running singlet & sports bra
— Iron-on letters to put my name on my shirt
— Permanent marker to write mantras on my hands
— Compression socks for after the race (or for the airplane if it’s a destination race)
— If it’s going to be cold at the start of the race, I’ll bring a set of “throw-away” pants/long sleeve top
— Bib number pickup paperwork (or with the Boston Marathon, “the Runner’s Passport”)
— Lots of my favorite high-protein granola bars and snacks to avoid hunger in the day(s) leading up to the race
The night before the marathon
I set out EVERYTHING, including breakfast, and I pin my race bib to my top. I also make sure to write emergency contact phone numbers of people who will be at the race with me on the back of my bib and come up with a plan to meet my friends/family after the race. Unfortunately for me, the bib phone numbers came in handy when I had exertional heat stroke after the Boston Marathon in 2014—you never know what’ll happen, no matter how prepared you feel.
The day of the race
All the preparation has been done. It’s now time to relax, trust in your training and let your body and mind bring you through the 26.2 miles. I always write mantras on my hands (“you can do hard things,” “loose and fearless” and “how badly do you want this?”) to center my mind to get me through the toughest miles of the race.
For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.