With just a few days to go until the London marathon this Sunday, DW Fitness has put together its top 26 tips for conquering the distance!
Anyone competing in a marathon this Sunday will now probably be in tapering mode, a phase where you will be reducing intensity and conserving energy for the big event in a few days' time. That means fuelling your body with carbohydrates, getting plenty of sleep and reducing the length of your runs.
Despite the reduction in training, this part of your preparation may cause you to feel more anxious than relaxed (shouldn't you be running more?) but it is an essential part of training; whatever you do, don't suddenly push yourself to do your longest run yet!
Here are 26 tips to help you in the build up to the race and how to recover afterwards.
Before and during the marathon:
1. Reduce your training
If you haven't already, significantly reduce your training to give your body a chance to rest. You should use this time to store up physical and mental energy, plus you don't want to risk injuring yourself before the big day!
2. Fuel your body
Treat your body like a machine and fuel it efficiently. While this is your opportunity to load up on carbohydrates for energy, don't use it as an excuse to pig out. Junk food will only hinder your process, so stick to the healthy road until after race day.
3. Set yourself targets
Memorise specific timing goals in your head so you can pace yourself, but don't get too focused on individual miles. Group miles together in 3s, as this will help you to manage the race mentally and keep you focused.
4. Run like clockwork
Run at the same time everyday as the marathon will start at to ensure that your body is in sync when it comes to the big day. You certainly don't want an unplanned trip to the bathroom half way through!
5. Visualise the route
Visualise the route and familiarise yourself with the twists and turns so that nothing catches you out come race day. Some people like to imagine themselves running and winning the marathon for a boost of mental confidence.
6. Make a motivational playlist
You'll be running for a long time and after the adrenalin of the first few miles leaves you, you might struggle to keep yourself focused. Avoid boredom by creating a long playlist filled with songs that will encourage you to push on - don't chance it with shuffle!
7. Do a dress rehearsal
Overheating, chafing, getting blisters - there are a number of outfit disasters that can go wrong and potentially ruin your race. Make sure that you complete at least one long run in the outfit you will be wearing on race day and whatever you do, don't buy new trainers!
It's vital that you get plenty of rest in the week leading up to the marathon, but it is crucial that you get a good night's kip the eve before. Avoid eating too late and let yourself wind down a little earlier than you normally would to help you to relax into a natural sleep.
9. Eat breakfast
Your nerves may prevent you from feeling hungry, but eating breakfast is extremely important on race day as the food will keep you going while you're running. Eat 2-4 hours before you're due to start, fueling yourself with plenty of fluids, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Why not try 3 slices of wholemeal toast, with natural peanut butter and a banana as your pre-race feast?
10. Loosen up
Warm up slowly by doing some light cardio exercises before you're due to start, stretch a little but don't pull on your muscles if they feel tight. You want to remain as loose and flexible as possible.
11. Start slow
The first few miles may feel so easy that it's tempting to pick up the pace, but don't push yourself yet. Stick to a comfortable pace throughout the first half of the marathon, you can start to develop speed in the last few miles (we appreciate this can be easier said than done!)
12. Stay hydrated
Drink water, energy drinks and energy gels whenever possible, to keep yourself hydrated so your performance isn't affected throughout the marathon.
Research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting, and cited in Active.com, found that when runners only replaced 75% of their sweat lost through exercise, they were 3% slower compared to when they replaced 100% of the sweat lost.
13. Go hard in the last miles
Begin to pick up the pace as you approach your last 5 miles. This is the time where you can really gather speed and push to overtake people, keep going until you smash through the finish line!
14. Enjoy it!
Sometimes you forget just how amazing running a marathon is, so take the time to mentally soak up the finish line as you run past and realise that you've done it!
15. Keep moving
The last thing you want to do is carry on, but your muscles will be much more sore if you suddenly stop moving. Lightly jog and walk around for at least 15 minutes after the race to slowly ease your body out of marathon mode and reduce the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles.
Eating may be the last thing on your mind after all that exercise, but it's crucial to consume something around 30 minutes after the race to keep your blood sugar levels up, replenish lost glycogen and repair damaged muscles. Opt for a carbohydrate, such as a banana, and some nuts or an energy bar for protein.
17. Keep warm
Running a marathon is tough on your body, even though you'll be sweating you'll soon drop down to a normal temperature post race - sometimes you will feel colder than normal due to the energy you've lost. Change into soft, warm clothes after the race to keep warm and comfortable.
18. Treat any minor injuries
Tend to any minor injuries you may have sustained during the race such as blisters, chafing or cuts.
19. Reward yourself
4 hours after completing the race you will be starving, which means it's the perfect opportunity to enjoy all of the food that you forbid yourself from eating during training. Your body will still expend energy after the race so you won't need to worry about consuming high levels of calories and fat. Bon appetit!
19. Elevate your legs
Your feet and legs will be feeling an immense amount of pressure after a marathon, so take the opportunity to lay down for 15 minutes and elevate your feet by propping them up with cushions or a stool.
20. Foam roll
Wait at least 6 hours after the race to complete the dreaded foam roll. While this may be uncomfortable, foam rolling helps to stretch out your muscles and avoiding this step will cause you much greater pain the next day.
21. Take a cold bath
Soaking in a cold bath around 5 hours after the race can help to reduce the inflammation in your muscles. If you can't face the cold water, then compression tights will also help to reduce this and prevent injury.
Wait at least 24 hours before you have a massage, this will help to relieve the tension from sore muscles and aid a speedier recovery. If it isn't possible to see a professional you can always gently massage your legs and arms yourself.
Once again, sleep is vital for recovery. Make sure you get a full 8 hours or more if you need it. Be sure to keep plenty of water by the bed so you can replenish your fluids in the night, you might even want to include a small snack.
24. Keep active
It's natural to be sore, but don't let that feeling stop you from moving around in the days after your race. Gentle activity, such as walking and swimming, is the best way to help your muscles recover and get back to normal.
25. Cross train
The thought of running again so soon will probably fill you with dread, so instead try some different exercises such as cycling to keep your muscles active without re-aggravating any injuries.
26. Plan your next marathon!
You might not put your running shoes back on for another 6 months, but we bet you'll be desperate to run another marathon eventually!
Check out 10 surprising facts about the marathon to find out why your spine shrinks when you run a marathon, how 3 runners covered 4,000miles of Sahara desert and how the 2 hour world record is just around the corner.