With just three weeks to go until the London Marathon, five-time Olympian and Saucony UK Ambassador Jo Pavey shares her top tips to get you marathon-ready.
Food for thought
Before you race, make sure that you eat something that you’ve already tried before your long run. You don’t want an upset stomach come race day! Porridge with banana is always a winner for me, or try toast with nut butter for easily digestible carbohydrates. Eat this at least 3 hours prior to the race.
Stay well hydrated, but only take sips in the last hour before the race. To top up my energy levels, I like to have a little bit of an energy bar about 90 minutes before and part of an energy gel just before I start. It’s useful to practice a strategy for consuming energy gels and fluids during the race.
We all know this one but i’m going to say it anyway. It’s really important to stretch regularly to help prevent injury when you’re in hard training. Stretch before and after all your training runs.
Doing a hard workout? Warm up with some gentle jogging then go through your stretches before you start the session.
Dynamic type stretching is helpful to prepare for a fast workout or race. I go through all of my stretches in the evening before bed to stop everything tightening up.
It’s vital to ease up (taper) your training during your final week to achieve peak performance and avoid injury. However you’ll want to do *some* running to stop you feeling sluggish on race day. Tapering is very individual, and everyone needs to find a way that works for them.
This is what works for me, and should be taken as a guide.
Sunday: Complete your last long run (around 10 miles).
Monday: Try a short easy run of around 30-35 mins or rest.
Tuesday or Wednesday: Try a mini interval session. It should not be done full out, just a little bit quicker than race pace. A suitable workout would be 4-5 x 2 mins with 90 seconds recovery. Remember to warm up and warm down.
Thursday: A short run of 20- 25 mins.
Friday: Rest or do a short run with perhaps 3-4 very easy strides.
Saturday: Rest or a short run (15-20 mins). Some marathoners opt to take two days complete rest before the marathon. I prefer to do a little bit of running, but each runner is different. Find what suits you best.
Sunday: Race day!
The essentials – don’t forget to breathe!
Lay out your kit the night before, it’s the little things that help! Ensure you’ve worked out all your timings – when you’re going to eat, travel to the start line, warm up, etc.
Get up early on race day and have your planned pre-race breakfast at the right time. I always set at least two alarms to wake up on time. Also if you’re prone to blisters, tape your feet and apply vaseline to sore areas.
It’s normal to feel nervous at the start line, try to relax your breathing and remember running a marathon is an exciting opportunity. Channel your nerves in the right direction and it will help you run well. You’ve done all the hard training and now all you have to do is race!
Keep to your planned pace, don’t feel tempted to go too fast, early on. Most of the best marathon times are achieved with an even pace or a negative split. A negative split is where the second half is run slightly quicker than the first half.
It’s important to take fuel during the race as most runners only have enough glycogen stores to last 18 miles or so. This will help you avoid hitting the dreaded wall! Find out where the drink and gel stations will be on the course and which brand will be provided.
Get into the zone
It helps to break the race up into small chunks, such as 5k or mile runs. Focussing on a target at a time makes the marathon distance easier to digest.
When things get tough, talk to yourself! Tell yourself you can do this (because you can!) Remember all of the people in your life that have supported you. And focus on how great you’ll feel when you finish. Many runners find it helpful to use a mantra or count.
Also, focus on maintaining your running style and think about how each footstep is taking you nearer to your goal. And most importantly don’t forget to enjoy yourself and soak up the fantastic atmosphere!
Jo Pavey is a Saucony UK ambassador and she wears the Triumph ISO 5’s for her long runs, they are available to buy at Saucony.co.uk.