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It’s almost here. Race week. With the realization that ‘the big one’ is approaching it’s common to hit the panic button and allow poor last minute preparations and race day mistakes to spoil your marathon race day. It’s vital as race day draws closer to stay focused, on top of your training, and confident you can reach your goals. What you do in race week and in the race itself can either help you realize the desired results from all your hard work or see you crash and burn in spectacular style!
Finishing your build up. The taper.
There are no shortcuts to marathon success. There is no magic potion that can suddenly supercharge your training so you can whizz round your spring marathon. It basically boils down to good old-fashioned elbow grease and hard graft. At this point in your training the hard work is done. It’s firmly behind you. (or at least it should be). As race day draws closer it’s about doing less not more.
You simply can’t squeeze marathon training into a month. It’s all too easy at this stage to make the classic mistake of doubting the training you’ve done to reach this point, think you haven’t done enough miles, panic and try and run more in the final month than you’ve run in the past 3 months. This simply won’t work. You will not get any fitter by smashing out extra long runs or testing yourself as the race draws closer
Don’t jeopardise race day by testing yourself out in the final week before you race. The fitness you have gained through regular training doesn’t just disappear overnight. The last few weeks and especially the final days before the event you will need to ‘ease down’ or ‘taper’. Be ready for your peak performance.
Tapering involves a reduction in the volume (how long you run) and the intensity (how fast you run) in the weeks leading up to the race whilst maintaining some frequency (how often you run). It also involves effective nutrition, rest and developing mental strategies to help you reach your best when it matters. The goal of your taper is to maintain your fitness, revitalize your muscles and reach physical and mental peak on race day!
In general, the bigger and longer the race, and the more important it is to you, the greater the tapering process. For example, a marathon taper may begin 3 weeks before the important race with mileage decreasing by 30% each week.
It’s a good idea to maintain some intensity in your running even in the final few weeks, just cut back on the length of your runs but stay sharp. The key is to keep reminding your body what it feels like to run without over doing it.
It’s common to feel a little restless and full of energy or more lethargic than normal during a taper. Don’t worry. A great taper gets you ready to race feeling excited, fit, fresh and up for it.
Marathon running taper tricks:
Stay injury and illness free.
This is your number 1 priority. It’s easy to think that the most important thing to do at this time is to ramp things up, try and tick off a few more miles or play catch up. An injury at this stage in the game could spell disaster. Really listen to how you feel and how your body is responding to the running you are doing. You are far better off to arrive on the start line slightly underprepared than over do it, get ill, or worse case scenario pick up an injury serious enough to stop you from participating at all. Help yourself stay healthy by paying extra attention to your nutrition and diet, eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, staying hydrated, washing your hands regularly and getting sufficient sleep.
Race week sleep
Although it’s unlikely that the night before your race will be the best uninterrupted sleep you’ve ever had you can ensure you try and sleep well by retiring early, relaxing for a few hours before you got to bed and getting everything organised so you don’t wake up at midnight in a panic that you’ve left your timing chip at home. It’s really the sleep you have in the 5 days before your race that will help you arrive on race day refreshed and ready so focus on your average hours of sleep across these 5 days.
Your race week countdown.
That’s it. You are so close. Almost there. The focus for this week is to stay calm and get to the start line illness and injury free, rested, de-stressed and ready to go the distance. Here is a day-by-day checklist for race week.