The peak weeks of marathon training can be a really tough slog. Your long runs feel endless, you are starting to feel the pressure of that looming 26.2 mile deadline, and doubts can start to creep in. You feel anything but a fresh, and race day is starting to seem horribly near. Stay strong and embrace the training with Paula Radcliffe’s top five tips for getting through this tough period, and making the most of your training and getting the best out of race day.
Embrace the hardest runs
The important thing to remember is that training is the absolute best preparation that you can do for the race. So use those long runs, embrace them: the race is going to be much easier because you’ve done them. On race day, you’ll be fresh, you’ll have the whole atmosphere and the magic that is the spirit of the London Marathon getting you round. So really the hardest time is motivating yourself through those long runs. Go into the marathon with the mindset, that sure, there will be some tough spots, but it won’t be anywhere near as tough as those long runs in training. So if you’ve got through those, you will get through the marathon.
Find your coping technique
Everyone can find some kind of technique to get themselves through the tough times. I used to count to 100. And then when I got to 100, I’d start again. All that did, was help me to just stay in the moment, one foot in front of the other. The only thing I was thinking about was what number came next, not how far I had to go, what my competitors were doing – none of that. It was just to stay in the zone. So some people sing to themselves, some people repeat a mantra, some people think about why they’re doing it, the charities that are raising money for. All of those things are great – it’s just finding what works for you.
Make small changes now
We’ve really seen from all the work we’ve done with Flora on the Active Towns campaign that small changes in your lifestyle support your activity so much better. And now is really the time to make sure you are getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and that you are eating a really good, balanced healthy diet. Don’t cut anything out – you need the main food groups, the carbohydrates and the proteins that of course we need for the marathon, and for rebuilding the muscles. Then the healthy fats, the Omega 3 and 6, Vitamins A and D for help with your bones, B vitamins for a healthy heart, and iron, if you need it. Thinking now about that a little bit more helps your body to rest, recover and regenerate while you are sleeping.
Be kind to yourself
Listen to your body: I used to have a 10-minute rule on runs: if I wasn’t feeling better after 10 minutes, go back home and take that day off. Because that’s your body telling you it wasn’t just hard to get out of the door, it’s just too much to do it today. My coach used to say that you are better off going into a race 90% fit and 100% healthy, than 100% fit and 90% healthy. You have to get to race day feeling good, and there’s going to be other elements in your life that take energy away, whether it’s just family life, a tough time a friend is having, or even just things not going to plan on your training journey to the race. Small things can knock your confidence, so just be kind to yourself. The great thing about running is you can always modify your targets and the expectation that you put on yourself.
Congratulate yourself now
We always say that when you get to the finish line, give yourself a huge pat on the back for everything you’ve done in the journey, as well as in the race itself. But perhaps you should actually do that before the race. Because the biggest and hardest part is the work you’ve done to get to the start line. And even if your race doesn’t go according to the plan, all that work that you’ve put in isn’t wasted. It all goes into a bank and it will be tapped into the next time you get the opportunity. There’s all kinds of wisdom filed away there psychologically, as well as the physical memories. So give yourself a huge pat on the back – a lot of people that have overcome a lot of fears, intimidations and doubts to get themselves through the training, so be proud of yourself for what you’ve done.
Paula is working with Flora on their Get Towns Active campaign, a movement focused on helping the nation take steps towards a healthier, more active lifestyle. For more information visit flora.com and follow along with Mark Wright, Paula Radcliffe and the rest of the FLORA community on social channels using #TeamFlora #GetTownsActive.