With London Marathon now just around the corner and many of you now in the middle of your marathon taper, we wanted to take a look at what you should be focussing on outside of the running itself and what you can do (and avoid doing) to ensure the best possible outcome on race day.

If you haven’t already, then be sure to check our article on Marathon Taper Tips to ensure you get your race week running right. 

As all marathon runners know, during race week, running is only half the battle and the biggest challenge for many is keeping nerves under control and not letting the self doubts and worries take over.

Many a marathon race has gone awry through the expenditure of nervous energy in advance of the race itself; A reduced training program during the final days means more time to sit around and stew on what’s to come. Excessive thinking about the approaching race can have numerous negative consequences and rarely leads to positive ones.

You need to be organised and prepared. But you don’t need to continually reevaluate those preparations or spend time worrying about things which are out of your control.

The classic here is weather. We all want to know what the weather is going to be like on race day and it’s important to have a rough idea in order to plan your race day attire and such. But do you really need to check the forecast every few hours during the days leading into the race?  Praying that the Met Office are going to reduce their predicted wind speed, or trying to match up the wind direction to the course map and figure out which parts of the course are going to be exposed is all just going to add stress and worry to your race week. 

The best thing you can do at this point in time is relax and maintain your usual routine as much as possible. Don’t start doing things you don’t usually do in a desperate attempt to be more serious “Jenny usually has beetroot juice during race week, maybe I should as well?” No,. No, you shouldn’t! Nothing new this week, not even if Jenny down the club tells you that it is the key to her recent upturn in performances.

Additionally, don’t start avoiding doing things which are part of your every day life under guise that you need to save your energy for race day.  There are of course limits, and you don’t want to be doing things which are really going to exhaust you. But a quick trip to Tesco (other supermarkets are also available 😀) is not going to fall into that category. For the vast majority worrying about things like this on the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (and even Saturday) before the race is only going to add tension and nerves. 

Guess where Wilson Kipsang was on the Saturday before he won London Marathon in 2012? On a shopping trip in London with his wife Doreen. Wilson knew from experience that he is perfectly capable of running fast the day after wandering around a city for few hours, and he didn’t let it bother him. He just did normal things, shopping with his family, rather than sitting around in his hotel room thinking about the race.

Our advice is that you must stay as relaxed and normal as possible. It is when runners start ‘over focussing’ on the upcoming race that things can go wrong. Try as much as possible to be yourself and maintain your usual routine, as it is the break from that routine which leads to nerves and mental stress.

Don’t try to give yourself a crash course in visualisation by thinking of nothing but the race in the days leading in to it. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that you are ‘mentally preparing’.  If you want to work on visualisation and mental prep, that is great, but race week is not the time for it if you have not done it before.

Here are a few pointers we believe are important for your race week in order to help ensure the best performance come marathon race day.

Relax: Read a book (a non running book ideally!), get stuck in to a new box set or TV series, something easy and enjoyable which takes your mind off race day.

Plan in advance and then move on: Make your plan for your race strategy, make your plan for logistics of travel etc, and then stop thinking about. Don’t keep reevaluating your plans. Think about them, be confident in them and then move on.

Get plenty of sleep during the early and middle part of the week: (And don’t worry about the night before the race) It is inevitable that many of you will not sleep well the night before the race. Accept that this might happen and don’t allow it to become a problem. If you get plenty of sleep during the rest of the week you will be fine. Poor sleep the night before the race is not something limited to amateur athletes. Many professional/elite runners report the same. It is so common that we can confidently conclude that the old adage of ‘It’s the 2 and 3 nights before which count’ to be true.

That’s not to say completely write off the night before, just don’t panic if you don’t get much sleep. Accept in advance that it may happen and know that if it does, it need not effect your performance, do not lay there awake and beat yourself up about it.

Don’t panic if you feel tired or heavy legged in training: If there is no logical reason why you feel a bit flat and fatigued, then the overwhelming likelihood is that you are simply a little nervous. It’s nothing to worry about and completely normal. Don’t go searching for the ‘reason’ for your fatigue. Don’t spend hours online looking up ‘heavy legs when running’ or ‘feel tired when running’ and the like. 

The overall focus of this week is on keeping your mind off of the race itself. Manage your mental state and stay relaxed this week and you will be one large step in the right direction to a great race performance in Sunday’s London Marathon!

Thanks for reading, and check back in a few days time for our marathon pacing advice and race day tips!

Thanks

Gavin and the Kenya Experience Team


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