10 Things To Do Week Leading Up to the Marathon

This is the week.  Marathon week. As promised, this is the final post in my Marathon Wednesday Series.  This post was originally going to be a compilation of marathon inspiration from interviews I gathered from people who have completed marathons, but life happens and that idea never happened.  So instead, I am sharing a few things I am intentionally incorporating into my week to help with my performance come Sunday. While at this point there is not much more I can do that will change my fitness, there are a few small intentional choices I have made this week to help me feel both physically and mentally ready.  So, if you are gearing up for your fall marathon and have all the weeks of training carefully laid-out, but feel a little less certain about what that final week should look like, this one is for you! Here is a checklist of 10 things you should consider doing the week of your marathon.  

1. Run Less Miles

Depending on who you ask, people will have different opinions of what your mileage should like in that week leading up to the big 26.2.  Most schools of thought can agree that cutting back on mileage is a good and necessary thing; however, there are some that don’t believe in a full-on taper.  The thing with training is that especially after all the major miles and workouts have been put in, the final week is more about your mental state. For some, they might feel better if they don’t cut back a ton in miles.  For others, a significant cutdown helps them mentally feel ready. While I was initially resistant to cutting back a ton on the mileage, I have cut my runs this week down to either 4 or 5 mile runs. This is about 3 miles less per day.  I am also taking the Thursday before the race off. This is putting me at about 21 miles before I race the 26.2. While there is definitely still a temptation to squeeze in a few more miles this week, I know that those miles won’t help. If anything, they could keep me from fully recovering and feeling my freshest in the race.  

2. Run a Workout that Brings Confidence 

While there is no need to run a crazy workout during Marathon Week, a very short and easy workout, is a good thing to incorporate to help give you confidence going into the race.  I ran a workout on my normal workout day, Wednesday. It was just extra short. I ran a 2 mile warm-up, 2 miles at my goal marathon pace, and a mile cool down. This workout was solely for confidence.  I ran the two miles about 10 seconds faster than my goal pace and that was intentionally trying to go really easy and controlled. This was a huge boost in confidence. I finished those 5 miles feeling amazing. I highly suggest creating a light workout, like the one above, to help remind you that even in your tiredness, all those miles and hard work paid off. You are fit.  You are ready.

3. Drink Lots of Water

This is an obvious one, but especially if you are not great when it comes to hydration, this is the week to be extra intentional about it. Carry that bottle everywhere. Have a cup of water by your bedside.  I used to be really great at drinking water, but ever since becoming a mom, I so easily forget to drink water for myself. I am constantly putting Hudson’s sippy cup in front of him, but don’t do the same for myself.  This week, I am all about the water. I just sit and drink whole glasses and actually think about how that water is getting my body ready for the race. 

4. Take an Epsom Salt Bath, Sleep In Compression Socks & Roll

I just wrote a post about the importance of recovery, if you missed it, you can check it out here.  Recovery is essential throughout training, but this week, especially, I have been making sure I dedicate daily time to recovery.  We just had our bathroom remodeled, so we can now take baths! Taking an epsom salt bath is a great way to relax your muscles and allow for blood flow.  Every night this week, I have been sleeping in my compression socks. Again, increased blood flow. While I have not been great at rolling out during this whole training block, I am trying to spend a few minutes rolling out before I go to bed.

5. Listen to Inspiring Marathon Stories

While I typically listen to a variety of different podcasts, this week my ears are being filled with inspiring marathon stories.  While who knows what I will be thinking about during the race, I like to think that I will carry bits and pieces of the motivation and inspiration I have listened to throughout my week.  

6. Try to Conserve as Much Energy as Possible (early to bed/naps)

I like to keep my days full and busy.  While we still have had relatively full days with getting runs in and then going to our church’s Vacation Bible School, I am working really hard at trying to not use up too much energy.  I am letting certain things go this week. I know they will be there for me next week. While this one is harder for me, I am also trying to get more sleep in. We are working on going to bed slightly earlier.  While I am not really a nap taker, I am taking my afternoon rest time seriously this week.

7. Focus on Nutrition (but still eat cookies!)

Since I am really just running for fun right now, I haven’t been going crazy with nutrition, but this week I really am focusing on making sure I get good, healthy calories in.  Lunches are the hardest for me. I always make Hudson a nice, big lunch, but for some reason I always find myself just snacking or eating random leftovers for lunch. This week I am trying to put together more comprehensive lunches for myself.  Our dinner meals are usually pretty healthy, but we are especially focusing on getting in good proteins and healthy carbs. Think salmon, chicken, steak, rice, quinoa, pasta. Like I mentioned in the title, I still am eating sweets! Those cookies are necessary. They won’t ruin a race. 

8. Visualize the Race 

All week there has been a background track in my mind of me racing the course.  I am present, but there is still part of me that has my mind racing. I am playing out different situations. I am imagining feeling super strong. I am thinking of scenarios that could go wrong and how I will respond. I picture running in a pack and holding on when the pace changes.  A healthy dose of visualization, regardless of the type of runner you are is important. Even if time does not matter to you, and the major goal is to get to the finish line, thinking about running through the course, is important. Think of any big, important thing you do. You visualize how it will go, you plan, you prepare.  Running a marathon is a big, important thing. You must visualize. Also, if this will be your first time on the course, I highly recommend finding a YouTube video or resources that takes your through the whole course. We watched the course video a couple months ago, but we will definitely watch again the night or two before the race.

9. Break In Race Shoes 

If you plan on racing in marathon flats, be sure to break them in! My pretty white and pink New Balance flats just came in the mail last week.  Each day this week I have been wearing them. I did one workout in them and the other days, I have just worn them for a few days out on errands. 

10. Do Strides 

Last, but not least, do strides.  These could be longer strides, like a minute or they could be super short, like 20 seconds.  The idea is to give your legs a little feel of moving quicker and getting some turnover in. I also use strides as confidence builders and work on my form.  This week, I have not had a ton of time to do strides after my run, so instead I have used the last portion of my run to incorporate a few strides where I pick up the pace. This is a great sharpening tool. It is the cherry on top to weeks and weeks of hard training. Side note: strides are a great idea to do throughout training, but it hasn’t been something I have been very consistent at during this training block.  

To those running San Francisco this week or to those running a fall marathon, best of luck! Enjoy this final week of training.  As my college coach used to always say, “The hay is in the barn.” It is. You’ve done the work. You’ve got this. Enjoy it. Push yourself. Believe you can. 

Marathon Training Tips

So you want to run a marathon, but you have no idea where to start? Then, you are in the right place. I am going to break down my training to give you some tips and inspiration when creating your own plan. The idea of 26.2 miles can feel very daunting, even for someone that has been a runner for over 10 years. The key is to start small and build from there. Especially if you do not regularly run, you cannot just jump into high mileage and workouts. You need to slowly acclimate your body to the mileage. There are tons of training programs you can access online. A popular one is the Hal Higdon training programs, which I am linking here. There are different plans based on the type of runner you are. I think these plans can be a great starting point, but I also think it is important to craft the plan to your specific body and life. Don’t be afraid to get a plan and then make the proper adjustments that make sense for you. Don’t be afraid to change around days or to increase mileage on certain days and take days off when you are struggling. I am not training with the same intensity I did in college; therefore, I am not in as good of shape. However, this is one of the first times where my body feels genuinely good and strong. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I am in charge of my own training. The truth is, you know your body best. If you are disciplined, there is no better coach to have than yourself. Who knows your body better? With that said, no one should train for a marathon alone and isolated. Even if you are largely making decisions on your training, you should still absolutely consult with someone else to make sure you are on the right track. Marathon training is hard work, if possible, find a tribe that helps keep you motivated and consistent.

If you are postpartum and beginning to train for a marathon, you can go back and read my specific tips for postpartum marathon training, here.

Today, I want to give more specific training tips for marathon training. I am not a coach or by any means a marathon expert. This is my first ever marathon! So, I get it, maybe not the most credible, but there is this quotation that makes me feel a bit more credible when it comes to marathons:

“To run your best marathon you have to be in your best 10K shape. To be in your best 10K shape you have to be in your best 5K shape.” -Randy Thomas, Women’s XC Head Coach at Boston College

I have lots of experience when it comes to training for fast 5Ks. This is really the base of good marathon training, but of course the mileage and longer steady states must be added. So this might be my first time training for a marathon, but I have years of 5K training under my belt. I also believe a huge aspect to good marathon training is patience. You can’t jump into that 20 mile long run. You have to build and build and patiently await the 26th mile. It will come, and you will be ready.

These tips are definitely more geared to the busy person that is trying to squeeze marathon training into an already hectic schedule. This is for those that love running, but running is not everything. This is for those that want to hit their goal, whatever that might be (BQ, sub-fill-in-the blank hours, or just crossing that finish line), but do not want training to take over their lives. So if you’re still with me, and saying yes, yes, yes, that is me, then here are 5 tips to consider when beginning to marathon train:

Start Where You Are

There are tons and tons of training plans to choose from, but I think one of the best ways to create a training plan that works for your body, is starting exactly where you are and slowly building from there. I am not going to get into the technicalities of the training plan because there is so much variation based on running background, but I think a general rule of thumb is to start with what you have been doing. So for example, if before you decided to run a marathon, you were running 4 miles, 4 times a week. So, 16 miles per week. Start that as week 1 of training. In terms of start date, that will also vary based on running experience, but as long as you aren’t going from zero running, 4 months out is plenty of time to build. If you are going from literally not running at all, I would give yourself an extra month to just work on getting used to running occasionally. Back to my example. If you start with week 1 at 4 days of running per week, averaging about 16 miles, then each week, you will want to slowly increase by no more than about 4 miles. Again, this is a very basic way of thinking of it, but that number 4 was a helpful tool to help me build. I also started at running 4 days a week. I naturally increased this to 5 and then to 6 days a week. You will reach a point where it is easier to increase weekly mileage by having a really easy 4-5 mile run on one of the days you typically took off. You will also want to choose the maximum volume you wish to hit. There is definitely a point where more miles is not necessarily the answer to a faster marathon time. This is known as the law of diminishing returns. Choose your number and try to not go over it. This is again very much based on experience and your personal body, but for me, I am finding that 60 is a good number. Again, I have built to this type of mileage and I have only hit 60 for the first time about 6 weeks out from the marathon. I am staying at 60 for about a month of training and then will taper (cut back on mileage) last 2 weeks before the race. While this is definitely not crazy high mileage for a marathon, I know my body, I know my life, and right now 60 is what makes sense.

Designate a Day for Tempo Runs and Long Runs

And stay consistent! Every Wednesday is my workout days. I am at the point that I don’t even think about it. I just know that Wednesdays I need to push myself. I also then know that Thursdays and Fridays, I recover and just run based off of effort. That leads to the big long run days, which I choose to run on Saturdays. I treat Saturdays with extra care and importance. To me, these are the most important days of training. I think it is essential to have this type of training rhythm. Our bodies are smart and I believe they respond well to the same patterns over and over again.

Be Particular About Pace

Depending on your goals, pace will play a different role into your training, but regardless if you are going for the Boston Qualifier time or want to hit sub- 4 hours, pace is important. Again, lots of theories on how to pace, but based on my college training I am used to using VDOT pacing. Here is the link to the best VDOT calculator. I love this method of training because it makes pacing very straightforward. Even if you have not run a race recently, you can put your goal marathon time in and it will calculate your pace for the race, but if you click on the “Training” tab next to the “Race Paces” tab, it will give you the mile pace for easy/recovery runs, T-pace (threshold or tempo pace), I-pace (interval pace, so think mile repeats), and R-pace (repetition pace, so think hard and painful). If you get anything from this whole piece, this should be the takeaway. This is a great to make sure you are on target to hit your goal pace. Final thing on pacing, pay attention to it on workout and long run days, but really try to go off of effort on the other training days. On my easy runs I rarely look down at my pace. There is something to having runs where pace is not the focus, just feeling good and getting in the miles.

Train on Terrain Similar to Course

Know the course you are running ahead of time. Each course is different, so do your research to find out what type of course you will be dealing with (flat, hilly, rolling, down hill). Based on the course, make sure you are getting in runs that expose you to those elements. If you are running a really hilly course, it doesn’t make sense to only run on flat surfaces. Find the hills in your area and incorporate them into your runs. You can also incorporate hill workouts by doing harder effort hill repeats. The best situation of course, is to get to train on the course, but for most of us, this is not always possible. Even if the race will be your first time on the course, try to replicate it as best you can on training runs.

Take Days Off!

Your body needs rest. It is easy to fall into the more is better trap, especially when you are training for 26 miles, but your body needs proper rest to be able to absorb training. I am the type of person that sometimes struggles with rest days, especially when I am anxious about hitting my goal time. It really helps me when I think about taking days off from running as a way to get better and help my body absorb the training. Changing your perspective on rest and days off make it so much easier to allow your body the rest it needs. I often think about how an extra 8 miles will not do me that much more good, but it can definitely cause injury or burnout.

I hope these tips can help as you start your marathon training! If you do have a marathon on the calendar, I would love to hear which one and how training is going. Leave a comment below!