After months of training, avoiding wild nights out in favour of counting miles and battling a laundry basket piled high with Lycra, in the run up to race day the panic can set in.
From spare safety pins to armpit lube it's easy to forgot something important in favour of simply making it to the start line alive. Worry no more, our essential marathon check list will take the pressure off so all you have to do is run!
3-4 weeks before race day your training plan will start winding down. It’s common to convince yourself that easing off training will erase all the miles that you’ve put in. It won’t. Relax. Tapering is essential to ensure you're well rested and raring to go on race day.
Keep your legs ticking over with some shorter runs and have confidence in yourself. If you followed a training plan and put the miles in you should be more than ready to run 26.2 miles.
Practice race nutrition
From gels to Shot Blocks, energy bars and bananas, there is so much choice but also a myriad of foods your body can react negatively to. If you haven’t already, try before you race and see what works best for you before committing to your nutrition of choice.
If it's two weeks before race day and you’re itching to run, a few gentle miles won’t hurt. But if you don’t want to risk over-doing it, cross training will work wonders. Cycle, swim or dance away those pre-race jitters.
But avoid anything high-impact if you haven't tried it before. You want to rock up to that start line on race day feeling fresh; DOMS from trying out a new sport will do you no favours.
Shut eye is often over-looked but rest is vital for performing at your best on race day and recovering well afterwards. In the lead up to the event try to get at least eight guilt-free hours a night.
Never underestimate the importance of vaseline and plasters. Apply vaseline liberally before your run and you will thank us later. This one should be especially high up on the list for the boys. For the price of a few nipple plasters or even some bog-standard ones, it could save you a rather nasty bit of chafing on race day.
Check your kit - once, twice, three times
Amid the marathon nerves it’s easy to forget the simplest of things, especially if you’re travelling abroad to run your race. Make sure you have everything you'll need for race day in advance and don't forget the classic pre-race kit layout photograph. As well as getting you in the mood to run, snapping your gear before race day is a great way to ensure you don't forgot anything vital.
In the run up to a race hydration is key, especially if the event is held somewhere hot. Drink at least two litres of water the day before your marathon and don't forget to factor in the pre-start toilet break. Over-hydration is also a concern, so stick to small sips and listen to your body.
Marathon day is basically a celebration of all of your hard work. Soak up the crowds, high 5 the rows of kids and don't forget to smile. The crowds are out there cheering for you!
There will also be multiple cameras pointing at you along the race route and in a few day’s time you will be inundated with emails from photographers trying to flog you photos of your sweaty mug. To avoid looking like a monster from the deep, remember to smile at the cameras. Smiling also releases feel-good endorphins, so you’ll enjoy the race even more if you're grinning like a cheshire cat.
Arrange a meeting point
The last thing you want after running 26.2 miles is to struggle to find your friends and family in a sea of sweaty people. Phone reception is often temperamental during a big event so be sure to organise a clear meeting place for your nearest and dearest. Preferably in a nearby pub serving beer and chips.
Bask in that post-race glow
Finishing a marathon is no easy feat. After you get that medal give yourself a massive pat on the back and spend the rest of the week riding on a cloud of pride. Heck, sleep in your medal if you feel like it. We have.
Book Monday off work
Forget heading into work the day after a marathon. Give your champion legs a proper break and rest-up properly. This way you also won't have to worry about rushing your way down any stairs and you can reward yourself with a well earned beer (and chips).
After a big race it's tempting to sit on your bum and watch telly for a month (wearing your medal, naturally). While rest is vital for recovery, keeping active will actually ease your sore muscles, so factor in a gentle stroll the day after the race and gradually build up to running again over a couple of weeks.
Don't try to play catch up
Training for a marathon eats into your life, so it's normal to skip a few training miles here and there in favour of family time and maintaining some semblance of a social life. But trying to squash in a heap of missed days could result in injury or not being full rested on race day. You can't fake it, so make sure you put the training in.
Chill. It’s easy to get swept away by nerves but just try to remember all of the work you’ve done to even think about standing on that starting line, so try not to stress. Go for a nice walk, read a book, take your mind off the task ahead. Your taper is a chance to enjoy some well-deserved rest time.
Avoid experimenting with your food
The week before your race do your stomach a favour and stick to what your knife and fork already know. Trying something new won’t kill you, but it could give you stomach cramps and unwanted toilet stops that you weren’t expecting. Opt for simple and familiar carb-heavy dishes the night before the big day. If you're not sure where to start, read our carb-loading tips.
Resist box fresh trainers
Your marathon training kicks might be a bit battered from all of those miles but they’re worn in for the right reasons; adapting to the shape of your feet to ensure optimum comfort. Unless it’s a good three weeks before race day it’s better to save your new trainers as a post-marathon treat and stick to your familiar kicks.
Don't go out too fast
You're filled with adrenaline, the crowds are cheering and your rested taper legs are ready and raring to go. Ease the temptation to go out like Usain Bolt, stick to the pace you set out to do and you’ll thank yourself at the finish line. If this is your first marathon then it doesn't matter how long it takes you to cover 26.2 miles, it will still be a PB! So go slow and enjoy the ride.
Swerve the post-race blues
Running marathons is a powerful, life-affirming and joyful experience, but it's also perfectly normal for your mood to dip once you've finished the race. Aside from simply being overtired from undertaking such an enormous feat of endurance, after the long build up to race day it can feel strange for it to suddenly all be over.
Even if you make the podium or beat your PB by a long shot, it is still worth ensuring you are accompanied by friends and family post race to celebrate your success and keep you feeling positive. Marathon running is an all-consuming sport that pushes you to your absolute limits, so you need to take care of both your mental and physical health. Surround yourself with loved ones who are willing to listen to you bang on about race day and help you shuffle up stairs to the loo, and keep that medal close at hand to remind you of your incredible achievement.
Running a marathon is hard work and you deserve a reward for your efforts. Treat yourself to a slap up dinner, a new pair of kicks or what the hell, entry to your next race. You just ran 26.2 miles, you deserve it!