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Before You Line Up at the Start Line

If you’re one of the millions of people amping up your training during the final week before Marathon Sunday, then you know the last leg of race training is crucial for runners. It’s often not the missed workouts and long runs that cause marathoners the most anxiety, but rather the final countdown in the week leading up to race day. The risks of making a training or nutritional mistake is magnified the closer you get to the marathon.

Physical Preparation

  • Cut back on the distance and intensity of your training runs during the two-week period prior to the marathon, eliminating long and hard efforts. You will need to make a decision whether you wish to take either/both Friday or Saturday as a complete leg rest day(s) on marathon weekend.
  • Listen to your body. Remember, there are no workouts the week prior to the marathon that will enhance your preparedness for the race. An important rule of thumb is “Less is Best”, particularly if you are feeling either physically or mentally tired and/or your leg muscles are fatigued/achy, etc.
  • Keep stretching as much as possible during the couple of weeks prior to the marathon.

Nutritional Issues

The Week Prior to Your Marathon

  • As you reduce your mileage during the last week, realize that you will not be burning as many calories. So, you may gain one or two pounds if you don’t cut back a bit on the quantity of your servings early in the week.
  • Hydrate well the week before the marathon and in particular, during the carbohydrate loading period (three days prior to the marathon). Research indicates that carbohydrates convert to glycogen more effectively when accompanied with the consumption of water. This is the time when you may gain a couple of pounds, but don’t worry about it. This will be your energy fuel during the marathon!
  • Choose foods for lunch and dinner that are high in carbohydrates (e.g., pasta, potatoes, rice, etc.). Don’t neglect fruits, vegetables, and some protein sources however. Try to really scale back on fats during this time.

The Evening Prior to Your Marathon

  • Be sure to eat carbohydrate products that have been “tried and proven” during your training period. Keep pasta sauces simple, avoiding high fat varieties (e.g., alfredo, pesto, etc.). Avoid eating lots of salad items and vegetables (roughage) as these may prove to be troublesome on race day and can cause digestive problems.
  • Stick to water during the evening meal. Because coffee and tea contains caffeine, these products may make it difficult for you to fall asleep easily. Keep in mind that caffeine (as well as alcoholic beverages) are diuretics, which contributes to dehydration.