As marathon season approaches and you’re coming to the end of your training programme, we take a look at our top tips to prepare you for your first marathon in the days before the big event.
The week before
Fuel your body
In the days leading up to your race, it is important to make sure you are eating enough food to fuel your big run, particularly focusing on a high proportion of carbohydrates. Nutrition is important when it comes to exercise, but even more so when you are doing an extreme activity like a marathon. Carbs will be converted into glycogen, which will fuel your muscles and get you to the finish line. Foods like pasta, bread and oats are all good sources of carbohydrates that are easy to digest. Aim to consume roughly 10g of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight a day, for two or three days before the race.
Be sure to drink plenty of fluids the day before a race to ensure you are properly hydrated. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, as they can make you dehydrate you as well as affecting your sleep.
Prep your equipment
Make sure your trainers are properly laced and comfortable. Stock up on blister plasters if you think this could be an issue, and make sure you have got all the right clothing that you feel comfortable in. Get your race bib and safety pins ready to so you aren’t trying to find them last minute. Don’t forget the sun cream if it’s looking like a nice day, and ensure you charge your GPS watch or headphones if using them on the day. Also, check and clip your toenails if they are too long to prevent any unnecessary foot pain.
Don’t overdo it
Although getting in a few extra miles during the last few days before your race may seem like a good idea ‘just in case’, it could well use up your glycogen reserves and leave you feeling tired on the big day. Use it as an opportunity to relax, focus, and go through your strategy for the race itself. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep the day before – have a calm and relaxed evening allowing you to unwind and focus.
On the day
Allow lots of time before the race to get yourself ready. Factor in time to eat, get dressed, get to the event and soak up the atmosphere, warm up and stretch, take a last-minute toilet trip and mentally prepare yourself.
Breakfast-wise, go for high-carb foods that are low in dietary fibre and fat to make sure you don’t have any stomach problems mid-run. Porridge or pancakes are a great option, and take some high-carb snacks to have while you run. Malt loaf is a good mid-run snack to maintain blood sugar levels and delay the depreciation of glycogen.
If you’ve suffered from any injuries during your training, it could be a good idea to get them taped up to support muscles, tendons, ligaments, instabilities, alignment and more.
Congratulations, you’ve just run your first marathon! After getting through 26.2 miles you are likely to feel the effects of it for a couple of days following the race, but there are a few top tips for marathon recovery which will help ease the aches and pains.
It may be tempting to sit down the instant you finish the race, but try to keep moving for 10-15 minutes after to allow your heart rate to return to normal and your body to ease its way out of ‘marathon mode’! If you can, a short soak in an ice or cold-water bath for five to 10 minutes will help ease inflammation in the legs and help recovery. Get into comfy shoes and opt for compression tights to help recovery.
Eat a small snack once you’ve finished the race to make sure you maintain blood sugar levels and to start replenishing your glycogen levels. Once your appetite has completely come back, it’s time to eat a well-earned meal. Make sure you re-hydrate with plenty of water following your race.
The day after
Book in to have a sports massage the day after your marathon, as this can help reduce stiffness, reduce lactic acid and increase muscle length, which will help ease the pain and aid recovery.
Going for a slow, easy walk will help boost circulation and warm up your muscles to help the healing process, and aid delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Stay away from the long runs for at least a week, to allow your muscles time to recover fully. DOMS can last for a few days or even up to a week, but if the pain persists for over a week it could be something else, so it’s a good idea to get it checked over by a physiotherapist.
Reflect on your achievements
You’ve done it! Running your first marathon is no easy task. You’ve put the hard work in for weeks leading up to it and it all paid off on the day. It is a huge achievement and certainly one to be proud of, so take the time to soak it all up and look on back on your achievement.
So, when’s the next one?! Get in touch if you would like any further tips on running your first marathon or completing your next!