What to Do the Week Before Your Marathon or Half-Marathon
It’s race week! This is an exciting time. The main goal of race-week workouts is to strike a balance between resting and keeping the ball rolling (if you’re not used to taking days off in training, now is not the time to start doing it!). The ultimate objective is to arrive at the starting line feeling calm and confident that you’re ready to run your best on race day.
Sunday: Go for an easy run.
You are one week out from race day. Visualize your race-day routine, rehearsing the day in your head from the moment you will wake up until the moment you will cross the finish line. Wake up today at the same time you plan to wake up on race day. Eat your race-day breakfast, and try to run at the same hour that the race will start. Make sure you’re drinking at regular intervals throughout the day, and also throughout the rest of the week in order to maintain hydration levels.
Monday: Rest or crosstrain.
Keeping with the pattern established early in the training plan, start off the week with a nonrunning recovery day. Stick with what has worked for you until this point. Take today as a total rest day, or do a low-impact crosstraining workout to recover from the weekend.
You may be feeling antsy today, but it is important to rest your mind as well as your body. Do not put too much mental energy into thinking about the upcoming race. Watch a movie; read a book; do housework. Since your last race-simulation workout is tomorrow, try to eat the dinner you plan to have the night before the race to ensure that it sits well overnight. This is a good opportunity to knock out any last-minute kinks in your nutrition plan before race day. Go to bed at the hour you plan to the night before the race in preparation for tomorrow morning’s workout.
Tuesday: Time for your final dress rehearsal.
This is your last race-simulation session. If your work schedule allows, rise at the time you plan to on race day; go through your planned race-day morning routine, including breakfast; and, if possible, perform the workout in the shoes and clothes you’ll wear this weekend. Put yourself into race mode during the run, and focus on staying relaxed while running race pace.
You’re not training at full volume, but you may still have the appetite of someone who is. Keep an eye on what you’re eating this week, and scale back accordingly to account for your reduced activity level. Many runners have a tendency to overindulge during race week, but it’s important to remember that you don’t need as many calories as you did two weeks ago.
Wednesday: Go for an easy run.
Just as on Sunday, use this short run to shake your legs out. Keep the effort easy, and don’t give in to the temptation to go fast just because your legs are feeling fresh.
If massage has been a regular part of your routine throughout the training cycle, this is a good day to get a light one. It will relax your muscles and increase blood flow, helping your legs feel fresh over the next few days. Spend time today reviewing your training log. Look back to see how far you’ve come over the past months, and take confidence from all the workouts you’ve done. Nutritionally, pay attention to your salt intake in these final days before the race. There’s no need to go overboard, but try to snack on salty foods such as pretzels, nuts, and soups in the following few days to ensure that you’re keeping your sodium levels in balance.
Thursday: Stay sharp with a short fartlek run.
It’s easy to feel flat when you’re reducing your training volume, so it’s important to keep small doses of intensity in the training schedule. Use these short 1-2 minute pickups at 10K to half-marathon race pace to stretch your legs out and get your heart rate up. Don’t worry about wearing yourself out for the race this weekend; this workout will be over before it gets challenging.
If you’re traveling tomorrow, pack your bags tonight. Go through your racing checklist, and put your most important items in your carry-on bag, including race-day clothes; running shoes; and energy gels, blocks, bars, or drink mix. Pack snacks for the journey. Go to bed at your normal time, and aim for a solid, restful night of sleep.
Friday: Rest or crosstrain.
If you’re traveling for a Sunday race, this is the best day to get to your destination. Don’t fret about squeezing in a workout today, as travel can take a lot out of you. If you’re going to take a day off before the race, this is the day to do it. If you’re not traveling, or if you arrive at your hotel with time to spare, aim for 30 minutes of light crosstraining or go for a short walk to get your legs moving.
Travel can cause stress, so try not to add to it. Give yourself plenty of time to do what you need to do and get where you need to go. Take along a bottle of water or a sports drink and sip from it regularly. Pack plenty of snacks, especially if you’re in transit most of the day. If you get to your destination early enough, go shopping for the foods and snacks you will want, in particular for race-day morning. Consider making dinner reservations for the next few days, as many popular places fill up quickly, especially the night before a big event. If you can get to the expo today, do it. Picking up your bib and browsing the booths with other excited runners are great ways to get psyched up for the race. Finally, go to bed at a decent hour and make it your mission to get a restful night of sleep.
Excitement levels the day before the race can be off the charts, so try to temper your enthusiasm as much as possible, keeping the pace easy. The purpose of this short run is to get your legs moving, release some of that bottled-up energy, and relax your mind. Get out for your run soon after waking up; then try to stay off your feet as much as possible, relaxing both body and mind the rest of the day.
Make breakfast and lunch your most significant meals today, eating enough to satisfy your appetite without feeling too full. At dinner, aim for easily digestible carbohydrates and a small amount of protein, and stay away from foods that are high in fat and fiber. (This is not the time to try something new.) Drink water at dinner, aiming for 16 ounces (2 glasses) with your meal, to ensure that you’re hydrated before you head to bed. Think of this meal as topping off the gas tank you’ve been gradually filling for the last week. After dinner, go for a short, relaxing walk and then spend time ensuring that you’ve got everything laid out for tomorrow morning. Pin your race bib to your shorts or shirt, and fix your timing chip to your shoe. Once your race bag is packed, read a book, watch TV, or take part in some other stress-free activity that helps you take your mind off the race. Many a runner has trouble falling asleep the night before a big race due to nervousness and excitement. Set two alarms for the next morning (or put in a request for a wake-up call from the front desk), get into bed at your normal time, and just try to relax.