Countdown to Race Day: How to Prepare in the Last Four Weeks
By Keri Mandell
The Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon & Half Marathon is only four weeks away! With race day on the horizon, here are several training tips and other things you need to know in order to ensure you’re ready on race day!!
Four Weeks to Go
Four weeks out is when we start to second-guess ourselves. We ask ourselves, “Have I trained enough?” or “Should I squeeze in one more long run?” These are some common worries we all have, but from what I learned, less is more. It’s not the time to do anything crazy. It’s the time to let the body start to recover and build its strength up for race day.
The training you do today takes two-three weeks to have a real long-term effect on your fitness. So keep everything the same for the next two weeks. Then once you’re two weeks out, you reach a point of diminishing returns if you are not careful.
- Run smart, follow and trust your training.
- Focus on maintaining your fitness and not injuring yourself so that you can feel good on race day.
- Your longest run should take place either three or four weeks out from the race. After that, start to taper.
- Two weeks before race day: Begin to reduce your weekly miles.
- One week before race day: Make your runs EASY.
One Week to Go
The final week is a crucial time. All those tough weeks of training need to count, so look after yourself and your body. Tapering is all about balance. You don’t want to run too hard where you’ve exhausted yourself, but you don’t want to completely rest either or or may feel sluggish on race day. Your body loves routine so stick with yours. However, instead of going hard, try for more easy and relaxed runs with friends.
- Surround yourself with positive, supportive people who are going to make you feel good and excited about the race!
- Be sure to get lots of sleep. Protect the immune system and take care of yourself.
- Avoid heavy strength and conditioning or gym workouts this week. More time does not mean starting a new lifting routine. Wait until after the race.
- Stay hydrated!
Don’t ruin your hard work. Remember, you can’t outrun poor nutrition. So just eat normally and gradually reduce the volume and intensity of your training, this is a natural carb load.
Your body needs the quality calories to keep your glycogen (carbohydrate stores) topped off so you feel great in training and on race day.
- Be sure you’re choosing to eat healthy snacks and well balanced meals.
- Eat your normal pre-race or pre- long run breakfast. Don’t suddenly change your diet. This is not the time to experiment with something new. You don’t want to feel sluggish or sick.
The Final 24 Hours
- Go for that two-three mile jog to loosen the legs and calm the nerves. Try to release any anxiety you may have.
- Look at the weather and be sure to wear clothing that will keep you cool and comfortable. Do not wear new clothes that you have not run/trained in. Go for comfy pre-washed clothes you know will help you feel good.
- Pack your bag with all that you will need on race day – safety pins for your race number, warm clothes for before and after, toilet paper, chapstick, glide, snacks, fluids, you’re running watch, and iPod.
- Avoid spending lots of time on your feet walking with family or friends and sightseeing the day before. Put your feet up and rest. (I’ve made this mistake before and paid for it dearly during the race.)
- Snack on small meals throughout the day and stay well hydrated. I can’t say that enough… hydration is critical!
- Eat your last main meal between 6:00-7:00 p.m. Look for easily digested carbs. Don’t go to bed stuffed.
- Get to bed early. Try your best to rest and relax!
Yay! It’s finally here. Now is the time to be excited. Trust your training and know that everything will be OK!
- Try to stay relaxed and calm.
- Eat the race day breakfast you have practiced in training approximately 1.5-2 hours before the race start.
- Make sure you have your bib, GU/gels/blocks, your bag for after, etc., all the essentials you need before you leave the house.
- Know your pace and split times, don’t rely solely on your GPS. The arm bands they hand out at the expo are really helpful.
- Some people like to jog or warm up before the race, while others use the first one-two miles as their warm-up. Do what feels right for you.
- Hand in your post-race bag and head to the corral about 20-30 minutes before the start. Keep your warm clothes on before you go. When you get the go, enjoy the your 26.2 journey. You’ve trained, you’re ready, now is the reward for all your hard work. Enjoy it!
- Don’t start too fast, ease into your pace.
- Run at the pace you have practiced. After building into your target marathon pace, pay attention to your splits to help ensure you’re on track.
- Try not to bank too much time in the beginning. This can hurt you at the end and make you unable to maintain pace.
- If you’re feeling good after the first half of the race, then pick it up.
- Slow down at water stops and sip your sports drinks and/or water.
- Remember to smile, take time to relax and draw in the atmosphere! These memories are sure to last a lifetime. Enjoy every step!
Wishing everyone an awesome race! Enjoy your time and the shore. Take in the sights, breathe in the ocean air, and smile at all the spectators there to cheer you on along the way! Have fun, run happy and strong!