London Marathon: training top tips for the final week

London Marathon Runners Pic: Julian Mason

London Marathon Runners Pic: Julian Mason

You’re in the shape of your life, you’ve spent the winter shattering what you thought was your pain barrier with brutal late night and early morning runs, and for the last couple of months you’ve cut out alcohol and anything else that might vaguely intoxicate the temple that your body has now become…

Whether this is you – or not – through speaking to a variety of past marathon runners we have created a guide to your final week of preparation for the 2014 London Marathon.

It is marathon law that your training should have ‘tapered’ off by now. With seven days to go, you should be all but done with running.

The tapering process should be well under way and all that should remain is a relatively light stretch of the legs.

Ben, 23, who completed the 2011 London Marathon, said: “I continued my pattern of training every Sunday – I went for a six or seven mile run the Sunday before the race and that was it.”

Elliot during the 2012 London Marathon Photo: Josh Goodman

Elliot during the 2012 London Marathon Photo: Josh Goodman

While Ben was guided by his mother, an experienced marathon runner, Elliot, 21, who ran the 2012 London Marathon, admits: “I trained using a guide I found on the internet – I’m not sure that was the most sensible thing to do.”

“I ran three miles on the Tuesday (before the race), four miles on the Wednesday, three miles on the Thursday and then I did a two mile walk on the Saturday.”

While “woefully underprepared” Alex, 22, who ran in last year’s London Marathon, insists that despite being nervous over his lack of preparation, “there was no point in doing runs in that last week.”

Whether or not you have implemented dietary and wider lifestyle changes during training, it is another marathon law that the final week before the race should be spent carbo-loading – even if that goes against a lifetime of carb-avoiding.

Mathilde, 26, who ran the Copenhagen Marathon in May 2013, found it hard to adapt to a more starchy diet. “I changed my diet quite a bit, both in the final week and the last couple of months leading up to the marathon,” she said.

“I stopped drinking alcohol two months before race-day and I ate a lot more carbohydrates than I normally do. During the final week I felt really disgusted with myself because I had to eat a lot of white bread and pasta, which I normally never touch.”

If eating large amounts of pasta doesn’t come naturally to you, there might be ways you hadn’t thought of to make the experience more bearable…

“The charity I was representing put on a ‘pasta party’ the evening before the race,” says Ben. “So I went to that with some of my family who were also running – it was nice to be around other people who were going to be taking part, and the lasagne wasn’t bad either.”

So there you have it, pasta, pasta and more pasta is the way to go, and if you have some marathon running friends why not be the host of your own pasta party.

It is recommended you have your last ‘load’ in the early evening before the race and stick to your new best friend, water, thereafter.

You should be keeping yourself particularly well hydrated in the final days before the race. “I was sure to take a big bottle of water with me wherever I went during that last week,” said Ben. “It was a bit of a drag but I wanted to give myself the chance to run the fastest I could.”

However, when it comes to the morning of the race, Elliot warns that you may want to limit your fluid intake: “I remember running past the first toilet stop and seeing loads of people queuing and thinking ‘what fools!’”

If anxiety takes over and you do find yourself needing the toilet early in the race, there might be a way to avoid losing too much time…

“Because it took so long to get from where we joined at the starting gate to get through it – the bottle of water I had before the gun went off had gone completely through me – so I had to go to the toilet after 5 minutes,” recalls Alex.

“Instead of wasting time queuing for the toilet I was straight onto Blackheath Common and back on the track within a few blissful moments.”

A good night’s sleep before the big day is ideal – but what if excitement or nerves get the better of you?

“I went to bed at about 10pm and I don’t know if it was my body clock or nerves or something else, but I just couldn’t sleep,” Ben remembers.

“I thought the best thing I could do was to watch a film – something inspiring – so I went for Cool Runnings and that put me in a positive place before I slept.”

If films don’t inspire you, make sure you have plenty of support out on the course for the race.

Mathilde recalls: “My mum jumped out of the crowd at a time when I was really feeling it, and I hadn’t expected her to be there. I remember that really gave me a push to keep going.”

If most of your friends and family are otherwise engaged or extremely lazy – Alex has a tip for you to get the most out of the 500,000 or so other spectators crammed around the track.

“I had my name on my top so even people who weren’t there to support me personally were shouting ‘come on Alex!’ – that extra encouragement helped a lot.”

Make sure you are armed with some sort of energy supplement to keep you going throughout the race and whatever you do, don’t forget to tie up your shoelaces.


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