The most common mistakes made by people training for the London Marathon are to train too much or too little, with the former risking injury and the latter risking a dreaded DNF (did not finish) or an awful experience on race day. However, there’s not much you can do about either of those in the final week before the race, so we’ll assume you’ve kept your training within the rough parameters you set at the start of January and are now just looking to avoid sabotaging your marathon at the last moment.
For advice on the pitfalls that knock many runners off-track in the days before a marathon, we turned to Nick Anderson from Running With Us, the official training partner of fitness tracking company Polar. He came up with a few common ones – and here he explains how to avoid them.
1. Not following your training plan
Don’t start questioning if you’ve trained enough. Keep to your running plan and don’t suddenly add an extra hard session, long run or conditioning workout. It’s too late to get any fitter. At this point, less can be more – you don’t want to start the race tired.
2. Changing your diet
This is one where I see so many mistakes made and races ruined. Giving in to the temptation to try something new or eat a little less because you aren’t running as much on race week can be disastrous. Stick to the foods and fuels that have worked for you in training and before hard sessions or key long runs. For example, don’t suddenly eat porridge for the first time on the morning of the race. It might work but equally you might find out halfway into the race – in the worst possible way – that it hasn’t!
3. Tapering too much
Resting too much on race week will leave you feeling sluggish. Try to run as frequently as normal but reduce the distance, intensity and duration as race day gets near. Resting for days – unless you have to through injury or illness – can leave the body confused and result in your metabolism dropping, leaving you tired. I even recommend an easy 20-minute run the day before the marathon, with a stretch afterwards.
4. Forgetting to plan
It sounds simple but have you looked at the weather forecast and planned your kit for the day? Are your racing shoes packed? How are you getting to the race – can you park or is the train station near to the start? Will your hotel have your normal race day breakfast or have you packed this just in case?
It really is worth taking 20 minutes early in the week and listing all that needs to be done. Tick these off and you are already taking control of your race day experience. It’s one less thing to worry about and will reduce stress.
5. Not running your race
You should run at a pace that’s familiar to you and that you’ve practised in training. Be mindful to keep an eye on your own pace, even if somebody is trying to be helpful by telling you that they’re heading for the same pace as you and that you should run with them. Take control of your race and speed up gradually to your race pace. Get to halfway feeling good and attack the second half of the race with confidence, rather than feeling tired and hanging on.
6. Being unrealistic
This is probably my hottest tip of all when it comes to racing. Train and race for a time or result that’s within your grasp. It might be a new PB or a return to racing form, but keep it achievable.
Running With Us co-founder Nick Anderson is an official training partner and head coach for Polar