In the last week prior to your marathon, you can do far more harm than good in terms of training. Now is the time to rest-up, eat well, and taper your training back to induce freshness and an excitement for running.
Early in the week, try to schedule a professional massage if you can. A good deep-tissue massage can work wonders for relaxing tight muscles, clearing waste products, aid the healing of old injuries, and leave your legs primed for 26.2mls.
The chief goals this week are to start feeling spry on your runs, do just enough training to keep your edge, and focus on increasing carbohydrate intake a bit in the last 3-4 days prior to your race. Make your travel plans early so that you can relax this week as your race nears. Also, try to avoid any undue work or life responsibilities to avoid extra mental stress this week (easier said than done, I know!).
You may start having feeling of pre-race anxiety or significant nerves prior to embarking on your marathon this week. Try to avoid any negativity, as your mind can directly influence your physical performance on race day.
Elite runners will often speak with sports psychologists before a major marathon, but most of us won’t have that luxury. All you need to do is to repeat to yourself that you are extremely fit, prepared for your race, and to ban any thoughts that might interrupt this positive self-image from your mind. Develop a “mantra” if needed to shirk these thoughts, and use one during your race when you hit a rough patch. Something simple like “Powerful stride” or “For my wife” will do the trick in a pinch.
The below is a hypothetical final week for two different runners we have seen in the last few articles of Peaking for Performance. Notice that both runners are making an extra effort to rest this week and be primed to race at their best!
First or Second Year Runner, Limited Background in Formal Training
Time Goal- 4hrs
Sun- Long Run (12mls in Race Gear w/ Fueling; one-week to race)
Tues- 30min XT
Wed- Easy 40min Run, 4x 12sec Max Hill Sprints
Thurs- WU, Tempo Run (3mls @ Goal Marathon Pace), WD
Highly Competitive Runner, Extensive Background in Formal Training
Time Goal- 2:40
Sun- WU, 8mls @ Goal Marathon Pace, WD (one week to race; run in race gear w/ fueling)
Tues- Easy 50min
Wed- Mod 40min, Short Hill Sprints
Thurs- WU, 3x 1600m @ Half-Marathon-10K Pace w/ 400m Recovery Jogs, WD
Sat- Very Easy 30min, Light Strides