The Week Before the Marathon
Tapering is a process you'll begin two weeks before a race. You'll notice in the marathon training schedules that Week 17 is the taper week. The idea is to slow down. Less is best! Give your body the rest it needs to prepare for the big event. Do not use this time to fit in extra exercise in hopes of burning calories to knock off a few pounds. Your body needs to be loose and rested.
Keep stretching as much as possible over the couple of weeks prior to the marathon. Consider getting a leg massage no later than two days before the marathon—although if you've never had a leg massage, don't try it now. Take care of long toenails, blisters, and calluses the week or two prior to the marathon.
As you taper your running, concentrate on reading books and magazine articles that provide you with motivation and inspiration. Take care of any anxieties and mental concerns in the weeks prior to the marathon. Preparation is the best strategy to reduce or eliminate stress and anxiety, which is all the more reason to have completed those key long runs in the weeks prior to the marathon. Similarly, getting a head start on packing if you are traveling out of town for the race is another way to reduce your stress level.
Remember that it is normal to be tense or nervous prior to your running a marathon. Even the most seasoned runners experience these feelings. Stay away from participants who are excessively stressed out or negative so they don't adversely affect your state of mind.
While you're running the race, take time to enjoy the spectators, your fellow runners, and the scenery of the course. Stop negative thoughts dead in their tracks, and change them to positive affirmations. Think about how proud family members and friends will be of you.
Think About Food
As you scale back the distance and intensity of your running during the last week, realize that you are not burning as many calories. Weight gain the week before a race is due to glycogen accumulation, and you should expect this. However, this does not mean to go on a crash diet! Exercise care in selecting foods to eat during this time period, aiming for nutritionally rich foods rather than simple carbs and high-fat products.
Make sure you consume plenty of carbohydrated foods three days before the marathon. Choose foods for lunch and dinner that are high in carbohydrates (such as pasta, potatoes, and rice). Don't neglect fruits, vegetables, and some protein sources. Try to really scale back on fats during this time.
Hydrate well the week before the marathon (water is best) and, in particular, during the carbohydrate-loading period three days prior to the marathon. Research shows that carbohydrates convert to glycogen more effectively when consumed with water. If you do gain a couple of pounds, don't worry about it; these glycogen reserves will serve as fuel during the marathon.
If you are traveling out of town, be sure to pack healthy snack foods to eat the weekend before the marathon. Eliminate the need to search for a grocery store that stocks your favorite foods. If traveling by plane to your marathon destination, check with your airline to see whether you're allowed to carry bottled water with you. If you can't bring your own on board, be sure to let the flight attendant know you'll need several refills while you're in the air. Flying at high altitudes causes dehydration.