With less than a week until the Berlin Marathon, I’m faced with a lot of decisions that could help or hurt my performance on race day. Whether you’re running your first race or your 100th, the week of the race can bring up lots of questions. What do I change and what do I keep the same? How much do I run and when? What do I eat? Here are some answers to help out with what to do the week of the race.
Depending on the distance of the race your taper off of regular mileage will look different. Generally, longer race = longer taper. But that’s a whole topic in itself. Regardless of the length of your taper, the important part is what you focus on.
Focus on: Race Pace. Instead of full workouts, sprinkle race pace into your runs in increments that don’t exhaust your muscles. The point is to learn and remember what race pace feels like. All the fitness you can gain for race day has already been gained. You will see no fitness gains during the week of your race- so anything too intense will only hurt your performance on race day.
Everything else stays the same only with less volume. If you typically run 5 days a week and do an easy run the day before a hard workout, run 5 days and do an easy run the day before the race. If you typically take a rest day, then rest. The day before a race is not the time to try a shake-out run for the first time!
Eat what you normally eat. Don’t eat new foods that could upset your stomach, etc. and could leave you playing catch-up to feel normal by race day. If you don’t usually eat pasta, don’t eat pasta the night before the race. (If you’re not currently in race week when reading this, it’s a good idea to try pasta or other meals the night before more intense workouts, like a long run, to see if it works for you as a pre-race meal.) Your last meal before the race should be race morning. Especially for longer races, get some real food in your stomach right when you wake up on race morning. This ensures plenty of time to digest but won’t leave you feeling hungry by the time the gun goes off.
Focus on: eating familiar foods and eat on race morning.
Sleep. A lot. I’ve never heard of someone feeling less than ideal on race day because they slept too much on Thursday night. You will NOT sleep well on the night before the race. If the race is important to you, you’ll be nervous and wake up frequently through the night.
Focus on: getting lots of sleep throughout the week. If you’ve been sleeping well the 3 previous nights, you’ll be rested and unaffected by your tossing and turning the night before the race.
Dress warm. Not on race day, but the week before. No matter the weather forecast for race day, I overdress the week leading up to the race. Today I ran in long sleeves even though it was 70℉ at by the end of my run. If race day is even remotely hot, I’ll stay a lot cooler in my singlet and if your body stays cooler it performs better.
Dress Rehearsal. Know what you’re going to wear on race day, practice it, and have it clean and ready to go days in advance.
Prepare early. Don’t wait until late at night or early on race morning to organize all your race day gear. Have everything ready to go before dinner. You don’t need that added stress!
Enjoy the taper! Most people stress the whole time during their taper phase. Not me! While race week does bring lots of nerves, I love running during taper phase. The work is done. There are no more hard workouts or high mileage weeks to push through. I make sure that I really enjoy the easy running portion of my taper.
Be flexible. If something small has to change, don’t freak out! I like to take Friday off before a Sunday race and do an easy shakeout with some strides on Saturday, but because we’re flying to Berlin on Wednesday I don’t have an option to run then and I don’t want to take off Wednesday and Friday. So I won’t run Wednesday and I’ll run really easy on Friday instead to make sure my legs are feeling normal after the long flight to Berlin.
Space it out. I typically do a harder workout 3 days a week (which is almost every other day), but during taper I only do two a week with two easy days in between. Don’t stack workouts back-to-back, even if it’s typical for you to do more effort on weekend days.