How to Navigate the Final Week of Marathon Training

By Ben Connelly

It’s finally here. The final week before your marathon. How are you feeling? Nervous? Excited? Worried? A mixture of all three?
Some of you will show up this week with a pop in your stride. The runs feel easy. Your training went well – perhaps not perfectly – but very well. Your main struggle this week is holding yourself back.
I’ve been there.
Others of you will show up tired. Training was difficult and you faced a number of challenges. Maybe the runs do not feel easy. Maybe you are starting to get worried. Maybe the race begins to loom in your mind and it seems almost insurmountable. You begin to wonder whether you can do it.
I’ve been there, too.
From personal experience I can say: sometimes you feel as ready as you’ll ever be and sometimes you feel decidedly unready. And while the former is infinitely preferable to the latter, I can also say from experience that you can begin your final week sore and worn-out and broken down, and still show up on race day and perform at your highest level.
How to Train This Week:
Keep your runs short and easy. Not too short. Run an easy tempo workout 4-5 days before your marathon. I recommend you run or cross-train every single day – as long as you keep it light. I also recommend taking the day off 2 days before your race to do some light cross training (biking is my go-to, but elliptical is great too).
The day before your race, run a short run, maybe 3-5 miles at an easy pace. Do not take the day off completely.
This is not the week to show off how fast you can run during easy runs. You may need to hold yourself back.
How to Prepare:
Sleep is your priority this week. You want to bank as much sleep as you can this week. I would aim for 10 hours every night. The most important night will be 2 nights before your race. The night before will not matter much if you are already rested.
Focus on all the recovery practices you may have neglected during your training. Do not overdo it on the foam rolling, but definitely spend some quality time working out soreness and practicing physical therapy.
Eat right. This is not the week to do the Vermonster. In a few days, I will have one last post about how to eat the nights before the race.
Stay loose and mobile. Walk around. But avoid overly strenuous activities.
Avoid sedentariness. This is not the week to lie around with your feet on the couch.
How to Think:
Relax.
Whether you feel nervous or excited, you want to remain calm this week and avoid worrying. Some people recommend pre-race visualization. This works if you know what you are doing. If you don’t, it could lead to rumination. You definitely want to avoid ruminating.
If you find thinking about the race makes you worry (and if you have trouble relaxing), try to avoid thinking about it. Distraction is better than rumination if it helps you relax. As long as you are training right and preparing right, thinking about your race will not help you.
Finally, I think the best attitude to have this week is gratitude. Gratitude for the training. Gratitude for the opportunity to race. Gratitude for the physical health and ability to run. And gratitude towards everyone who supported you along the way. Not everyone gets a chance to run a marathon and not everyone can. Count yourself lucky.

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