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Martin Yelling

Martin Yelling

8:37 PM on Wednesday, April 11, 2018   •   Edited

Yes, you'll be okay. Sort of.

"Am I going to be okay"? She asked. "I haven't run for a week due to a cold and my marathon 'A race' is in ten days' time".

I get this a lot in marathon season. Truth is, I'm not really sure you're going to be 'okay'. A marathon hurts, you've got to expect some suffering, it's part of the game. It's the point. You might suffer a bit more. But that's okay. Assuming you've done the training prior, and the cold has left the building, then I'm reasonably certain you'll be able to give the marathon a decent crack.

As marathon race day draw closer tension builds, anxiety can ramp up, confidence can dip and nerves can rise. It's perfectly normal to question if there's enough in the marathon tank to go the distance. It's also possible to ruin race day by letting this get the better of you.

This is avoidable. Instead of pulling on your panic trousers and worrying about whether you can do it. Focus on turning your 'marathon over-analysis paralysis' on its head and instead take control, boost your confidence and reassure yourself that you've done all you can to make the finish line, however you can. Now, I'm not a huge fan of waffling yourself into a positive mindset frenzy and trying to trick yourself into believing you're suddenly Eliud Kipchoge (you're not), but at the same time, it's very easy to talk yourself out of a race result you'd be proud of.

Stay calm people! It's actually really common for marathon training to have not gone totally to plan. Loads of runners skid into race day feeling like they should have / could have done more, done things differently, avoided that illness, or banked extra miles. The likelihood is that you're just having a few last-minute jitters. The hard reality is that you can't do anything about it now anyway. So it doesn't matter. You've got to accept the context of where you are right now and acknowledge any potential constraints (without putting unnecessary obstacles in the way) that may be put around your performance, whilst still being committed, determined, and optimistic about what might be possible.

Reaching a marathon race day peak is quite a personal thing, there's certainly no 'one size fits all' approach but there a few things I've found to work (and not work) in being race day ready.

This doesn't work; Chuck in loads of extra training. You simply can't squeeze marathon training into the last two weeks. It's all too easy at this stage to make the classic mistake of doubting the training you've done to reach this point, think you haven't done enough miles, and run more in the final weeks than you've run in the past three months.

This does; Keep running but recognize that less is more. This doesn't mean do nothing! It means maintain the frequency of your running routine but drop the volume. Include some shorter workouts and some marathon-paced efforts but make sure as the race draws closer you feel fresh and recovered and not frazzled, battered and a physical and emotional wreck!

This doesn't work; Push on through injury or illness. It's easy to think that the most important thing to do at this time is to ramp things up or play catch up ignoring signs and symptoms that could be a game changer. An injury or illness at this stage could spell disaster and if it's serious enough could stop you from participating at all.

This does; Listen to your body. If you're tired, restless, aching, hurting, unhappy, sore, fatigued, frustrated, generally annoyed with the whole thing just back it off. Take your foot off the marathon throttle and calm down. Ease the pressure on yourself now before it's too late and you break. Doing less in the final few days/weeks is considerably better for your marathon success than doing too much and jeopardizing your start let alone your finish.

This doesn't work; neglect your mental game. All of the physical training you've diligently done in the previous few months can be relatively insignificant on race day if you lose your head and your mind isn't up for the challenge.

This does; refine your mental armory. Pay attention to and refine the psychological strategies that work for you to help you keep calm and focused in the final stages of your build up, but also that help you keep on pace and on track during toughest moments of your race (and we all know you'll have them, it's how you deal with them at the time that will make or break your run).

Finally, being content with your race day effort, and the outcome, whatever that may finally look like, is a challenging concept but one that is worthwhile allocating some thought space to and wrestling with. It's a common runners trait to always wish they'd been able to switch up or hang on to pace for longer, run faster, shaved off a few seconds, beaten so and so, wanted more, more and more. It's also a dangerous game to play as you risk never being content with your race outcome. The 'perfect race' doesn't come about too often! But I hope you're ready for yours.

Being content with a great race can look quite different to expectations.