Expert Tips For Running A Marathon
Expert Tips For Running A Marathon

Expert Tips For Running A Marathon

The week before a marathon is all about the final preparation. You’ve put in the weeks of training, and now is the time to nail down a few strategic moves before race day. With the London Marathon taking place this Sunday, we asked some of the industry’s biggest names to share their last-minute preparation tips – from how to taper off your training to race day game plans…
By Tor West

Leading Up To The Run

Scale Things Back

“Your final long-distance training should be done two to three weeks before race day. The week before your race should be at a reduced milage, a practice known as tapering. The purpose of a taper is to maintain is to maintain your fitness from months of training whilst rebuilding your resilience and removing fatigue. More experienced runners respond better to shorter tapers with a bit more volume and intensity the week of the race, while beginner marathoners will fare better by lengthening the period of reduced volume and intensity. If you are a beginner, consider a 30-minute easy run on the Monday, a shorter session on the Wednesday incorporating one-minute intervals at your marathon pace. On the Thursday, try a 20-minute run that’s a mixture of your marathon pace and an easy pace to finish.” – Paul Kinney, USA triathlon coach on behalf of AllTrails

But Don’t Overdo It

“Most people tend to do too much in their final week of marathon prep. If you don’t run at all this week, rest assured it won’t end your chances of completing the marathon. The art of tapering is a mixture of maths and trust. In the final week, your mileage should be around 30% of what it was a couple of weeks prior to tapering. So, if you were running 70km a week, then aim for 20km in the final week (not including the marathon itself). However, listen to your body. This is highly dependent on your personal experience – less is always better than more in the final few days. Trust the work you have done up to this point.” – Anthony Fletcher, founder of OneTrack

Fuel With Carbs

“Carb loading is often mistaken as just the pre-race pasta dinner, but it should be started a few days before race day. Carbs are your body’s preferred source of fuel because it’s the easiest way to utilise and fulfil the body’s immediate energy needs. Aim for 10g of carbs per kilogram of your bodyweight in the three days prior to the marathon. If you are, say, 60kg, aim for 600g of carbs. A bagel is around 50g, a banana is 30g, and a bowl of pasta is 100g. Stick to the carbs you’re used to eating and limit high-fibre and high-fat items to keep your tummy happy. Make sure to hydrate properly while carb loading as carbs make the body retain water. If you carb load correctly, you’re likely to put on a little weight in the days leading up to the race – with every gram of stored carbs, you store 3g of water. Don’t stress – eating enough carbs will prevent you from hitting the wall.” – Charlie Watson, dietician @TheRunnerBeans

Stay Hydrated

“Hydration is just as important as nutrition in the taper week. Keep an eye on the weather – if it’s going to be particularly hot and humid, add a little extra salt to your meals throughout the week and consider hydrating with an electrolyte solution or tablet rather than just water. Excessive amounts of plain water can deplete the body of essential electrolytes and minerals that are needed come race day.” – Paul

LESS IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN MORE in the final few days. TRUST THE WORK you have done up to this point.

Visualise The Race

“Visualising the race ahead of you is something I recommend to all my athletes. In the days leading up to the race, walk through every single facet of your race prep and the race itself. Visualise yourself waking up early in the morning, what you're going to eat for breakfast, putting on your SPF, getting dressed, pinning your race bib to your jersey. Walk yourself through your commute to the start line, what your warm-up might look like, even waiting in line for the loo. Imagine the start, what the starting gun sounds like, the rush of adrenaline and heading off in a mass start brushing shoulders with other racers. Finally, walk yourself through your race plan, envision the pounding on the ground, the sound of your breath, and even the ups and downs that come with the race. The more you can visualise every aspect of the race, the more comfortable you will be and know exactly what to expect.” – Paul

Have A Plan

“Take the time to build a race day plan. Think about how you’d like to progress each kilometre, target paces and marks to go past. You don’t want to hit the wall, which happens when you’re running too fast and running out of energy. Think about your hydration strategy, too, and whether you’re going to use the water stations, or just some of them, and what you’ll do when you’re there.” – Arj Thiruchelvam, head coach at Performance Physique

On Race Day

Stick To What You Know

“Chances are you’ve heard this before, but you should be doing nothing new on race day. So many first timers make the mistake of eating a huge breakfast that they wouldn’t normally eat before going for a run. If you always eat toast and peanut butter before your long runs – eat toast and peanut butter on race day. Stick to what you know – your stomach will thank you for it.” – Anthony 

Keep Calm

“Some people thrive off the adrenaline of race day, while for others, adrenaline can be a negative thing. If you are feeling nervous, listen to some meditation tracks to manage your nerves – even listening to white noise can drown down the buzz of people’s chat at the start line.” – Anthony

Stay Warm

“On the day of the marathon, you will likely be standing for quite a while before starting. It’s important to stay warm, so I recommend taking a pair of old sweatpants or a sweatshirt that can be taken off and left at the start line before you start. Most race organisers donate this clothing to local organisations in need, so it’s never wasted, and it’ll mean you start your race much happier and more comfortable. If rain is forecast, use a bin liner with holes cut in for your heads and arms to keep you dry.” – Paul

Take A Gel Every 30 Minutes

“Aim to take on 30-60g of carbs per hour when running a marathon to keep your glycogen stores topped up. Most gels have around 20-25g of carbs, sports drinks are typically between 15-25g, or if you prefer real food options, this is equivalent to two large dates, six jelly babies, or a large banana. Start taking on carbs 35-45 minutes into the race, then every 30-40 minutes, although this may be more often for faster runners. During the race, drink to thirst – a rough estimate is 400ml per hour, or 100ml every 15 minutes, which is around three large gulps.” – Charlie

CARB LOADING is often mistaken as just the pre-race pasta dinner but SHOULD BE STARTED A FEW DAYS BEFORE race day.

Embrace The Challenge

“At the end of the day, a marathon is more mental than it is physical. A positive mindset does wonders for a strong race result. Race with gratitude and embrace the experience. Vibe off of the other athletes and the collective momentum of the running community. Try and forget about speed, and instead think about running upright, with good posture, a controlled pace and a calm attitude. Remember that nothing – including hitting the wall – is permanent, and moreover, running a marathon is a privilege and if you are not having fun (even if it is type-A fun), then what’s the point in doing it?” – Paul

Know How To Deal With A Stitch

“No matter how prepared we show up on race day, things happen that are often out of our control, and part of succeeding at the marathon is being able to adapt. If you encounter a stitch, try and keep running. Often, we feel these stitches in our side, likely right under the ribs. If you can, try and lengthen out your stride, run with good posture, and take your fingers and press them directly into the area where you feel them stitch. Try and breathe deep yoga-like breaths into the area where you feel the stitch. This should help get blood flowing directly to the area to help mitigate some of the pain.” – Paul

Be Proud

“Once you reach the finish line, be proud of what you have achieved, even if it didn’t go to plan. A marathon is a huge achievement and that should be celebrated. Don’t overly fixate on recovery remedies – many aren’t proven to work and they can sometimes delay the recovery process. Time and quality rest should be the priority.” – Anthony

Walk It Out

“Light exercise is an essential part of the post-run recovery process to aid the healing of muscles and reduce any soreness and effectively repair the damage that comes from running 26.2 miles. Research has shown that active recovery such as walking speeds up the removal of by-products from your race day efforts, assisting in the flow of nutrients to rebuild tissue throughout the body. It is also important to use the couple of weeks post-marathon to take a break from structured training. This not only allows your body to recover, but also gives your mind a well-deserved break. A proper recovery will allow you to reach a next level of fitness in the build-up to your next marathon.” – Paul

For more from the experts, visit,, & follow @TheRunnerBeans.


DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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