The fi­nal count­down to the Dublin Marathon

Try to ac­cept that less is more and let your body build up re­serves of en­ergy and strength for the big day

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Front Page - Mary Jen­nings

Marathon month has ar­rived and al­ready the nerves are build­ing. There are 20,000 peo­ple who have spent the sum­mer run­ning (and talk­ing about run­ning). In less than four weeks, they will line up at the start line and fol­low the 26.2 miles around Dublin city, each with a dif­fer­ent goal and rea­son for run­ning. Be­tween now and then, they will start to wind down their run­ning mileage and move into what is called the “ta­per” phase.

With ta­per­ing, the mileage is re­duced and the body gets a chance to con­sol­i­date the train­ing and build up re­serves of en­ergy and strength for the big day. On pa­per, ta­per­ing sounds fab­u­lous. Short runs, early bed times, re­lax­ing baths, good food and watch­ing marathon movies hardly feels like a tough month. Yet, after a sum­mer of week­end long runs and all the prepa­ra­tion and re­cov­ery that they in­volve, many run­ners feel a lit­tle lost and rest­less with­out their weekly long-run rit­ual.

Re­sist temp­ta­tion

It is un­der­stand­able to feel slightly un­com­fort­able about hav­ing a time gap at the week­end which was one filled by run­ning. It’s nat­u­ral to fear you may lose fit­ness and strength as you wind down the miles you have worked so hard to build up. Most run­ners will com­plete their last ‘long’ run this week­end be­fore wind­ing down for the re­main­ing three weeks. That is a long time to have on your hands to worry about what you could be do­ing and to re­sist the temp­ta­tion of run­ning a few ex­tra miles. We have to re­mem­ber that run­ning too much this marathon month or tak­ing up any new ac­tiv­i­ties will only leave our legs heavy, tired and more prone to in­jury.

It is per­fectly ac­cept­able to go a lit­tle crazy in th­ese ta­per days. Ex­pect your legs to feel heav­ier and your body to feel fa­tigued in the next few weeks and try not to panic. This is nor­mal. Ac­cept that ta­per­ing has worked well for run­ners for years and you will be no dif­fer­ent. Don’t spend the next few weeks won­der­ing how you will run 26 miles when 18-20 is the long­est you have run to date. It will all work out and you just have to trust your train­ing plan. Don’t waste your en­ergy wor­ry­ing about some­thing that is out­side of your con­trol. In­stead, fo­cus on what you can do to re­place fear and anx­i­ety with calm.

As the month pro­gresses, there will be days where you will feel qui­etly con­fi­dent but plenty of other days where doubts will creep in. Time spent on the in­ter­net or chat­ting to other run­ners will make you ques­tion your train­ing ap­proach.

Re­mem­ber, there are many ways to train for a marathon and now is not the time to try any­thing new.

Mo­ments of anx­i­ety will take you by sur­prise. Whether it is the feel­ing you get when handed your race num­ber at the Race Expo or the first time you no­tice the signs ad­vis­ing of road clo­sures on marathon day, there will be mo­ments when the enor­mity of the task ahead hits home. The marathon be­comes more real ev­ery day and the re­al­ity of what lies ahead can send our head spin­ning. All th­ese emo­tions are good and part of our marathon ad­ven­ture. Be­lieve me that all run­ners will have the same ups and downs in the com­ing weeks.

It takes a lot of dis­ci­pline to ac­cept that less is more in this marathon month. You will not get any fit­ter this month, you will only burn up en­ergy you will need for marathon day if you over train. Con­sider rest a time when your body is get­ting stronger and sharper for marathon day. If you are feel­ing a lit­tle edgy about the prospect of a ‘quiet’ Oc­to­ber, there are plenty of other things you can do to fill the long week­ends. Prac­tise your marathon day visu­al­i­sa­tion, plan your marathon week­end food, watch marathon movies, write your wor­ries on pa­per, re­search the race route and maybe even drive the dis­tance. If you are a lo­cal, try run­ning the last six miles of the marathon route over the next few weeks. The more fa­mil­iar you are with the fi­nal few miles, the faster they will go on race day.

Train­ing di­ary

I’m hop­ing that all my lec­tur­ing ear­lier this sum­mer about keep­ing a train­ing di­ary has made you put pen to pa­per and you have your sum­mer of run­ning writ­ten down. Now is when the di­ary re­ally be­comes valu­able. Even a quick glance over the en­tries will re­mind you of mo­ments, miles and set­backs that are now in the past but which have shaped your marathon ex­pe­ri­ence. Each of th­ese miles has brought your body closer to to­day.

Even if you have not been dili­gent with your note-tak­ing, think back over the sum­mer and try and re­mem­ber the les­sons you have learnt. We of­ten for­get the hard work we have in­vested all sum­mer long and fo­cus on the few small neg­a­tive com­po­nents of our train­ing. Re­vis­it­ing your marathon jour­ney will give you con­fi­dence, ac­cep­tance and con­tent­ment in know­ing that the ground­work is com­plete. You are a com­pletely dif­fer­ent run­ner than the one you were back in May, when your long run was logged in min­utes rather than hours.

It’s hard to be­lieve that this time next month it will all be over. You will be wear­ing your medal and you will be a marathoner. Take con­trol of th­ese re­main­ing weeks and set your­self up for a day to re­mem­ber and a life­time of mem­o­ries.

Con­sider all can you do th­ese next few weeks to set­tle the nerves, build con­fi­dence and pre­pare your body. It will stand to you at the start line and even more im­por­tantly as you en­ter the un­known ter­ri­tory of the last few ex­cit­ing miles.

I will be cheer­ing you all on from the side­lines. I can­not wait.

Roll on the big day.

It takes a lot of dis­ci­pline to ac­cept that less is more in this marathon month. You will not get any fit­ter this month

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