As you approach a big event, your focus and excitement build. Training usually becomes more intense as now is the time to make sure all of your hard work pays off. In the Ancient Olympics, athletes were brought to Elis for a month of compulsory, strict training to make sure that they were up to standard. If you are running the London or another spring marathon, you will probably be thinking about your final block of serious training before tapering down in preparation. Realistically, it is too late to start from scratch but this will be the difference between achieving your goals or not.
I am just finishing off the last serious block of training before my main event of the year. In just under two weeks I will be competing in the Dudinska 50, a 50km race that sees the world’s best race walkers head to a small town in Slovakia. Over the last couple of weeks I have been doing long sessions of 3 hours or more, tough interval sessions testing my race speed, an overall higher mileage and enough strength and conditioning in the gym to make sure I can cope with these demands. Whereas earlier on in training you can get away with the odd remission, every session counts in this period.
This is also the time to consider your targets and you should be able to figure out what is achievable. Talking especially about endurance events, correct pacing is incredibly important to your overall experience so you should figure out your optimal pacing strategy now. You should test your fitness and practise the pace in training. If you did any sort of tests earlier on then this is a nice way to see how far you’ve progressed too.
By now you should hopefully be fairly confident with your technique and strength. However, be aware that any small weaknesses or faults are likely to be highlighted when you go for your best effort. I know this very well in the 50km – I constantly have to identify and work on different areas that have been left behind. Functional and technical coaching can also be useful, as it is difficult on your own to adjust habits you’ve established over a period of training.
Diet is, naturally, important too. Again, it might not be possible to reduce your weight significantly without harming your performance with only a month or two left, but it is important to get the right nutrition to give you enough energy, enable recovery and keep you healthy. For a marathon you also need to think about feeding during the race. This is not something you should make up on the day, so you need to know when to take drinks, what to have and, possibly, if you will also take any food. And, of course, practise.
In short, there are a lot of things to get right in this crucial time:
1. Make long runs longer to build up to race distance
2. Determine your race pace and pacing strategy
3. Practise it
4. Fine tune technique
5. Condition the muscles to handle the demands
6. Gear your nutrition to enhance energy, recovery and health
7. Plan and practice race nutrition
8. Reflect on everything you’ve done and how far you’ve come
It doesn’t necessarily have to take over your life, but your preparations should be high up on your priorities if you want to be in control on the day. Depending on how training has already gone, your feelings could range from dread to enthusiasm but, either way, you just need to think about making the most of it.
Runners in the Ashford area might be interested in some personal training sessions to make sure that everything is done in the most effective way. You will be able to work on all of the points mentioned above as well as learning from my experience as an international endurance athlete. Clients who sign up for at least 4 one-to-one sessions can also get a personalised training programme leading up to the event, fitness testing and a pacing strategy and advice on nutrition before and during the race. Contact me to arrange a free consultation at The Stour Centre in Ashford. Each hour-long session costs £30 each or you can book 10 sessions for £270.