BOSTON – The Boston Marathon is only one week away, the perfect time to relax and avoid any temptations to throw in an intense interval session or a final 20 miler. While there’s nothing a runner can do at this point to add to their fitness, there are plenty of ways to undermine it.
Mileage should be cut back to about 25 percent of a runner’s peak training load. If possible, the long run of the week (8 to 10 miles) should be performed on Monday to allow time to recover. The mid-week runs should be kept short (3 to 5 miles). While it’s fine to throw in some quick strides or one to two raced paced miles, runners should be sure not to overdo it. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology explains that while marathon training helps improve a runner’s muscle function at a cellular level, it’s the taper that allows those adaptations to be fully maximized. In other words, don’t blow it in the last week of recovery.
After months of having all of their spare time spent training, runners may find they have a lot of extra hours to fill in the last week before the Boston Marathon. While they may feel the need to catch up on cleaning and chores, it’s important for runners to stay off their feet as much as possible this week. According to a Cornell University study, standing up all day all day puts stress on the feet, legs and circulatory system, not to mention that fact that standing requires about 20% more energy than sitting. This is the perfect time to return emails and phone calls, or binge watch four seasons of The Walking Dead. It’s not a great time to clean out the garage, go hiking with a friend or hit the mall for some power shopping.
Runners should use the final week before the Boston Marathon to visualize their race plan, think positively and work out ways to deal with last minute issues like an illness, a blister or bad weather. If the local news calls for 80-degree temps or 40 mile-per-hour gusts on race day, it may be time for a runner to rethink her goals or strategy. In 2012 when temperatures at the Boston Marathon hit 87 degrees, B.A.A. executive director Tom Grilk told runners to either sit the race out or “adopt the attitude that this is not a race; it is an experience.” The men’s winning finish time in 2012 was nearly 10 minutes slower than it was the year before, when temperatures and conditions were nearly perfect.
As tempting as it may be to check out that new sushi restaurant, runners shouldn’t be too adventurous in the last few days before the race. Even a mild case of food poisoning or stomach distress can sabotage a runner before the big day. Olympic silver medalist and 2009 New York City Marathon champ Meb Keflezighi got food poisoning days before the 2006 NYC Marathon and ended up finishing the race in 2:22:06, a career worst. In the last three days, runners should get 70 percent of their calories from carbs, and avoid high fat and high fiber meals. Participants traveling to Boston should make sure their normal pre-race breakfast is available, or consider bringing it from home.
It’s important for a runner to stay hydrated during the final week before the race, but there’s no need to overdo it, especially the morning of the race. “You don’t have to drink a lot to achieve full hydration after a night of sleep, and any excess will only force you to wait in long toilet lines before the start and — worse — stop for bathroom breaks during your marathon,” according to trainer and sport’s nutritionist Matt Fitzgerald. He recommends limiting fluid intake to 24 ounces on race morning.
Runners traveling to Boston from out of town face a few more challenges than participants who live nearby. Flying can exacerbate dehydration. Waiting in lines at the airport is exhausting. Poor weather and delayed flights create unneeded worries. While it’s nearly impossible to completely avoid the stress of travel, there are a few ways to minimize it: have a checklist, confirm flights and hotel reservations in advance, get to the airport early, drink water and get up to walk around on the flight, pack race day shoes and clothing in a carry on bag.
Kimberly Bogin is an Emmy Award winning television producer who has been running marathons for 14 years. After her non-running friends banned her from talking about training, races and black toenails, Kimberly decided to write about it instead, working as the Running Examiner for the last four years. Examiner.com.