7th April 2010

Mara's Marathon Diary

7 April 2010

Greetings and welcome to the final installment of my marathon diary!

We’re now into the marathon month of April. With less than three weeks to go to race day, I hope your preparations are going to plan and that you’re looking forward to those 26.2 miles through our fabulous Olympic host city. I’m starting to get really excited about racing the marathon again, and wondering what the weather and my fellow competitors will produce on the big day. We’re still training up at altitude in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Spring has just sprung and all the tree blossoms have just come out – beautiful!

So what should marathon runners do in the last three weeks? Many runners will use this time to taper their training down so that they are fresh and eager to run by the time race day arrives. Tapering is not just about resting your body from all the hard training you’ve done, but your mind too – you want to be feeling mentally fresh and excited about running the marathon. As anyone who has run a marathon will know, it’s a challenge in your head as much as a physical task, so mental preparation is just as important as physically resting up. The name of my kit sponsor, Asics, is an anagram of the Latin saying “Anime Sana in Corpore Sano” – “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body”, and that is exactly what we all need when we head to Blackheath for the start on April 25th. But of course the tapering process needs to be done in stages so that you are fresh and ready to go on race day, and not before. One commonly-used taper involves reducing your training volume by 80%, 50% and 30% respectively in the three weeks before the marathon. I like this gradual reduction but it’s also important to maintain some high intensity training so that you don’t lose any fitness.

So what exactly does mental preparation involve? I find it useful to rehearse or visualise the race in my head in the days leading up to the race. So much of performance in sport is mind over matter, and visualising yourself accomplishing your goal, whatever that may be, can give your body a message that that’s what you’ll be expecting of it on race day. Mental rehearsals also remind you of all the practical things you need to organise to get the best out of yourself on race day. What clothes am I going to wear? How will I get to the start? What pace am I going to set off at? What will I have to eat for breakfast? Do I know when the drinks stations will be coming up? Where will I meet my family afterwards? And so on. If you know the answers to all these questions you can put your mind at rest and focus on the main job for the day – running!

When I’m away from the UK I like to listen to BBC radio on my PC. So it was a treat to discover that the programme “The Reunion” on Radio 4 devoted its most recent edition (Easter Sunday, 4th April) to the start of the London Marathon. It was a fascinating tour of the event, complete with various special guests who have been part of the marathon’s history. If you missed it, you can still hear it on the BBC website’s “listen again” facility – but make sure you don’t copy Race Director Dave Bedford’s pre-race preparation!

All that remains is for me to thank you for reading my marathon diary, and to wish everyone good luck! I’ll look forward to seeing you on Blackheath on 25th April!