Boston Marathon Race-Week Tapering Tips

Photo: PhotoRun.net

Use these five simple strategies to make your Boston Marathon race-week experience less nerve-racking.

There’s exactly a week to go until race day at the Boston Marathon and the finger you’re currently using to control your computer mouse might as well be on a panic button right now.

The questions you thought were answered weeks ago are inevitably beginning to arise again at the worst possible time. Did I train hard enough? Should I have done one more long run? What will I drink on race day? Do my shoes have too many miles on them? And so forth. No matter how many miles you’ve run or how many times you’ve rehearsed the race in your head, uncertainties always seem to find a way to arise during race week.

Nerves are normal, especially as race day gets closer and the doubts start slipping through the cracks. The key to surviving race week, and the race itself, however, comes down to trusting your training. No one workout between now and next Monday is going to make you any more fit than you are today. If anything, overdoing it is more of a concern than underdoing it this week. Now is the time to rest your body, and your mind. The real work is done.

And while you think ahead to race day this week, think back on the weeks of preparation that got you to this point. Also, think about the progression you’ve made as a runner during this period. In the two, four, six or more months since you first decided to tackle that hallowed stretch of road between Hopkinton and Boston, you’ve covered hundreds (or thousands!) of miles, dialed in on your projected pace with laser-like precision, mastered your nutrition and have broken in your race day outfit so well that it feels like a second skin. There’s literally nothing left to do at this point except run the race.

Of course, you still need to get through the next six nerve-racking days, so use these five simple strategies to make sure you get to the starting line feeling relaxed, confident and ready to run your best on Patriots Day.

1. Relax!

Nerves will get you nowhere. Rather than worrying the week away and questioning your training, take your mind off the race and keep it occupied with a book, mindless movie or some other non-running related activity. Take a walk, meditate or whatever it is you need to do to offset any penned up pre-race energy anxiety. Don’t waste excess mental and emotional energy worrying about the things that you can’t control. There is no more fitness to be gained in the final 7 days before a race so don’t feel the need to squeeze in any extra workouts or long runs. Stick to the rhythm of your regular training routine, scale back your training volume by about 20 percent and if/when in doubt, back off. Remember that the goal of this week’s training is to strike a balance between resting and keeping the ball rolling. The ultimate objective is to get to the starting line feeling fresh and ready to go after your goal.

2. Don’t forget to drink.

Chugging a gallon of water on race morning isn’t going to help matters much if you haven’t been drinking in the days prior to the event. Keep a bottle of water or sports drink within arms reach at all times in the week before the race and sip from it a few times an hour. It can take several days or even up to a week or more to hydrate properly. Make sure to fill your tank well ahead of time. A good trick is to set an alarm on your watch or phone to go off every 30 minutes to remind you to take a sip from your bottle. This will ensure that you’re drinking regularly throughout the day and don’t go hours without taking in any fluids.

3. Wake up early.

If you’re not an early bird already, transition toward an earlier wake-up time than usual this week before experiencing a rude awakening on race morning. Since you’ll be off and running between 10 and 11 AM (and the shuttles to the start line leave much, much earlier than that), you’ll want to know what it’s like to be out of bed well before the break of dawn. The last thing you want to do on race day is be rushing around with only seconds to spare and miss your shuttle out to the start line in Hopkinton. This year’s marathon promises to be a busier than usual affair with almost 8,000 more runners than usual and unprecedented levels of security, so give yourself plenty of time to wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast and get where you need to be on race morning.

4. Make a list, check it twice.

You wouldn’t leave home without your favorite credit card, and if you’re running Boston, you certainly don’t want to leave home without your running shoes, shorts, singlet, socks, gels, hydration belt or whatever else you might need on race day. Make a list of race-day essentials and keep these items on or close to you at all times. If traveling from out of town, pack the important stuff in your carry-on luggage. You’ll be fine if you lose your favorite slippers or misplace your shaving kit, but you’re nothing without your running shoes. And don’t forget this important race-day reminder: No bags will be allowed on the shuttles out to Hopkinton on race morning, so plan ahead. A gear check will be available at Boston Common the morning of the race, allowing you to have a change of clothing after crossing the finish line, but nothing you bring with you to the starting line will make it to the finish unless you plan on carrying it. Wear a few layers of old clothes you plan to lose at the starting line (race organizers donate them to charity) to stay warm, but leave anything you don’t plan on using during the race at the hotel.

5. Enjoy the expo, but not too much.

The Boston Marathon expo is quite the experience. There’s so much to see, lots of food to sample and scores of interesting people to meet, but spending too much time on your feet the day before your biggest race of the year isn’t the soundest strategy for success. If possible, get into town on Friday or Saturday, enjoy the expo experience for all that it has to offer and then get out of dodge. If Sunday is your only option, grab your race packet, scope out the scene for a bit and then get off your feet and relax for the rest of the day.

And in the end, remember that surviving race week comes down to trusting your training. Running the race itself is just a reward for all the hard work you’ve put in since you decided to sign up for this event many months ago. Don’t let those deceiving doubts take away from the enjoyment of the experience. Develop a pre-race plan, stick to it and have the confidence that you’re ready to run your best on race day.

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