Get Into The Marathon Mindset

By Coach Michael Merlino

As you complete those final peak long runs 6-8 weeks before your goal marathon or half marathon race the best thing you can do is get your head into the marathon mindset while your body is racking up the miles you need for a great race.

With that in mind here are some final tips to refine and get the most out of your weekly peak long runs as you approach race day. These tips would work for anyone who is training for a marathon or half marathon, especially those who are about 2 months away from their goal race.

ake A Hot Shower Before Each Long Run

Allow enough time in the morning before you run to jump in the shower and rinse off with a nice hot shower. This helps loosen and wake up your muscles before you ask them to perform.

Treat Each Long Run Like A Simulated Marathon or Half Marathon
These final weeks are your final chances to practice how you will have to perform on marathon day. How you perform on race day has as much to do with the small things you do right just as much as the physical training. Go to bed early and lay out your clothes the night before each long run.  Get up at the same time pre-long
run as you would for marathon day. Practice eating a pre-race breakfast to test out which foods give you good energy while minimizing stomach issues.

If You Are Going To Try New Things Now Is The Time
If you have not experimented enough with what carb snack works best for you during a long run do it now! Don’t wait til race day. Go to your local running store and buy a selection of things to try out over the final weeks and stick with what works and feels best with your system.  Try different brands of Gus, gels, blocks etc. and also try different flavors of each brand as they are all chemically different.  One flavor may work better for you than others within the same line of product.

Is It Time For Some New Shoes?
If you have logged more than 300 miles on your running shoes they may be spent. Another sign that your shoes are on their last legs are experiencing knee or heel pain that you have not had before. This is a sign that the cushioning in your shoes has worn down. I like buying a pair of shoes 4 -6 weeks before my race so I have some fresh shoes to tackle my longest long runs in the 18 – 22 mile range. Some take it a step further and buy a second pair to break in during the final 3-4 taper weeks to use as your official race day shoes.  When you finish your race you can use your peak long run shoes and race day shoes to alternate running in as you head into the off season making both pairs last longer.

Don’t Mess Around At Fluid Stops – Keep Moving Forward
Get more serious about keeping your body moving forward during long runs. Do not spend too much time standing around chatting at fluid stops with your training partners. Stop, take down your fluids and move on even if you are walking first before you get back into your stride.

Are You Running Your Long Run Slow Enough?
I know this sounds like a stupid question but I spend 80% of my time as a coach during long runs reminding people to run relaxed and SLOW. Long runs are meant to build endurance and should not be run in oxygen debt. Running long runs too fast literally trains your body to slam into a wall on race day. Run slow and controlled on long runs and you train your body to use fat more efficiently as a fuel source. That is a good thing on race day and if you play your cards right and consistently run slower on these endurance runs you may drop a few pounds of fat before race day too
making every step easier. Just a reminder that your body cannot utilize fat as a fuel source in the absence of oxygen. If you can’t hold a conversation with your fellow runners drop them and run with a slower pack.

Are You Training At Your Pace Or Somone Else’s?
This goes hand in hand with my point above but at this stage in the game if you have done the training and some racing you should know your pace. If you are consistently running with someone who is way off your pace (too fast or too slow) you could be setting yourself up for failure on race day. Know your pace, practice your pace and execute your pace on race day. Don’t run someone else pace or race or you could run into problems on race day.

Become A Morning Runner Over The Final Few Weeks Of Training
Last time I checked most marathons, with the exception of Boston, are run early in the day. So if you are doing your long runs or even your shorter mid-week
 runs in the pm you may want to shift them to the am. This will get your body used to performing in the morning when your race will be run. Also the best time to run is right after your body has been horizontal all night because important muscles like the calves are not yet fatigued from everyday activities. Most will find that their bodies will perform much better in the am.

Add Some Terrain To Your Training Runs To Mimic Race Conditions
In H-town we are lacking in the hills department. So when you get a chance mix in some mid-week
rolling hill workouts by shifting your workouts from the flat Memorial Park loop to the trails of Allen Parkway. Freelance and add your own hills by randomly running off trail on grassy surfaces where it is safe to do so. No matter what city you train you can also Google some great hill workouts that you can simulate on the treadmill at least once a week.  You will be amazed how this will improve your pacing and get you physically prepared for race day.

Ladies – Stick With Flats & Please No Pedicures!
Every year we have a running foot catastrophe when I get a report of one of our female runners whose foot is riddled with blisters following a race due to a
post race pedicure. A pedicure will strip all of the foot calus you built up from weeks of solid training. Get used to it ladies.  Your feet will not be as pretty if you become a long distance runner. Save the celebratory pedicure for after the big race. Other than that minimize the use of high heels and wear flats every chance you get to keep the load off of the calf and ankle muscles especially as you approach race day

Minimize Extracurriculum Sports
If you plan on finishing a marathon and doing well running must be both your focus and your primary sport. Minimize playing other sports, heavy weight training, over cross training, pick up games etc because added activity can increases your risk of injury dramatically. Save the tennis, pick up basketball games etc. for after race day. No one wants an ankle sprain, shin splints or muscle strain and pulls just weeks or days before race day.

Book A Massage!
If you have not figured it out yet every distance runner should find a massage therapist. The mileage will take its toll on anyone and you want to work out the kinks, sore spots and problem areas during your training season before they become larger problems. Stick with a set weekly, massage schedule you can afford almost planning your massages
like they are a weekly workout.  Also, book your pre or post marathon massage ahead of time before you therapist gets booked up.

Fine Tune Your Training With Metabolic & VO2 Max Testing
If you really want some good data on heart rate and pacing book a metabolic test. There are two major types of testing I recommend.

An RMR or Resting Metabolic Rate determines metabolism level and how may calories per day you need to fuel your life, workouts and weight goals. For runners, this gives you a great calorie baseline so you know how to increase your caloric intake during your carbo loading phase 2 weeks from race day.

The Anaerobic Threshold (AT) and VO2 Max test is performed on a treadmill and determines what your heart rate in beats per minute is at the point at which your body becomes anaerobic or lacks adequate oxygen to perform well. Determining your true heart rate zones allows you to train and race at a pace that will not get you in trouble or allow you to hit the wall.  By learning what heart rate zone you need to stay in to remain aerobic you have a much better awareness of what pace you must run at to get through your race, stay consistent with pacing and not slow down or get in trouble late in the race.