Finally into the last week before the Marathon. There are many different schools of thought of how to handle that last week but here is what I've found from my experience with the marathon:
- To run or not to run? You really can't gain anything of value – aerobically that is, in the last week. You can screw up a great marathon (I have) by doing too much running though. Mileage should be about 1/3 to ¼ of what you have averaged in your high mileage weeks OR LESS. For example, my highest mileage week was 57 miles. Now that was the most, if I used the average that I had the last two months, we're talking in the 35-45 range. So that comes to 14-15 miles before the marathon this week. So starting Sunday (for a Saturday marathon), I try to do my best to keep my total mileage down to 15 miles. I will do no more than a 3.5 mile run if I do a bunch of 2 milers or 5 mile run if I'm skipping a bunch of days. I plan to do a 2, 2, 3, 3.5, 2, and 2 (Sunday to Friday).
- Speed. Again, you won't get anything out of running fast except to tire yourself if you overdo it. But I also don't want to lose any speed that I've already acquired. Since I have had at least one speed workout each week (800s on Wednesdays), I will do 3 x 800 at my predicted marathon time on Tuesday. Since this is a total of 1.5 miles of speed, I've found that it's safe and I keep my edge. I also can do this easily by not going over 3 miles in total. 1 mile warm up, 800/400 rest/800/400 rest/800/400 walk~cooldown. Again, it's not necessary to do, only if you feel like you need to 'stretch the legs'.
- Diet. I'm not a carbo loading nut. But I will make sure I'm having carbos for dinner every night. Stay away from high fat meals during this week. They won't necessarily blow your marathon, but they won't help it. Remember, you have enough body fat to run 10 marathons stored in your body even if you have a 5% body fat composition (the lowest I've ever seen on another runner).
- Lots of water. You can't have too much this week. Okay, you could, but few of us really make an effort to make sure we do drink enough. I carry a water bottle with me all week – in the car, watching TV, to meetings. They say 64 ounces a day is the goal, but it won't hurt to get a couple extra bottles in each day during this week. I want to make sure my body is completely hydrated before I go to the line. I'll make sure I don't overdo it on marathon morning but during the week, your urine should be clear every day.
- Cross Training activities. I'd suggest not doing them. But if you feel they've helped you in your training and you just have to do them, cut back on the reps, sets, distance or time (in half) if you do cross train. Sore muscles will all come out during an endurance test of 26.2 miles.
- Lastly, get as much sleep as you can. Don't panic if the night before you are too wound up to get the 8 hours. I've slept with less in many marathons. But make sure you are perpendicular for 8 hours. Even if you are just lying on the bed with your eyes closed, your body is still getting the rest, even if your mind isn't. If you need a dream to help you sleep, use mine. You are standing at the Boston Marathon start line with the world's elite. The gun goes off, and you start to visualize each of the 35,000 steps that you need to take to finish the marathon.. One, two, three,….. z-z-z-z-