The LA Marathon is right around the corner; less than one month away in fact.
But before I let all my thoughts race towards March 17, there is the matter of my last long run left to deal with. On Sunday, I will lead my pace group through a 22-mile run as we all but close out the toughest portion of this whole marathon thing, the training.
This week will then be dedicated to preparing myself mentally and physically for Sunday's 22-mile run. I wanted to share some of what I've learned about these grueling last long runs here and give some pointers that I try and give my own pace group.
* Dress Rehearsal: This really is as close as you can get to the real deal, so why not dress like you will on race day? Nothing new on race day - that's what several preached to me when I first began running. I figured then why not try out a potential outfit on the last long run? It's close enough to race day that you can have an idea of what the weather may be like. Gonna try tackling the marathon with sleeves? Want to tinker with a new undershirt? Gloves? Sunglasses? Even if you regularly wear some gear on long runs, there's a big difference between how something feels at Mile 13 and how it feels at Mile 21. So why take it to chance that your sleeves will still be a blessing at the 20-mile mark on race day? Why not discover that yes, they work fine all the way through or no, they are not worth the trouble based on how they feel in the deeper miles? When race day finally does come, and if the outfit you wore was successful, that's one less thing you'll have to worry about.
* Mentally Focused: A marathon brings with it all sorts of feelings - nervousness, anxiety... I guess there's room for excitement too. Regardless of all the emotions surging through your body, there will likely be a similar surge leading up to the final long run. I mean, 22 miles is a really long run. It's enough to scare the wits out of you. That distance thins the herd. How you deal with the emotions and feelings leading up to the last long run can give you an idea of what you're in store for when the big day comes.
* Eat Right: The last long run also provides you a chance of testing out your nutrition both before and during the run. Eat lots of carbs the days before the run, drink plenty of water the three days leading up to the run and eat well the morning of. During the run, test out your race strategy. For instance, I like to use the Roctane GU and during marathons I like to use four total GU gels; I like to alternate between the regular and the Roctane, so I'll take one regular (at about 4-5), one Roctane (10ish), regular (14-15), Roctane (20+). That's kind of my rule of thumb. I like to test it out on the last long run to see how it affects my body, even though I've used that formula several times before. You never know what those things may do to you, and best to find out that something ain't quite right during the last long run than during the marathon itself. Plus, if your in-race supplement/hydration strategy works, then you will be less tempted to just jam things down your throat on race day, because while oranges and random fruits/etc. that you may have access to on the marathon course are tempting, they may also do some serious damage, as the oranges I had at Mile 22 last year in LA would attest to.
* Confidence: All you can do during marathon training is to put yourself in a position to succeed on race day. That's it. You can't BQ during training, you can't set a new PR, you can't get your medal during training. But what you can give yourself, aside from all the physical benefits, is the knowledge that you can succeed on race day. There's no guarantees with marathons, but if you complete this last long run successfully, you will feel confident about yourself, no question. And if things did not go quite right, you have time to tweak the things that did not work, whether they were mentally or otherwise, and get back on track for the marathon. Regardless, a big jolt of confidence is a huge strike in your favor.