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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 28 February, 2020
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Running the Dublin City Marathon this Sunday? Here are some last-minute tips and advice

Personal trainer David Last returns with some tips for the big day.

Runners cross the James Joyce bridge during the 2018 marathon.
Runners cross the James Joyce bridge during the 2018 marathon.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

SO HERE WE go. It’s the race week a lot of you have been waiting for — the 2019 Dublin City Marathon!

My first ever marathon which turns out to be the 40th edition of the event which sees a record number of 22,500 participants take to the capital’s streets tackling the 26.2 mile route. Fitzwilliam Street Upper, over the Liffey, through the Phoenix Park, past Terenure, into Milltown and back towards the city via Merrion Road. It can’t come quickly enough.

“A marathon?! You’re mad,” some say, and I even said it to myself for a long time: the injuries, the hours of training, the sacrifices, the dedication. Well, here I am, one week away, caught with the marathon bug with months of training behind me, niggles nursed, miles on the legs, some blood, sweat yet no tears just yet, just full of excitement for the big day.

In this article I am going to share with you some tips I have picked up along the way from experienced runners who have helped me get to where I am one week out and some last-minute advice for before, during and after the marathon.

For many of us, the final few days can be the most daunting, particularly if you’re a first-timer like myself as all of the preparation comes to a head and the pre-race nerves come into play. Like any event you have worked for, it’s perfectly normal to feel nervous at this stage, but just remember to stick to the process and trust the training you have done.

Tapering

At this late stage the long training runs have been completed and you should be tapering down. I have worked up to 20 miles at this stage and now is the time to pare it right down. My last two weeks to the big day have consisted of a couple of 4-6 mile runs at different paces, the odd 8-12 mile run at marathon pace, and plenty of rest and recovery days consisting of stretching, foam rolling, Epsom salt baths, nursing an angry knee and squeezing in one or two sessions with my sports masseuse Stefano.

Sample race week training plan

  • Sunday: 8-10 miles (2 miles easy, 4-6 miles marathon pace, 2 miles easy)
  • Monday: Rest-Recover-Stretch
  • Tuesday: 3-5 miles easy pace
  • Wednesday: 2-4 miles (1 mile easy, 1 mile marathon pace, 1-2 miles easy)
  • Thursday: Rest-Recover-Stretch
  • Friday: 15-25 minute easy jog
  • Saturday: Rest-Recover-Stretch
  • Sunday: MARATHON DAY

Know the route

I have gotten quite obsessive with this. It’s good to know the route you are going to be taking on. Most of my long runs at the weekend have been in the Phoenix Park so I know that part quite well at this stage. If you are a total newbie to this course or if this is your first marathon then get a map of the course and visualise parts of the run or even run a certain section of the course, just to familiarise yourself with it. Besides boosting your confidence, this run will provide one last little bit of conditioning and will help you lock in to race pace on marathon day.

Stick to the plan

Everything from your sleep before, pre-run hydration and nutrition, clothing, warm-up, pace and post-run falls into this bracket. At this stage you should have plenty of experience from your training days to know what has gone well for you and what hasn’t. If it has worked well for you during those training months, this is certainly not the time to try new things.

Nutrition and hydration

The take-home point here should be stick to what you know and have done to this point. Get the basics right first ensuring you’re well-hydrated for the event. As for carb loading you need to start thinking about having a little extra carbohydrate with your meals in the days preceding the event. Overnight oats, that extra slice of toast, adding more vegetables into your plate or even some extra rice, pasta or even potato with the main meal of the day works just fine.

You are also likely to hear about the need to carb load this week, but don’t be forced into making drastic changes. It’s good to increase your calorie intake slightly in the days before the race, but don’t get too carried away — carb loading is important, but sometimes taking on too many carbs can lead to a bloated feeling on race day.

Be prepared

As they say failure to prepare results in preparing for failure so the best approach here is to get yourself ready the right way. Make out a list and this will help you stay on top and in control of things. It also keeps you focused.

List down everything that you need to know: time of arrival at event, your race number ,your starting wave, training gear, along with all the other smaller bits and bobs like your training gels, spare socks or even some Vaseline that might come in handy on the day.

Stay calm, composed and above all, enjoy the experience

At every race I attend I always see the emotion of adrenaline take over with waves of people getting carried away as they fire out of the blocks.

My advice here is to stay composed, focus on your own face and stick to your pace — if you start off too quick, you are going to struggle a lot more.

As I said, the day itself is full of emotions and excitement. There will be times you are going to feel great and times you will want the ground to swallow you up. You have been training hard for this day so go and enjoy it.

Keep the head down when you have to grind it out but then sometimes when you have a wave of adrenaline and start to feel a little comfortable look up, say ‘Hello’, and give that push to the others who also are taking part.

The support on the day itself is great so make sure to give back energy to them when you can — say hello, thank them and even cheer back to the other people who make this event just as special.

Everybody from the public support, the aid stations, marshals and the volunteers are all important people who also make this event a great success.

Get to that finish line!

Crossing a finish line and reaching a destination you feel was never going to appear is always a nice feeling — and even better when it’s something like a marathon in which you have perhaps been training hard for the last year.

Now is the time to really enjoy that feeling so cherish that moment with the medal around your neck and get that finish line photo.

Once you have done that go and enjoy the celebrations!

Most of all enjoy the day, have a laugh, and don’t take it too seriously.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you the very best of luck on the big day and I hope all this advice has set you up the right way for the main event.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article and if you feel it can help you or a friend feel free to tag, share or send it to someone you know who is doing the Dublin Marathon this year.

Good luck everybody!

David Last is a personal trainer based in Dublin. For more information you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Or you can send him a direct message here.

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