Running a marathon is grueling; if it's your first time finishing the race, it is the highest achievement you can set your sights on. The moment you start the race, you are already thinking of how to finish a marathon.
Expert runners say the marathon race starts when you approach the 20-mile distance. When you are left with the last 10K run (6.2 miles), all the race preparations start to become a reality.
Your training plan will reflect on race day, especially as you head towards your final miles of the run.
To ensure that you reach the 20-mile mark and perform even better on your last 10K run, here are some tips you can try on the weeks before race day.
Before the Marathon Training
Adjusting the pace when finishing long runs
As you begin your marathon training months ahead of race day, the long runs should be easy to carry a conversation without struggling. But at this point, you should practice both physically and mentally for a fast finish. Consider running the final third of your practice long runs at an increased pace.
Pace adjustment at the end is a good test to measure your resilience, as you will be running on tired legs. If you can maintain this strategy through your training, you can certainly finish a marathon race stronger.
Train on the last 10K of the course
If the marathon course is close to you, this can be an advantage on your side. Running the final 6.2 miles makes you familiar with the course, which helps you prepare mentally for the finish.
If the marathon course is at a distance that requires traveling plans, you can still research the course route and find a trail or route that closely resembles it for your final mile race preparations.
Train mile repeats
Mile repeats are essential to distance runners because they help build speed and sharpen mental strength and awareness. Consider adding mile repeats to your training routine at least once per week.
The training should start from 2-3 mile repeats as you progressively build towards 6-mile repeats. The mile repeats should be faster than your marathon goal pace by at least 10-15 seconds.
Follow the mile repeats with a half-mile recovery pace (easy pace spaced between mile runs).
Fueling and hydration
Marathon time pace
Running a marathon needs a clear understanding of pace strategy. Running a single mile at a pace you aren't used to can jeopardize your ability to finish a marathon. But learning the pace isn't enough to get you over the finish line.
Practice the pace consistently in your training routines until you can run it comfortably. There are many pace techniques you can try from marathon running guides. Make mistakes while training to know exactly the pace you can sustain per mile come race day.
Hill repeats are dreadful for most runners, but they are essential when training for a marathon finish. Even if the last 10K of the course is flat, hill repeats will teach you how to push through discomfort and fatigue.
Choose a hill at least 500 meters long and practice 3-5 hill repeats as you work your way to 6-8.
Run up the hill at a fast pace and walk down to aid in recovery.
Running the Marathon
The day you have been training for has finally arrived. You can have jitters, but if you have trained well, it should be a breeze, just like your final weeks of training.
Here is what you should do.
It's easy to get riled up and start the marathon at a fast pace because of the crowd's roar and the eagerness of other runners. But starting fast means that your final 10K will be challenging and slow.
Even if the other runners are pushing the pace, hold back and run your race the way you've been training all along.
Feed on the crowd energy
Inner dialogues and pep talks are good distractions. You can repeat your mantras and gain the inner strength you know you have to finish the race. Keep telling yourself, 'I can do it' or 'keep strong,' and eventually, the tough miles ahead will reduce with every stride.
Pep talks should be encouraging and positive.
Run the race in segments
The first segment of the marathon race is the half-marathon distance, followed by the 20-mile mark. Once the finish becomes achievable, you need to gather your strength to push you till you cross the finish line.
After the 20-mile mark, set small goals that help you zero in on the finish line. Small targets can be the next water station or mile mark.
Tap energy from other runners
It's discouraging for other runners to pass you or see the distance between you and the pack ahead keep growing. But keeping a positive mind means seeing other runners as allies towards a common goal. Remember, you aren't running to beat the person but to win the distance.
Take your mind off your legs
Most runners don't realize that their greatest asset for running the marathon can be the reason they fail to finish the race. The last 10K distance takes a toll on your body and legs. It's crucial at this stage to keep your mind from focusing on how your legs are tired.
From the 20-mile mark, it helps to focus on your posture and breathing.
Use common breathing techniques to control breathing. Inhale with your nose and exhale with your mouth.
Relax the shoulders and lift your chin up.