Preparing for the last week of the marathon taper

Jan. 9, 2012 at 10:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 8, 2012 at 7:09 p.m.

It is almost show time

A number of area runners will be heading to Houston this weekend to compete in either the Chevron Houston Marathon or the 13.1 mile Aramco Houston Half Marathon.

Here are some tips to take you to the starting line in the best physical and mental state possible.

Race-day attire

Avoid cotton clothing and choose attire made with Coolmax or nylon fabric.

Cotton tends to retain moisture from sweat or precipitation, adding to the weight your legs carry over the course of the run. Coolmax "wicks" moisture away from the body.

Also, make sure to pack a "back-up" set of clothing, just in case that cold or warm front moves through that you had not planned on.

Cut mileage

In the final week, you should be doing no more than 40 percent of your usual weekly mileage with most of that mileage falling at the beginning of the week.

If you need some reassurance in your fitness, throw in an easy run with a few 100-meter pick-ups toward the end of the week.

Four to five days out from race day, do a workout comprised of two- to three-mile repeats at goal marathon pace in your race day attire.

This helps you do one last clothing check for irritation, have a chance to visualize running the race and help you to lock in on a goal pace.

Set two goals

I suggest having two goals, in the event your ideal race goal fails to come to fruition. This way, you don't lose confidence and fail to reach the finish.

It may be a specific time goal or qualifying for Boston. Attaining this goal means all your training, weather, and nutrition come together just right for you on race day.

The main goal is always to make it across that finish line

Visualization to realization of goals

I think it goes a long way in preparing your mind for the task to come, as well as visualizing what you hope to achieve during your race.

Visualize the course, the mile markers, any hills on the course and how you will attack those.

Visualize your race-morning preparations and how you will approach your nutrition and hydration plan as you come upon each mile.

Visualize positive thoughts only, and, finally, visualize crossing the finish line and what it will feel like.

Treat yourself well this week!

Try to stay off your feet as much as possible, and put your legs and feet up whenever there is an opportunity.

Eat and hydrate well this week and concentrate on consuming a carbohydrate-rich diet, such as pastas, potatoes, rice, breads, low-fat milk, yogurt, and lowfiber fruits for the last three days prior to the race.

Aim to increase the proportion of calories from carbohydrates, while not increasing overall intake of calories.

Carbohydrates will serve to fuel your body on race day, not proteins and fats, so aim for 70 percent of your calories from carbohydrates those last few days prior to race day.

Also, make sure to take in plenty of water, aiming for eight glasses per day. Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol as these serve to dehydrate you.

Day of the Race

Make sure you eat a breakfast of a minimum of a few hundred calories, one rich in carbohydrates.

A short warm-up comprised of a walk or jog, with some light stretching is also good. Also, 15 minutes prior to the start, do some light stretching to get those muscles awake and ready to go.

Make sure to not go out too fast, instead, start out 10 to 15 seconds slower than goal pace for the first few miles.

Try to stay relaxed and focused. More importantly, make sure to hydrate at each mile marker and stick to your nutrition plan - which should already be in place.

Consume approximately 100 calories every 45 to 60 minutes. Then, break it down mile by mile.

The last few miles, visualize the crowds waiting to greet you when you reach the finish line.

Missy Janzow owns Fit4U, a personalized training and nutrition service. You can reach her by email at or online at



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