The Home Stretch: The Last 2 Weeks Before A Long-Distance Race

The scene: Ancient Greece, circa 490 B.C. An army of more than 100,000 well-armed Persian soldiers are invading the port of Marathon, which is defended by under 10,000 terrified Athenian soldiers. It appears that all is lost for the fledgling Greek civilization. Instead, through a combination of brilliant military strategy and sheer force of will, the Athenians successfully defend Marathon in one of the most historically pivotal events of the ancient world.  

What does any of this have to do with running? As the Persian navy fled the port, a soldier by the name of Pheidippides takes off running for the nearby city of Athens to spread the news of victory to his fellow citizens. He runs the entire distance of 26.2 miles, enters the city shouting “we have won!” at the top of his lungs, and then collapses dead. His story became a legend, and when the modern Olympics began in 1896, the organizers thought that including a race of 26.2 miles, titled a “marathon” would be the perfect way of harkening back to the glory of Ancient Greece. 

The popularity of the marathon has been taking off in recent years, with more than half a million finishers in the US annually. The fastest growing race type in the country, the half marathon, topped 2 million finishers last year and appears poised to continue growing. 

Both the marathon and the half marathon are unique in running events because they demand an intensive training schedule spanning months. (A 5 or 10K, on the other hand, can be competed in on a whim, even though your time would certainly benefit from some serious and well-planned training!) 

These long training schedules are tedious, but they are crucial for anyone hoping to perform well and to avoid injuries. (You don’t want to end up like Pheidippides, after all!) The final two weeks before a long-distance race require some changes in preparation strategy — and doing things correctly during the home stretch is more important than ever. Here are four things you should be sure to do before race day.  

 Make A Checklist

There are quite a few responsibilities that should be taken care of well before the two-week mark — but making a checklist now is a good way of ensuring that you haven’t forgotten anything important. Purchasing all the equipment you need (shoes, socks, shorts, MP3 holster, water bottle strap, etc) is one such item. Getting a medical checkup and ensuring that you are correctly signed up are two other items worth adding to your list. 

 Taper Your Running Habits

The last long, full-strength run before a long-distance event should be scheduled between 10 and 14 days before race day. After this, shorter distances and easier speeds are recommended.  

 Consider Carb Loading

Upping your carbohydrate intake by 10 to 20% in the final days before a race can help give you a bit of extra energy to cross the finish line — though runners who fear upset stomachs or other digestion issues may opt to stick with their normal diet, instead.  

 Make a Trip to the Race Site

Checking out the starting line, getting information on shuttles and other services, and taking some time to plan out race day logistics can help eliminate unnecessary stress and keep you focused on the task at hand — getting across the finish line!