Syracuse OnLine Home

Marathon Taper

Some Advice For Running A Marathon

Published October 20, 1997, in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Your entry into the marathon has been confirmed. You have made hotel reservations. You have made travel plans. You have placed the dogs in the kennel. You have run the long runs. You feel ready to run 26.2 miles next weekend. In the meantime, you are apprehensive of the week that separates you from the starting gun.

The final week preceding a marathon must be used for physical rest and mental preparation. The days of long runs and speed workouts are gone. Monday through Wednesday, plan to run five or six miles each day. Run three or four miles on Thursday. Rest on Friday and Saturday. Do not worry about your legs forgetting how to run, or your body losing endurance. You will be fine, rested and energized for the marathon. Resist the temptation to test your fitness by running a trial marathon just before the real thing.

You may start carbo-loading, or eating commercial quantities of pasta and potatoes, as early as six months before the marathon. If you have not started carbo-loading yet, do not delay much longer. Do not wait until Saturday night, since it takes the body time to stock-up.

Some experienced runners precede carbo-loading with a period of carbo- depletion. By eating a protein-rich diet for a few days, sometimes followed by a depletion long run, they drain their bodies of glycogen. The carbo-loading period that follows is intended to over-compensate for the depletion, giving them more energy for the marathon. Leave this technique to the experts. Do not try it in your first marathon. Just eat to your heart's, and muscles', content.

In addition to carbohydrates, this is the time to replenish the body's supplies of minerals and nutrients, that may have been depleted during a long summer of training. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and drink a lot of water.

Reducing your mileage and increasing your food intake may leave you bloated and feeling heavy. Expect to gain a couple of pounds during the final week, and enjoy them. The lack of endorphines may also leave you stressed and depressed. Deal with the tension by increasing rest and sleep. You may also try to visualize the race and run it in your mind.

Besides rebuilding your sleep reserves by going to bed early and taking naps, try to stay horizontal. Lie down whenever you can and lift your legs. Avoid standing. Indulge in taking elevators. Take a break from weight lifting. Postpone cross-training. Be happy.

Prepare a packing checklist, and pack a marathon bag several days before your departure. Do not pack anything new. For your marathon, wear only clothes and shoes that were tested and proven during training. If you travel by air, carry that bag with you. While lost luggage can be replaced, nothing can replace well broken-in shoes.

Arrive a couple of days early to your marathon destination. The farther your trip, the more fatigued you will feel. The vibrations of the car or the plane have a tiring effect on the body. If your trip involves crossing time zones, plan a day of rest for each time zone traversed.

When you arrive to your host city, pick up your race number early. Enjoy the atmosphere of the pre-race expo, but avoid spending an evening on your feet. For your last supper, do not experiment with new foods or drinks. Stick to well-proven recipes, rich in potatoes, pasta, bread and rice. Drink plenty of water. Do not worry about staying up all night, if you slept well the previous night. Remember to set your alarm, request a wake up call from the hotel, and ask a friend to call you.

On raceday, eat a light breakfast two to three hours before the start. A bagel, a banana, a sports drink and a cup of coffee make a good selection. You may drink a second cup of coffee an hour before the race, but only if you have tried it during training.

Now you are ready for the marathon. Go for it, and may the wind be at your back all 26 miles 385 yards.

Kamal Jabbour is all set for the assault on Iwo Jima. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at

Copyright (c) 1997 The Herald Company. All rights reserved. The material on this site may not be reproduced, except for personal, non-commercial use, and may not be distributed, transmitted or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Syracuse OnLine.