I ran the Chester Marathon in 2h 56min. The race review has its own blog post, but let’s also talk about preparation. And today in particular, about having a clear mind and warmed up muscles.
It’s not only your muscles that need to be in a good form, but also your mind. A good night sleep during the last few nights before the race is essential to keep your recovery on track. Don’t let those days pass and leave it only for the night before the race, you might not be able to sleep as well because of all of the scenarios going on through your head. Start 3-4 days ahead, stop waking up as early as you are used to, and aim for at least 7 hours of good sleep, although 8 hours is even better.
Warm up to activate your muscles
In the morning of the Chester Marathon, I didn’t do any running drills before the race, just a few exercises to activate the muscles.
Last year I ran the Serpentine Last Friday of the Month 5k race 4 times. I didn’t stretch extensively before any of them, but before my best one of them, I did a longer warmup stretching session, led by Andreea. It made a really noticeable difference. I’m not talking about your hamstrings or quads or calves not being activated. These are big muscles and you only need to take a few steps to oil them. But there are lots of other smaller muscles which might not be activated and ruin your form at the beginning of the race. And a ruined form will definitely mean a bad result and a physical injury.
Opening your hips, activating your smaller glutes, your core and even your upper body will prepare your body more extensively than a running drill before a race. I would recommend at least few regular squats, sumo squats, push-ups and inch worms. Throw in some standing lateral hip circles and you’re set. Don’t try to be fast or do lots of repetitions. You are better off doing fewer but perform them as correctly as possible.
I know lots of people run away from meditation and it sounds like a hard thing to do. But the truth is that there isn’t something else to calm your mind the way mediation does. Meditation doesn’t mean what you see in the movies with Buddhist monks. Only focusing on your breath and taking your mind off things for a bit will help you focus better during the run, especially those first minutes when a bad decision can harm an entire race.
We started this habit before the Stockholm Half Marathon and it had a big impact. But before the Chester Marathon, when the pressure of achieving my goal was huge, I was very nervous and I told Andreea I don’t want to do it because I cant’s calm down. “That’s exactly why you need it!”. What we do is search on YouTube for “5 minutes meditation for positive energy” and there are loads of results coming up. It’s just 5 minutes, try it out!