Now that the hard training is done, how should you fill your time? Believe it or not, your mental training is just as important as the physical efforts you've done over the last few months. As the final stage of race preparation, allot yourself time to think about the event.
Build your support crew. Don't be shy – tell friends and colleagues that you're racing and invite them to take part. Seeing a familiar face out there will make you relax in the early stages, and will help you persevere once fatigue sets in.
Get the logistics down pat. Know when and where you need to be to avoid stress leading up to race day. Plan when you should go to the expo to pick up your race kit and visit the booths. While at the expo, find the latest gadgets, score some good deals on gear, and meet fellow running enthusiasts, but don't linger too long on your feet, and stay away from unfamiliar foods and products. Now is not the time to experiment with the new energy bars and running shoes.
Study the run course, especially the start and the finish. You can do this by checking out a map of the course and by driving the route. Race starts, especially for marathons, are normally very well-organized, but with the thousands of anxious racers, it's easy to get lost in the crowd. Plan to be near the start line about 30 minutes early so you can make last-minute pit stops and position yourself in the proper corral.
Run the race in your mind, visualizing an easy start, finding race pace, then coasting past the half-way mark. Things will get tough around 30 km: It's important to recognize this and to prepare for the discomfort. Just remember that you have done all the work necessary to get through this. Keep in mind the little tricks you have learned, like taking in a deep breath, shaking out your arms, or slightly increasing your knee lift. Most courses have a blue line indicating the exact 42.195-km route. You don't need to run exactly on this line, but it may remind you to cut the tangent when there are turns on the course. No sense running extra metres out there.
Finally, envision the last few kilometres, knowing you are close to hitting your goal. Keep relaxed, smile and just put one foot in front of the other until you cross that line of accomplishment.
It's time to be confident. Look back on your run program and know that you have put in all the work necessary to reach your goal. Be assured that you trained properly and that you are ready for this challenge. Until race day, rest hard and breathe easy.
Nicole Stevenson is a running coach and the ninth-fastest female marathon runner in Canadian history. She is a long-time competitor in the Canada Running Series.