I guess this differs person to person based on your experience, expectations and goals, however I’ve found a pattern in terms of what I encounter in the lead up to a marathon.
Nerves and sometimes a lot of them: I find nerves manifest themselves in a variety of ways and are not simply for first time marathoners. We all get them, but it’s how you deal with them that makes the difference. From crazy marathon dreams the nights before to struggling to eat on marathon morning, prepare for the nerves by balancing what you can and can’t control. For example, you can’t control the weather so give yourself multiple tried and tested kit options. You can’t control if you’re going to be too nervous to eat on race day morning so have a pre practiced race day nutrition routine and take snacks to the start. You can’t control if there will be transport issues so give yourself plenty of time. Focus your nerves on positive solutions to whatever is making you nervous, cut yourself some slack and use the nerves as adrenaline to get you fired up on the day.
Suddenly BBC weather is your most googled webpage: You’ll probably check the weather multiple times. But remember like nerves, you can’t control the weather so don’t let it control you. The weather will affect everyone, so if you have to adapt your goals so will everyone else.
You’ll lose all concept of time. Either time will go really slllooowwwwlllyyyy or it will fly by in a minute. I find the day before a marathon time drags and I feel like I’m waiting around.
You’ll suddenly feel lots of phantom aches, pains and omg that sneeze is full blown flu. Maranoia is VERY real. Don’t let it get inside your head.
Carb loading is a complex thing. You might feel a bit bloated if you’ve gone to town on those carbs. If so make sure you eat a carby lunch on the Saturday and a lighter dinner (or tea if you’re northern like me). And sip water regularly.
You probably won’t sleep well the night before. Chances are you’ll try go to bed too early, lie there worrying and have a broken nights sleep panicking that you’re going to sleep through your alarm. The Friday before a Sunday race is the crucial night, give yourself a small lie in Saturday but don’t binge on sleep as that can also make you feel a bit sluggish. I aim for 8.5 to 9 hours the Friday before a marathon (I usually get 7.5 to 8 hours sleep a night) and set my alarm for 8:30ish to make sure I’m up and about, otherwise I find the early morning the next day too much of a shock to the system. If you’re panicking about sleep the night before I’ll let you in on a secret, I went to bed at 11pm the night before Manchester marathon and I woke up at 3:25 an absolute bag of nerves and was unable to sleep. So I ran a PB off very little sleep, I wouldn’t recommend it but it happens.
You’ll question all your training, constantly think you should have done more but repeat after me YOU ARE ENOUGH, YOU HAVE DONE ENOUGH. Positive mental attitude is the way forward.
CHECK YOUR GARMIN IS CHARGED and check again. Maybe a third check for luck.
Preparation is key! Suss out where your friends and family will be and make arrangements for where you’ll meet them afterwards. Also pack your bag and check you have everything. I find I always end up rushing round trying to find one thing I’ve forgotten so give yourself plenty of time to do this.
But most of all, spend a moment to remind yourself of the crazy journey you’ve been on during your training. Marathon day is the party parade for all your weeks of hard work, so enjoy it and remember you’re a total hero and you’ve got this!