Counting Down: One Month to Marathon

Runners, the big day is almost in sight! With just over four weeks left until the big race, those planning to participate in the Chevron Houston Marathon should be at the peak of their training. Not to worry, the Human Performance Team at Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute has some tips to help you get the most out of the remaining time before the marathon.

The Long Runs

If you’ve been consistently training over the past 12-14 weeks, this should be the time that you are doing the longest mileage before you begin to taper off. An 18-20 mile run is advised, or two miles more than your previous high-mileage run. Remember: distance is more important during this time than the actual pace.

When to Start Tapering

Your training needs to taper off two or three weeks before the race. During those last two weeks, your longest run should be no longer than 13 miles. Tapering can be difficult for some runners because the idea of slowing down training as they near the race seems nonsensical. However, the extra rest time is actually making you stronger before the big event. The muscle damage that can occur during sustained training is repaired during this time and muscle strength is improved. Tapering also can have a positive effect on immune function, meaning the odds that you will catch a cold during the race are reduced.


The clothing items worn during the marathon should be the same items you’re wearing during the long training days. Make sure all clothing and accessories work well for you so that there aren’t any problems on race day.

Running shoes shouldn’t be brand new, but shouldn’t be worn out either. It’s appropriate for them to have about 80 to 150 miles on them. Breaking in new shoes a month before the marathon should put them in perfect condition for the big day.


Now is the time to try whatever food products you want to use during the marathon. During the run itself, athletes need to consume approximately 30-60g of carbohydrates each hour in the form of sports drinks, gels, blocks, chews or solid foods. For many of the shorter runs, there isn’t truly a need for taking in carbs during the session. However, your last few longer runs are the perfect time to test strategies. If you plan on carrying something with you on the course, now is a good time to determine the best way to do so. And, if you’re thinking about using what the course provides, now is the time to test those products, as well.

The same thing applies to the pre-race breakfast. For many runs, people don’t like to eat much of anything, then on the day of the marathon they know they have to eat something but it doesn’t settle very well. Now is a great time to test pre-race breakfast. Try to simulate which food you will have, how far in advance of the run, etc. If you are going to stay in a hotel for the race, test the food you will either bring yourself or what will be available to you at the hotel. Don’t have a bagel before all the training runs and then decide to have eggs and grits the morning of the race because that’s all that is available.

If you do plan to stay in a hotel the night before the race, now is a good time to determine which restaurant you’ll eat at for your pre-race dinner and make a reservation. You don’t want to get stuck searching for somewhere to eat late the night before.

Mental Training and Other Preparations

It’s typical that you might feel unprepared when entering the final month before a marathon. If you are able to do a couple of long runs beforehand, your confidence will be boosted! Don’t forget to check the weather in advance of race day in case any last-minute changes need to be made. You should try putting your name on your bib, as well. There is no better morale boost than hearing people cheer you on as you run past. And don’t forget to smile!

For more training tips and performance enhancement ideas, visit Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute.

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