How to Prepare for a Marathon Race

If it’s almost time for the big day, keep your routine, focus on sleep and hydrate.

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You've spent 16 to 20 weeks preparing for the big day – your marathon. It's important to stay focused on your goal, whether that's completing the race or a specific time. Below are some tips for the week leading up to your marathon.

1. Keep your routine. Don't change your routine too drastically the week before the marathon. Yes, you want to eat more carbs, but the days of carbo-loading are over. Continue eating the same foods that you've been eating while training which, hopefully, are quality foods that are low in fat and won't make you feel tired, bloated or weighed down. A few days before the race, you can start to increase the amount of carbs you eat. I recommend having a serving of carbs at every meal – not two to three plates of pasta, though!

[Read: Foods That Cause Bloating.]

2. Focus on sleep. Go to bed a bit earlier the week or two before the marathon. Shut off the computer and TV and give yourself a few extra hours of rest. The two nights before the marathon (Friday) are when quality sleep matters the most. You'll most likely be too amped up the night before the race to sleep well – or for very long – anyway.

3. Taper correctly. Continue to taper and follow your schedule; you're running less miles, and that's good. You need to rest your legs so they're ready to run 26.2. Keep up the intensity of your runs, but don't be tempted to add miles. The day before the race, either walk or jog for two miles. Avoid spending hours at the expo. Get home, put your feet up and rest!

4. The expo. Race expos are fun and a great way to check out new gear and products. Take advantage of the bargain prices but never, ever wear anything that you bought at the expo on race day. Stick with what you know! The same goes for the food samples: Buy some to try after the race but don't eat anything new on race day. Also, avoid eating too many of the free samples of sports drinks and energy foods. You don't know how they will react with your stomach and you don't want to get sick or feel sick the day before the race.

[Read: 10 Themed Races to Make Getting In Shape Fun.]

5. Hydrate. Stay hydrated all week. Remember, as soon as you're thirsty, you are dehydrated. Aim to drink about 16 ounces of water the morning of the race, about two hours before it starts. This is enough time for the water to pass through your system.

6. Run your race. Don't allow your adrenaline to take over at the start. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of the start and run faster than planned. At the start of the race, ignore everyone around you and focus on your pace and your strategy. This will allow you to maintain your pace for longer and not burn out early in the race.

[Read: 4 Exercises Trainers Hate.]

7. Trust your training. You put in the time and the effort and that is what matters come race day. You can't control the weather, the crowds, the temperature. You can control how you choose to deal with those factors on race day. Believe in yourself as a marathoner and your hard work and dedication will shine through.

Stay focused and don't let adrenaline or a newfound strategy that you read online distract you from your goal. Well, except for this blog post!

[Read: 7 Mind-Blowing Benefits of Exercise.]

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns and feedback.

Meghan Reynolds, a USATF-Certified Running Coach, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer and Yoga Instructor, is a runner, yogi and fitness enthusiast. After working in the business world for years, she decided to make fitness a full time job and founded Hot Bird Running, a run coaching business, in May 2011. She has run 11 marathons, numerous half marathons and sprint triathlons. In addition to coaching runners, Meghan is a yoga instructor. She received her 200-hour level certification in 2004. Her yoga teachings focus on alignment and creating space in the body, which she finds vital for runners and athletes whose repetitive motions create blocks and stress in the body. Meghan credits her running accomplishments over the last 6 years to her dedication to cross-training, yoga and allowing herself and her body to recover properly after her rigorous running schedules. Find her on Twitter and Google+.