It’s just days away until the Belfast Marathon where thousands of fitness fans and amateur runners will be taking to the streets of the city.

Fionnbhárr Toolan, IRONFIT

Fionnbhárr Toolan

So in advance we caught up with Fionnbhárr Toolan, a strength coach at IRONFIT Strength and Movement in Belfast.

For ten years he has been clocking up the miles as a middle distance runner and in 2012 he completed the Dublin marathon in an impressive 2hr 40mins.

He currently coaches middle and long distance runners from across Northern Ireland as they seek to compete in competitive runs around the globe.

He said: “For the majority of competitors, since the beginning of 2015, your thoughts, training and sole focus has been the marathon, that elusive 26.2 miles that will define you as hero.

“When entering the final week of marathon training, the most effective strategy is to stick to your normal routine.

“Preparation has been key throughout the training months, so the final week is no different.”

Here are Fionnbhárr’s top tips:

1. Enjoy The Taper

For many runners, the decreased running during the final few days before the marathon can create unnecessary nerves and tension. Avoid replacing the runs with cross training and allow for the body to recuperate, rebuild and recover. If you feel like you need to do something, go for an easy 10-15 minute run to relax the nerves the day before the race.

2. Eat Smart

Stick to your usual eating habits. Don’t cut back on foods as if you’re weighing in for a boxing match, as you’ll run the risk of depletion of carbs, fats and proteins – food is fuel. Don’t eat extra food as this can make you feel bloated and lethargic. Remember, during the final few days, you’re not running as much as you have been so don’t flood the system with tonnes of food as this can lead to digestive problems.

3. Get A Good Sleep

Go to bed with a book or watch a movie so that you can relax and get comfortable. This will take away any stress or nerves about the big day before you sleep. Everybody knows how beautiful a good nights sleep can make you feel the next day.

4. Warm Up

For the marathon, the pre-race warm up needs to be minimal as you’re running 26.2 miles. The warm up should consist of dynamic movements and stretching preparation such as forwards, backwards and lateral lunges, sumo squats with rotation, high knees, butt flicks and high leg kick outs plus a few 50-60m strides or an easy 5-10 minute jog to get the body moving. You want to be supple and loose before the starting gun goes off.

5. Be Calm

Try to ignore everything that goes on around you and relax yourself into the first few miles. It’s very easy to get caught up in the big rush at the start of the race and before you know it, you will have ran a personal best for the first 3 miles. If you do this, the next 23.2 miles will be hell! Ease your way in the first few miles and find your pace.

6. Have A Mantra

When climbing a tough hill or when you are fighting through those final few miles, having a mantra can help pull you through a tough time. Think of something that is going to give you motivation and courage. Think strong. Be strong. Run strong! Be positive and be persistent!

7. Trust & Believe

Trust your training and believing in yourself as an athlete will help ensure that all the hard work you’ve put into preparing for the race will shine through. If the voice in your head is telling you to stop, go a little crazy and scream, “go away”! Okay, the person beside you may think you’re crazy, but hey, each to their own!

Fionnbhárr added: “Hopefully these tips will help you prepare you for the final few days leading into race day and I wish every competitor the best of luck.

“Until you’ve crossed the finish line run positive, be positive and stay positive.”

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