Aly Dixon - get your marathon countdown right

Aly Dixon is the reigning England Athletics marathon champion. In association with AfterShokz we caught up with Aly to find out her advice on how to get ready for a marathon in the final week.

Whether you are tackling London or another event read on for her advice on how to be ready for race day.

Hi, I’m Aly and I’m a marathon runner! My claim to fame is representing Team GB in the Rio Olympics and winning the Brighton marathon in 2011. I’ve run a fair few half and full marathons in my time, so I wanted to share some hints and tips that really help me in the lead up to the big day.

1 week to go

You’ve worked so hard training your body for the marathon, so don’t let any last minute admin slip ups play with your mind too much in this last week. Write a checklist and get in the zone!

  • Re-read your race instruction booklet (when you first get your pack you may be excited and miss important facts!)
  • Double check all of your travel arrangements and accommodation
  • Research and book a restaurant near to your hotel for your Saturday meal – and avoid spicy foods ;-)
  • Make sure you’ve got all the gels and drinks you’ve been training with - there's still time for next day delivery if you find you don't have enough.
  • List everything you need to pack – including your favourite breakfast incase the hotel doesn’t serve it, party clothes for celebrating afterwards, and loo roll for the portable toilets!

Six days to go

This last week is all about getting the spring back into your stride and getting in the zone. Less is most definitely more at this stage, so use today as a rest day.

I normally find things start to get tough after about 18 – 20 miles, so it really helps to have some prepared mantras to push through the pain. Last year, I had "make this sh*t happen" going around in my head - it was included in a good luck text from a teammate and helped me smile through the last 3 miles.

Five days to go

Make sure all of your race day kit is washed, dried and packed ready to go. Don't leave it to the last minute as no one wants to be in a mad rush looking for “lucky socks”. If you’re flying to London, make sure you pack your race day kit in your hand luggage, that way there's no panic if your hold luggage doesn't arrive with you.

Four days to go

Training should really be on a wind down now and today's run should be a 20 minute jog. Your legs should be feeling like Zebedee!!

Now is a good time to reflect on all the hard work you’ve done and how fit you are. Remember those long hard runs in freezing cold rain or the hard sessions on a dark February evening. Be proud of yourself!

Three days to go

Get a nice massage to loosen out any last minute kinks. By now maranoria may have set in. Don't panic about every ache and pain you feel at this stage, it's probably just in your head. The mind really can play a lot of tricks on you in race week! Stay calm and focus on your goal. A gentle jog with a few strides at the end will put your mind at rest.

Start to increase the carbs in your meals from today. Don't go overboard. A lot of people misuse carb loading as over eating and end up putting on lots of weight in the last week. All you need to do is ensure you’ve got a good portion of pasta or rice with each meal. You’re doing very little training this week so your body will naturally store the added carbs, ready for race day.

Two days to go

Make sure all of your gadgets are fully charged. I like to wear my Aftershokz headphones - the only headphones approved for racing under the rules of UK Athletics and endorsed by England Athletics as they use bone conduction technology.

If you haven't already sorted your playlist - do it today! Most people will have a playlist that got them through their training, but you may want to add or rearrange the song order. I like to have some slower songs to begin with so I don't get carried away with the tempo. Then as the race goes on, I pick songs that get more upbeat. You can't go wrong with some Rocky or S Club 7 in the final few miles and of course Heather Small belting out Proud as you cross the line is a dead cert for reducing you to tears!!

Make sure you get a good night sleep tonight. Nerves might give you a disruptive sleep tomorrow but if you've slept well for the previous few nights this won't affect your race.

One day to go

If you haven't already been to collect your number from the expo - go today. Get there nice and early to avoid the crowds. Bear in mind that Saturday is the busiest day for number pick up and you may have to queue for a while. Today is all about staying off your feet and resting your legs as much as possible. Try not to eat or drink anything you haven’t tried before (even if it’s a small amount of an energy bar). You really don’t want any stomach disagreements.

The day before a race I like to take my carbs via drinks so that I don't feel too bloated from large amounts of food. I always have my biggest meal of the day at lunchtime and a smaller dinner so that I'm not feeling stuffed when trying to sleep. Jaffa Cakes, Malt loaf and Haribo are great for snacking on through the day to get some good carbs in.

Race day

It's finally here! You've trained really hard for this, so don't do anything silly now. Get to the start line in plenty of time, find the loos, drop your bags off, go to the loo again (and probably another 10 times!!) then make your way to your start pen. Don't try and copy someone doing a fancy stretch, stick to your own routine!

Once the gun goes off, stick to your own race plan. Remember 10 seconds too fast in the first few miles equals to 10 minutes too slow at the end. It's not about banking time for the second half; it’s about running comfortably and relaxed and preserving energy for the last 10k.

Get into a good rhythm, control your breathing and drink water early on (especially if it's warm).

A useful trick I use to keep rhythm is to either count to 100 or chant ‘right foot, left foot’. I’ve also found dedicating each of the final 6 miles to someone special is always a massive boost to dig deeper and reach the end.

Most importantly, soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the occasion. There will be tough patches but you have your mantras to help you through. You'll make friends with complete strangers running next to you and you'll help each other through.

If you have friends and family supporting you, make sure you know roughly where they will be so that you can listen out for their encouraging cheers. Smiling makes you feel happy and feeling happy makes you run faster!

Once you turn on Birdcage Walk you are nearly there. The sight of Buckingham Palace is a wonder. One more turn onto The Mall and then there's only 200m to go. Run strong, smile, wave your arms, celebrate, you've just ran a marathon!!!

Try not to stop your watch as you cross the finish line (it ruins a great photo!!) Instead, celebrate, arms aloft, big smile, you've done it!

Resist the temptation to sit down, you may not get back up. Keep walking slowly down the finish area, and pick up your t-shirt and all-important medal.

One day after

Don't be tempted to try and run to see how your legs feel. Have a rest day or two or three. I normally take at least 10 days off all exercise to make sure that both my body and my mind are fully recovered. Use the time to relax and enjoy yourself, do all the things you haven't been able to whilst in hard training. Over the next day or two if you’re not too sore, get a nice relaxing massage. And then set your sights on the next one...

Good luck to everyone running and don’t forget to share your start line selfies, finishing pics with AfterShokz on Twitter, Facebookand Instagram.

You can do this!

Aly xx