6 DAYS TO GO, 5 DAYS TO GO . . .

Times Staff Writer

Entrants to this year’s L.A. Marathon may have been training for months, but the remaining days leading up to Sunday are critical. The body needs appropriate rest, nutrition and a little exercise to stay in racing shape.

Here are some tips for the week ahead from Tom Holland, author of “The Marathon Method: The 16-Week Training Program that Prepares You to Finish a Full or Half Marathon in Your Best Time,” and Kathrine Switzer, author of “Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women’s Sports” and a former L.A. Marathon commentator.

* Monday, Feb. 25: Many runners probably did their last, long pre-race run yesterday, Holland says, so today should be a rest and recovery day. It’s not too early, he adds, to begin to get gear together for the race, so they should do laundry and gather supplies such as energy gels.

They should also sleep as much as possible this week, even adding naps when feasible, he says. From today through Friday, marathoners-to-be should eat a normal diet incorporating carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats, suggests Dr. Robert Sallis, director of sports medicine at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fontana and president of the American College of Sports Medicine. After that (see below), the emphasis is on carbs.

* Tuesday, Feb. 26: Today’s run should be about three to six miles at a comfortable pace, with 10 to 20 minutes at race pace or faster. The pragmatic Switzer advises runners to go ahead and cut their toenails. “After today, your hands are going to be shaking and you’re going to nip the skin.”


* Wednesday, Feb. 27: Just do some stretching, Holland advises, no running.

* Thursday, Feb. 28: Today’s run should be the same as on Tuesday, Holland says, but the faster-paced intervals should be shorter: for example, going hard for 60 seconds, then recovering for about two minutes, and repeating that about six times.

* Friday, Feb. 29: “I prefer that people take Friday off,” says Holland, but if runners are itching to move, he recommends doing no more than three to four miles. “If you do too much,” he warns, “on Sunday you’ll feel Friday’s workout.”

They should also begin adding a few more carbs to their diet. On Saturday, pre-race jitters will likely sabotage a solid eight hours, so runners should tank up on sleep tonight.

* Saturday, March 1: Marathoners should do an easy 10- to 20-minute run, wearing every piece of race-day gear, Holland recommends. “You don’t want to get sweaty,” he says, “but put everything on -- even your bib -- to make sure there are no weird itches or chafing issues.”

Dinner should include extra carbs, such as pasta, and ought to include only familiar foods to prevent stomach upset. But don’t overload. Dinner, Holland adds, should be eaten about 6 p.m. to give the body time to digest.

Runners should also check in with friends, says Switzer, making sure they know where to meet after the race and devising a contingency plan if everyone misses each other. They should also plan Sunday morning breakfast, pre-make whatever possible to save time -- and set more than one alarm clock.

* Sunday, March 2 -- race day: Before the race, all runners should eat breakfast, even if their nerves are getting the better of them. Running on an empty stomach doesn’t make for a good marathon.

Immediately after the race, they should eat easily digestible carbs to replace glycogen supplies, later incorporating protein to help repair muscles.

* Monday, March 3: Those who didn’t give up at the first hill should expect to be quite sore, and on Tuesday as well. Most marathon veterans say the body needs a couple days to recover. If at that time runners feel like a light jog, they should go for it. But they should ease back into training, not push it.

Marathoners shouldn’t be surprised if they feel a bit of a letdown after the race. “You worked so hard for this goal, and now it’s over,” Holland says. “Give yourself a couple of days to recover, then focus on your next goal.”