With the Twin Cities Marathon just a month away, thousands of runners are asking themselves one thing: “Will I be ready for 26.2 miles on race day?” There are a lot of factors that go into determining the answer to that question, but here are a few tips to help increase your chances of finishing strong, whether you’re a first-timer or seasoned marathon veteran.

Get to the Starting Line Healthy

Maybe you haven’t exactly stuck to your training plan. You haven’t hit your weekly mileage targets, your long run targets, or both. Maybe you’ve been battling a nagging little injury or two. If that’s the case then the best advice I can give you is to take it easy! Cramming more mileage into this last month isn’t going to do much at all for you fitness-wise, and if you make an injury worse or fail to finish a planned long run, it will decimate your confidence, too. The best way to finish a marathon strong is to start it strong. So keep running, but listen to your body now more than ever, and honor your rest days!

Stop Eating (and Drinking) Junk

When you’re putting in lots of hours training for a marathon you get hungry. Really hungry. In my case, it’s like 17 year-old football player hungry. This can lead to lots of rationalization for making poor food choices. Let’s face it, rarely are we presented with the opportunity to eat virtually whatever we want and not gain weight, but running 30 or 40 or 50 miles a week presents you with just such an opportunity. But if you are to be successful on race day, you must resist the urge to fill that calorie void with junk food. Pizza, burgers, beer, dessert, cheese on top of everything, fried whatever – it might all taste like heaven, but it’s hell on your body. Now is exactly when your body needs nutrition that will help it recover from your workouts and make the physiological adaptations necessary to get you through the upcoming 26.2 miles of pavement pounding. And that can’t happen on junk. You know what’s healthy and what isn’t, right? So eat lots and lots of that instead.

Avoid the Three Ts

Tightness, tension and being tired can cause major problems for runners, especially as race day draws nearer. If you think of your body as a machine, introducing any one of these negative elements can be like throwing sand into the works. At first you may not notice, but over time, the constant abrasive grinding wears down the critical small gears, eventually leading to a total system breakdown. Luckily, combating them is easy. All you need is 15 minutes a day and some discipline.

Dedicate 10 of those minutes to using a foam roller, massage stick, lacrosse ball or other implement to work out any areas of tightness you have. Spend about 20 – 30 seconds on each area, and work just up to the point of discomfort, never pain. The key to this is to do it consistently, every day. Using a foam roller to loosen up tight muscles and connective tissue before a run is a great idea, but know that it will be helpful whenever you can squeeze it in.

Spend the other 5 minutes practicing meditation, deep breathing, or some other stress-busting technique. If there is a time of day when you notice yourself feeling particularly tense or tired, try taking a break to consciously relax then. The more consistent you can make this habit, the better. Simply noticing when you are tense and taking a few deep breaths throughout the day will help, too, but it’s not a substitute for that small but dedicated chunk of time to disconnect from the demands of your day.

Most of us can improve the quality of our sleep without even addressing the amount of time we spend in bed each night. A few tips for getting more of the restorative deep sleep your body needs include: turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime; close curtains/blinds/shutters to make your bedroom as dark as possible; and turn down the thermostat (ideal sleeping temperature is around 60-65 degrees for men and 65-70 degrees for women).

If there’s a common thread running through all of these tips it’s to be kind to yourself. Listen to your body, give it what it needs, and protect it from what it doesn’t. And that includes the most important part of your body – your mind.