With so many people running a fall marathon or half marathon, I promised to talk about preparing for that big race that you’ve been training for all summer. Let’s say you’ve done everything right so far. You’ve completed every training run exactly as your schedule says, you’ve eaten well, stayed hydrated, gotten plenty of sleep and you’re peaking at exactly the right time; you don’t want to do something stupid now to throw all of your hard work out the window!
If you’re not a seasoned runner, you might not even think about peaking for your race. What is it? The idea is that your training gets you to peak conditioning and racing shape at the same time as your race. In the last weeks before your race, your running seems to be getting easier with less effort and you recover more quickly after your long runs. Now’s not the time to push yourself harder on your runs, just relax and let those legs enjoy working at peak efficiently.
You might wonder why you’re suddenly running so efficiently, and that has a lot to do with tapering. You’ve run hard all summer, but about two to three weeks before the race (more for longer races), you get to cut back on your distances. It’s the training that you’ve done all summer that has prepared you for the race, not the running that you’re doing right now. Many runners are afraid they’ll become deconditioned if they cut back now, but that’s not true. Yes, you need to continue running to keep your legs loose; just cut the distance, not the speed. Now’s the time to avoid thinking that one last hard run before the race will help. Let your legs rest, and they’ll thank you on race day!
You should have focused on hydrating properly throughout your training and if you didn’t, get on it now! Carry water with you (and drink it) wherever you go. By now you should know where every bathroom is in every store, restaurant, office building, and any place that you frequent. If you enjoy caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, keep in mind that caffeine and alcohol are diuretics and you should drink extra water to counter the effects they have on your body.
If your goal is to just finish the race, relax, have fun, and enjoy the race (and skip the next two paragraphs)! However, if you have a specific goal time in mind, now is the time to plan your pacing and racing strategy. Hopefully you have a good sense of how you feel on long runs and what type of strategy works best for you. I usually performed best with reverse splits, some people prefer a steady pace throughout the race, and others prefer a stagey that allows them to get slower as the race progresses. Just in case you’re not familiar with reverse splits, it means that you run the second half of the race faster than the first. Whatever your plan, write it out, refer to it, and stick to it throughout the race. One of the biggest mistakes runners make is to get caught up in the excitement and start out too quickly.
If you don’t plan to use your Garmin or phone app; make, download, or pick up a pace chart at the expo and put it somewhere that you can refer to it throughout the race. If it’s paper, either put it in a plastic bag or put clear tape over it, or your sweat will ruin it by mile two! I have a very old-school method that works for me. I plan my pace splits, type them out and tape it to the back of my race bib so I just have to flip my bib up to read the chart to see if I’m on pace (Note: Only pin the top of your bib).
Next time I’ll talk about carbo-loading, dressing for the race, and the importance of sleep…
- Do you usually feel that you peak right around race day or are you just happy to make it to the starting line in one piece?
- How long do you taper for a half marathon? Full marathon?
- What’s your favorite racing strategy?
All images except the last one are from Office Images.