You’ve gotten bit by the running bug, learned the running lingo, strapped on a pair of running shoes, trained and ran in a few races. What is the next step? As you train for that next big race, are you prepared as you think? Here are five tips that will leave you confident you can tackle the miles ahead of you successfully.
1. Prepare for the course: Know the course you are running. If possible, run the course or a run similar to the course before race day (minus some mileage if it is marathon length). The elevation and length of a course can be determined at some popular websites like: Map My Run or Walk Jog Run. Find out if the course has rolling hills, long flats and what the total elevation change is. You can then plan a course that is similar to the one you are running and prepare for the changes you will encounter before the big day. The course can also be mapped out on a treadmill, and while this won’t prepare you exactly for the race physically, you can practice parts of the race in the upcoming training weeks, to prepare yourself mentally in your strategy.
2. Pace yourself. You will be excited come race day. Your blood will be pumping and the adrenaline will be flowing. Make sure you do not start out too fast. Know what your pace times are and stick to them. Find your pace runner if you are running with a certain time group and stick with them. Make sure you know if mile markers will be present in the race and wear a watch. You will be able to rely on this for pacing as a backup if needed. Word to the wise: you will probably feel really good starting out (tapering for a race leaves you feeling fanstastic), but save it for the later miles. You will need it.
3. Know how to run the race. Flat portions should be run steady. Hills can be attacked. As you reach the crest of a hill, increase your cadence slightly and speed up a bit. Use the momentum of the crest of the hill to carry you over and down the other side, like a sling effect. Run the down hills with a slight lean back so body is close to level as you descend. Allow your legs to relax slightly to lessen impact on your quads, as your feet land.
4. As you get into the groove of running, pick a runner, distance or location to reach if you feel you are having difficulty keeping your pace. This will allow you to refocus mentally and set some smaller reachable goals, rather than focusing on the large task at hand. Pick a body group to focus on form for each portion of the race. (Head/eyes, arms, trunk, legs, foot landing). This will allow you to keep your form longer and maintain more efficiency. You will also stay more in tune to how your body is feeling overall.
5. Practice pre-race and race logistics (pre-race meal eating, race day clothes, water stop drinking, and race-fueling) in the weeks before the race. You will feel more confident knowing what your body can handle when race-day shows up. Local training groups provide a great opportunity to practice race day as they often set up mini-race conditions with water stops. And as you get to race day and near the finish line, use the crowd to motivate you the last couple miles. They can pull you in to what will hopefully be your best race yet.