You’ve put in months of training, and now the race day is in sight. The butterflies are probably starting to stir in your gut, and you feel a mix of excitement and nervousness. This is all normal stuff as you approach your big race. Although the training is all done, there are still lots of things you can do to make Sunday a success. Here’s seven tips that help you get the most out of the day.
1) Rest Up
By now, all the hard work has been done and there is very little that can be gained through more training. Some runners have a hard time with this principle and worry that backing off on the training will lead to a loss in fitness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Cut back on the volume and quality of your runs. A short run and some 100 metre strides at 5k pace will keep your legs turning over well, without adding any extra fatigue.
2) Chill and de-stress the last few days.
The last week before the race, you should be getting extra sleep and trying to reduce the stress in your life. Ask your family to take on more chores so that you are not run ragged in the last day or two before your race. Now is the time to binge watch your favorite show, or sit and read that novel you’ve been working on. Don’t over commit on the social front or run yourself ragged with a jam-packed schedule. You have trained hard enough over the last few months to be a bit protective of your time when it matters most.
3) Eat more carbohydrates!
Your body needs the extra glycogen stores on race day, so carb up for the last three days before the race. Choose foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates. These can include potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams, brown rice, whole wheat spaghetti, slow cook oatmeal, some cereals, etc. This is not at the exclusion of other nutrients; your body still needs vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats. Just try to eat a bit more of the carbohydrates and a little less of the other good stuff. Don’t pig out! The combination of reduced training and normal portions rich in carbohydrates are all you need to carbo load. Make sure that you increase your intake of water, as this will help you store those carbs for race day.
4) Take care of the details in advance.
Don’t leave all the details to race morning. Plan your race and take care of the small stuff in advance. Decide how you’ll get to the race on the morning, where you will meet your family after the run, what you will wear, and what pace you will run. You don’t want to be rushing around and worrying about details on race morning.
5) Stick with the tried and true.
The basic rule is that if you haven’t tried it in training, then don’t do it on race morning. Now isn’t the time to break those new shoes out of the box, or to try out the fashionable running bra you picked up at the Expo. Similarly, if you haven’t experimented with gels or other race fuel, it is probably best not to try them out for the first time during the run.
- Pace yourself!
The number one reason that people hit the “wall” is poor pacing. The excitement of the race, the crowds at the start, and the uncertainty of what exactly we can run per kilometre all challenge our efforts to run an evenly paced race. On race day, situate yourself among others wanting to run a similar time, by asking those around you their anticipated finish times. There is no use pushing towards the front if those around you will then be pulling you out at a faster than planned pace. Don’t try to “bank” time during the first half of the race…aim to run only slightly faster than race pace during the first half. Don’t charge up the hills, or try to make up time by surging on the downhills. Keep your rhythm and use gravity to save you energy. The marathon and half marathon are all about patience and rhythm.
- Stay positive!
During the last week, often your mind will start to play tricks on you. You’ll get “ghost” injuries or colds—aches, pains, and sniffles that are mostly psychosomatic. This is normal, and chances are you won’t feel them once the gun goes off on race morning. Keep your confidence in the training that you’ve done. The last few kilometers can be uncomfortable, and staying positive, confident, and in the moment, can make all the difference.
Best of luck to everyone on Sunday. The race really is the reward for all of your training, so enjoy the moment, work hard, and have fun.
Written by Bruce Deacon, our online coach!