At the USAF Marathon recently, I attempted to quality for Boston for the first time in 10 years. I used 30 sec run/15 sec walk and was just ahead of pace when the 3 mile uphill started after 21 miles. I lost 2 minutes on this section and gave it all I had for the last 1.5 miles: 38 seconds too slow. I will try again!
After having run in races, every
year, since 1958, I’ve come to believe that success comes from getting the
“little things” right. As you prepare for the big day, you will be
organizing yourself, gaining mental focus, reducing tension, anticipating
problems as you gear up to solve them. All of this sets you up for
Rehearsal. Use your speed workouts as “dress
rehearsals” for your big day. Since you may be nervous, bring your
checklists and go through each item as you will do at the race
itself. If at all possible, run on the race course several
times. If this is not possible, visit the race website, study the
course profile and description, and try to find venues in your area that are
similar. You want to feel familiar with every aspect of the
environment surrounding the venue. Success may depend upon a feeling
of confidence - that you own the road on race day.
If this is an important race that
is out of town, it helps to run the course and even stage a successful workout
there. You’ll learn the driving route, where to park (or which rapid transit
station to exit), and what the site is like. If you will be driving,
drive into the parking area several times to make sure you understand how to go
exactly where you need to park. This will help you to feel at home
with the staging area on race day, reducing race day anxiety. If
it’s a road course, run over the last half mile of the course at least
twice--the most important part of the course to know. It’s also
beneficial to do the first mile of the course to see which side of the road is
best for walk breaks (location of sidewalks, etc.).
Rehearse your line-up
position. Enter some local 5Ks, which could be run instead of the “magic
mile or MM” weekends. Practice running in the crowd, getting over to
the side of the road to take walk breaks, taking water at the water stops, etc.
The Afternoon before. Don’t run the day before the
race. You won’t lose any conditioning if you take two days off from
running leading up to the race. This is a personal issue and the
number of days you do not run before a race is your choice. I
recommend no more than two days of no running.
Some races require you to pick up
your race number, and sometimes your computer chip (explained below) the day
before. Look at the website or the entry form for instructions about
this. A few races allow you to pick up your materials on race day, but
Race number. This is sometimes called a “bib
number.” It should be pinned on the front of the garment you’ll be
wearing when you cross the finish line. Make sure you have 2-4
Computer chip. More and more races are using
technology that automatically records your finish and split times along the
course. You must wear a computer chip that is usually laced on the
shoes, near the top. Some race result technology companies attach
the chip to a velcro band around the ankle or arm. Read the
instructions to make sure you are attaching this correctly. Be sure
to turn this in after the race. The officials have volunteers to
collect them, so stop and take them off your shoe, etc. right after the finish
line. There is a steep fine ($) for those who don’t turn in the
The carbo loading dinner. Some races have a dinner the
night before. At the dinner you will usually chat with runners at
your table and enjoy the evening. Don’t eat much,
however. Many runners assume, mistakenly, that they must eat a lot
of food the night before. This is actually counter-productive. It
takes at least 36 hours for most of the food you eat to be processed and usable
in a race, usually longer. There is nothing you can eat the evening
before a race that will help you.
But eating too much, or the wrong
foods for you, can create a real problem. A lot of food in your gut,
when you are bouncing up and down in a race, is stressful. A very
common and embarrassing situation occurs when the gut is emptied to relieve
this stress. While you don’t want to starve yourself the afternoon
and evening before, the best strategy is to eat small meals or snacks that you
know are easy for the body to digest, and taper down the amount as you get
closer to bed time. As always, it’s best to have done a “rehearsal”
of eating so that you know what works, how much, when to stop eating, and what
foods to avoid. The evening before your long morning runs is a good
time to work on your eating plan so that you can replicate the successful
routine leading up to race day.
Drinking. The day before each goal race,
drink about 8 glasses of water or sports drink throughout the
day. If you haven’t had a drink of water or sports drink in a couple
of hours, drink half a cup to a cup (4-8 oz) each hour. Don’t drink
a lot of fluid during the morning of the race itself. This can lead to
bathroom breaks before the race or the desire to do so during the race
itself. Many races have portajohns around the course, but some do not. This
is another reason to preview the venue and note the locations of
bathrooms. It is a very common practice for runners that have
consumed too much fluid that morning to find a tree or alley along the course.
The best solution for most runners is to drink 6-10 oz of fluid about 2-3 hours
before the race. Usually this is totally out of the system before
the start, but practice to make sure.
Drinking Tip: If you
practice drinking before your long runs, you can find the right amount of fluid
that works best for you on race day. Stage your drinks so that you know
when you will be taking potty breaks, comfortably, before the start of the race
itself, especially if you drink coffee.
The night before. Eating is optional after 5 p.m. If
you are hungry, have a light snack (or two) that you have tested before and has
not caused problems. Less is better but don’t go to bed
hungry. Continue to have about 8oz of a good electrolyte beverage
like Accelerade, about 2-3 hours before you go to bed. Avoid salty food
the day before long runs and the race itself.
Alcohol is not recommended the
night before because the effects of this central nervous system depressant
carry over to the next morning. Some runners have no trouble having one
glass of wine or beer, while others are better off with none. In any
case, alcohol will result in some dehydration at the start of the race.
Pack your bag and lay out
your clothes so that you don’t have to think very much on race morning.
watch or timer, set up for the run-walk-run ratio you are using · A
pace chart, or wrist band, with lap times, or mile times
race number on the front of the garment in which you will be finishing
few extra safety pins for your race/bib number or number
Accelerade, pre-race & post race beverages (such as Endurox R4), and cooler
if you wish
for the drive in and the drive home
skin lubricant, any other first aid items you may need
for registration if you are doing race day registration (check amount, including late fee)
25-40 for gas, food, parking, etc.
chip attached according to the race instructions
few jokes or stories to provide laughs or entertainment before the start
copy of your “race day checklist”
Sleep. You may sleep well or you may
not. Don’t worry if you don’t sleep at all. Many runners
I work with every year don’t sleep a wink and have the best race of their
lives. Of course, don’t try to go sleepless . . . but if it happens,
it is not a problem.
By fine-tuning the way you move your feet and legs, you can gain more control over how you feel during and after a walk or a run. An efficient stride can promote blood flow to back, neck, joints and feet. In most cases, small adjustments leave one feeling so much better. But back and hip pain is often caused by a stride that is too long.
A gentle stride of the foot and leg will feel smooth and natural. Walking or running within the natural range of motion for each, allows the muscles, tendons and joints to work together as a team. Gentle movement also stimulates the production of endorphins which boost attitude as they reduce aches and pains.
The most common pain-producing mistake, when beginning or when increasing the pace of a walk or run, is using a stride that exceeds your natural range of motion. The extra forward reach of the leg aggravates the hamstring (the muscle on the back side of the upper leg) and the tendon complex behind your knee. This “overstride” also stresses the shin muscle on the front of your leg.
A stride that is only half an inch too long (or longer) can also aggravate the back and hips. Each extended step increases the twist, or torque, of hips and spine. Even a few minutes of this can result in soreness the next day. But when the overstride continues for an hour of hiking, running, or powerwalking, pain may linger for days or weeks.
Many runners and walkers who don't overstride on the street or sidewalk will do so on a treadmill. When using a “tread” for the first time, or after a long layoff, it's best to slow the pace down and use a shorter stride than usual. Remember, you should control the speed of this machine.
At the end of a workout, it's easy to overstride. In the rush to get the workout done, it's very tempting to reach out with the lower leg. It may take a little management of the ego to slow down during the last 5 minutes so that you'll maintain a smooth motion. Practice shortening the stride at the end of all of your runs or walks to get into the habit.
When you're not sure about your length of stride, shorten it. Since all of the significant leg motion problems I've seen in coaching walkers and runners are the result of a long stride, I suggest being sensitive to tightness in the hamstring, hips or shins. A simple reduction of stride length can keep things from aching.
Take walk breaks or shuffle breaks. A major source of injury is the constant use of muscles, tendons, joints, etc. in the same way. By reducing the intensity and specific motion early and often in the exercise, you can avoid the problems. Runners should insert a one minute gentle walk break after running for 1-4 minutes. Walkers experience the same benefit when they use a “shuffle” of 30 seconds, every 3-4 minutes, from the beginning of the workout. The shuffle is performed by reducing stride length and effort down to “baby steps” for half a minute.