A friend of mine is running her first half marathon; in fact I think it is her first race. There is lots of advice I could give, but advice can become confusing. To simplify things I’ve linked the advice to the acronym RACE ON.
The advice isn’t new, it’s the bread and butter of many running articles and if freely bandied about at running clubs, but RACE ON brings it all together to demystify and de-stress race day. (The advice is based on a half marathon but most of it would apply to a race of any distance).
Rest. Wisdom and common sense tell you that the night before a race you should get plenty of sleep. However nerves and excitement may have other ideas for you. Don’t worry if you don’t get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep the night before your race, as long as you rest and don’t go out partying the night before you will be fine.
Arrive early. The last thing you want is to have to race from your car to get to the start line. Arriving an hour (or two hours before a large scale event, is not too early). You need time to find the location, park, pick up your timing chip and queue for the loo. Yes there will be queues, particularly for the ladies. Everyone wants to go to the loo before the start of a race, queuing for 20 minutes is not unusual. Just chat to the others in the queue, you will find old timers and other first timers, but as they are runners they are sure to be friendly.
Caution. Be careful where you place yourself in the pack before the start of the race. The quicker you are the nearer to the front you want to be. Some races mark out sections to stand based on your predicted time. If you are not sure whether you are quick or not I would suggest starting in the back half of the pack. You don’t want to get trampled in the rush of the Speedy Gonzales’s when the hooter sounds, better to overtake and work your way through the pack, than be overtaken by half of the field.
Effort. When the race starts don’t let adrenaline and excitement get the better of you and go off like a greyhound after the rabbit. Start slowly and measure your effort. Remember when you come to hills keep your effort constant not your speed. Yes, this means you will slow down and you are likely to be overtaken, but when you get to the top you won’t be dead on your feet. As you run down the other side you’ll reel those over takers back in.
Out do the demons.If you go through a bad patch remember, it is just that, a bad patch that you will get through. Have a few strategies to deal with difficult periods. These can include things to distract your mind like counting, mental arithmetic or games. Try counting every time your right foot hits the ground, your 13 times table or thinking of a river for every letter of the alphabet. Alternatively really focus on your body. Are you tense, have your arms and shoulders risen up? If so make an effort to relax your shoulders and shake out your arms. Being tense drains your energy and is tiring. Finally have a mantra to recite that gives you a positive message. Try ‘I can and I will….I can and I will…’ or ‘tall and strong…..tall and strong…..’
Nothing new. Despite this advice on race day shouldn’t do anything new. Don’t eat or drink things you haven’t run with before, don’t wear kit you haven’t worn before. Training is for trying new things out. Race day is for repeating what you have rehearsed.
Good luck with your race and final advice ... enjoy it!