I have 3 races coming up in the next 2 months, and I’m starting to get nervous, so I want to recap (and share) what has worked for me in terms of preparing for my previous races, both days before the race and race day itself.
THROUGHOUT THE WEEK BEFORE THE RACE:
Some people love it, some people hate it. But really, a week before the race there’s nothing you can do to improve your performance, only risk it by overtraining or worse: injury. And your body needs the rest before the effort it’s about to make, so finding the balance between resting enough, but not too much (that your legs are stiff to run by race day) is essential. It might take a few times of trial and error, but it’s worth testing things out and finding out what works for you. Personally, I reduce my weekly running distance by 1/3, and don’t run for the 2 days previous to the race. Also, I like to keep my last few runs short and light, but with a bit of intensity in them, so I run intervals with a few short (30 seconds to 1 minute) bouts of fast running. If I were to run a marathon I’d taper for 2 weeks, but otherwise 1 week is enough.
Nutrition and hydration:
My regular diet is mostly clean and healthy, but especially before a race I eat healthy and nutritious foods, without making drastic changes to my diet or trying new things. This is just not the time to get an upset stomach, from either junk food that my body is no longer used to, or even something healthy that I haven’t eaten in a while, especially foods with a lot of fiber in them. And I drink a good amount of liquid every day, preferably water.
Have a goal, and a plan:
You are about to run a race, you’ve probably been training for it, and if you’ve been training then you pretty much know what your average time for a specific distance is. As much as you may make a harder effort during the race, or as different as it might be to run with a lot of people around you (which may slow you down), your finish time at the race is not going to be too far from what you are used to running. Review your training runs and try to figure out what a realistic finish time is, and execute a plan on how you’ll get there: will you start slow and easy and pick up the pace after the half point? Will you try to run evenly throughout the race?
Pick up your bib:
If you are running a large race, and they offer advance bib pick up, you should definitely go for it. It will be one less thing to do on race morning, especially for large races with a lot of people, where it could take a while of standing in line to pick up your bib then. If the race is relatively small, then it probably won’t take long to pick up your bib on race morning, if you can’t or don’t want to pick it up in advance.
Study the race’s website:
A few days before the race, it’s always a good idea to visit the race’s website and go over all the information posted. Keep in mind that start times could be updated, and even the location of the race could change (this happened to me once!). Also, taking a look at the route map, where water stations will be, or any other information posted, can only be helpful.
Watcha gonna need?:
I don’t know about you, but I take with me so much stuff to a race (my list here). Besides the clothes/shoes I’m going to wear (this alone is quite a few items), there’s an extra layer of clothing for before/after the race, my IPod, hair ties, sunglasses if it’s going to be sunny, a pre race snack, a post race snack, water + NUUN, my watch, my phone, some money, keys… I make a list before a race to see what I’ll need with me, because I’d rather not forget anything.
THE NIGHT BEFORE THE RACE, AND RACE DAY:
Organize your stuff:
That little list I made with everything I need to take with me on race morning, I set up the night before. Clothes on the dresser, shoes by the door, and a little messenger bag with everything else. Race morning is not the time to count on my mind to actually remember all I will need.
Eat a nutritious, high in carbs, early dinner:
I don’t carb load (you know, 2 days of eating 90% carbs) but I do eat a healthy dinner of mainly carbs the night before the race. I also eat early so my body has enough time to digest everything. Pasta is a great option (I’m sure you’ve heard that before..), with olive oil and a bit of sautéed vegetables.
Not only will I go to bed early because I’ll be waking up early, but also allowing for an extra hour of sleep can do wonders to your running performance. Try to relax the evening before your race, and go to bed early so your body is ready to get up and go by 5:00 AM, or whatever crazy time you need to get up.
Eat a healthy, light breakfast:
Race morning is here, and now it’s not the time to mess up with your food. Whatever it is you’ve been drinking and eating before your usual runs, should be your breakfast on race morning. For me it’s 2 cups of coffee (I know this doesn’t work for a lot of people but it does for me) with molasses as a sweetener and 1% milk, and a homemade oatmeal bar (oatmeal, peanut butter, nuts and raisins or dried cranberries).
Get there on time:
Allow for enough time to get to the race on time, park your car if you are driving, pick up your bib if you haven’t in advance, use the restrooms, take off your warm layer of clothing and take it back to your car or storage, eat a snack, warm up, and go to your corral or start line. An hour should be enough, and personally I wouldn’t do less than that (I’ve done 1:30 hours in advance too).
Run hard and enjoy yourself!
It’s here, you signed up for it (even though you might regret it the last few KMs/Miles), and now it’s time to do your best, enjoy it, and be proud of yourself.
Half Marathon Airport City was my first half marathon and 2nd race overall. It was on December 7th.
Airport City is basically a small business center built close to the airport, with some companies (mostly high tech I think) and an outside mall.
I work on airport grounds so the area of the race was very familiar to me.
I’d been toying with the idea of running a half marathon for a while (well actually I thought about a marathon but that seemed a bit unrealistic), but the actual distance scared me. Eventually as I slowly upped my weekly running distance and my long run distance, I started feeling more comfortable with the idea of racing a half marathon, and decided to go for it. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing, I only registered for the race 2 weeks before.
I woke up early, as usual, had coffee and an oatmeal bar, and was out the door by 6:10 I think. The race started at 08:00 and I was planning on getting there by 07:00, although leaving the house so early put me there at about 06:30, which was fine, I couldn’t sit at home anymore.
It was actually nice to get there early because the parking lot was almost empty, and picking up my race bib took about 10 seconds, although they had a weird system going in which first you had to go look your name up in a list, remember the number next to your name (bib number I think), and then go pick up your bib by telling the volunteers the number, hoping you remember it? Really, next time just do it by name, please.
The starting line was right by the outside mall, all the stores and restaurants were closed except a coffee place, but the food court building was open so it was nice to wait inside, it was cold that day, and to be able to use their restrooms instead of port a potties. That was actually really nice.
I had about an hour to kill before going for a warm up run, so I looked around the race expo (there were only a few vendors), sat for a bit, and tried to relax.
At 07:30 I went to my car, took off all the extra layers I was wearing and put on my compression socks and running shoes, I had been wearing flip flops until that point. I was cold in a tank top and shorts, but that translates into perfect race weather. Chilly at first, not too hot by the end of the race.
I warmed up walking for 5 minutes and running for about 10, very slow run, I really didn’t want to tire my legs at all before the race. To me the half marathon distance is still no joke. Then I had a GU.
The race started almost on time, I think about 5 minutes late, which I saw no reason for but maybe they were delayed closing the roads or something? My plan was to stay with the 01:50 pacer for the first few KMs, then try to catch the 01:45 pacer over the next few KMs and get to him at about the half point. After that I would decide either to stay with him or go a bit faster. I knew there was no way I would catch the 01:40 pacer, so it was kind of stay in between.
I did stay with the 01:50 pacer but only for I think the first KM or so, and then decided I could run a bit faster, and get on with a 05:00 Min/KM (08:03 Min/Mile) pace. I didn’t have a GPS watch at the time, so I was just looking at my regular timer watch every KM marker and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could actually keep a pretty even pace. Each KM that went by, I saw almost exactly another 05:00 minutes to my time. A bit before the half point I started picking up the pace a bit, caught the 01:45 pacer about half way, and picked up the pace some more.
This is when things didn’t go as well as I had hoped for. I had thought that if I had the energy to run faster after the half point, it would be at an average pace of 04:40 Min/KM (07:33 Min/Mile) up until the end. What happened, not surprisingly, is that I started the 2nd half too fast, and was feeling it badly after 5 KM (3 miles) with still 5 KM (3 miles) to go…
So the last 5 KM (3 miles) were slower than I had intended.. about 04:50 Min/KM (07:47 Min/Mile). If anything I wish it had been the other way around and run slower at first and finish faster and stronger. Instead of finishing thinking that I never want to run again in my life. At all.
It got a little lonely the last few KMs, there were about 1000 people in the race but only about 400 were running the half marathon (there were also a 5K and a 10K), and we were spread out by now.
There were 3 water/gatorade stations along the course but since it was a turnaround at the half point, we went by each station twice, so 6 opportunities to drink. I’m not used to drinking while running, this was the first time I drank and I only had a few sips of water, I think twice. Not enough. Gotta master drinking and running at the same time. I did have a GU a bit before the half point.
Official finish time was 01:41:32.
After the race I stretched for a few minutes, and bought some coffee to warm up because it felt cold when not running. Someone told me my lips were blue. Nice.
The post race snacks were really lacking, they had big bottles of water, which was fine, but why not smaller bottles which are easier to hold/drink? And to eat they had some fruit, I think apples and pears…. Sorry but that’s not enough for me.. Give me at least a banana, an energy bar maybe? Yogurt? I need Food!
Overall I thought it was a good race, small, well organized, friendly staff, nice route (although hilly), easy parking, and start/finish right by the mall and parking lot. The negatives were the bib pickup system and post race snacks, nothing major.
I live in Holon, Israel, so it was only fitting that my first race was in my own city. Once a year the city organizes this race around the months of October or November, and this year it was on November 22nd and organized by a charity organization.
I was extremely nervous before the race. I tried to take it easy and think of it as just one more run (I’ve done so many on those same streets), especially the days coming up to the race.
But I found myself constantly thinking of what I would eat, how I would organize myself (what to take with me, what to wear, when to wake up, etc.), and what time would I run… had no idea how running with so many people around me could affect me.
On training runs I usually do 10K around the 48:00-50:00 minute range, so I was hoping for at least that time, but I was afraid the crowds and turns would slow me down… or on the contrary, the energy and an ‘extra’ race effort could put me at a better time than that.. no way of knowing. But hey, your first race is only once.
The race started at 08:00 AM, meeting time was from 06:30. I figured I’d get there early, to get a good parking spot, go to the bathroom, warm up, whatever.
I wore Brooks Pure Cadence 2 purple shoes, compression socks, longish running short tights, and an Athleta top. Nike running glasses that have seen better times. Need new ones, add that to my list.
20 minutes before start time I went for a 5 minute walk and 10 minute run, my usual warm up, and got in line for start with about 5 minutes to spare. Not bad, I didn’t want to stand there for too long but also didn’t want to risk being rushed, 5 minutes was perfect. Ate a GU gel, stood around, and off we went.
Well… who told me a common rookie mistake was to go out way too fast? Oh yeah, everyone told me that. So I guess I shouldn’t beat myself up for having done just that… first 2 KM were at 04:15 min/km (06:51 min/mile), I don’t think I ever even run that fast in my life, no training runs, no running away from a wild bear or a scary person, nothing. I was on fire! And then I was baked, about half way. It wasn’t pretty. Thought of quitting, but of course I kept going.
Finish time 46:03.
Average Pace 04:36 min/km (07:24 min/mile).
14/317 women, 10/178 category, 240/1397 overall.
(5K time was 21:58, see what I mean? Oh well, there’s always next time).
Bottom line, I loved the experience. Can’t wait for more races.
Oh, I’ve run since I was a teenager, on and off, to lose weight or keep in shape. But this year it was different. I didn’t need to lose any weight and I was in good enough shape. But going out for a run gave me energy and made me happy and I wanted to improve. So I searched online for training logs and running tips, read running blogs, started speed training and upping my mileage, and discovered that running is a great addition to my life.
This is me running my 2nd race ever, and my very first half marathon:
I’m 36, married, have two kids, and work full time. Oh and I have a house full of chores that don’t get done on their own. So I work out early in the morning when everyone is still sleeping, that’s my free time.
I don’t, can’t, leave the house without my morning coffee. 2 cups with milk and molasses for sweetening. I am a bit of a health nut, just because I care about my body, about living my best possible life. No diets, no chemicals, no losing weight, not trying to look better. But taking care of myself to live a long full life, and enjoy it as I go, you bet.