After weeks of training, you are ready to face the coastline of Malibu and tackle 13.1 miles of some of the most beautiful running scenery California has to offer. With race day fast approaching, let’s take a look at 13 tips that will help you complete your half marathon.
Start With a Plan and Stick to It
Before the race, have a clear set of goals based off of knowledge your training established. For example, if you have been training to complete the half marathon within a certain amount of time, stick to the plan -- being too eager on race day may lead to early exhaustion during the run. Even if you feel great at the start of the race, stick to your plan and maintain the pace that will benefit you. Running fast early can cause unexpected fatigue later in the race. Having a plan helps you to avoid injury and gives the piece-of-mind with the fact that you have been preparing for this moment and know exactly how you will achieve you finish goal.
Know the Course
Take time to learn the course you will be running. Many runners depend solely on visual markers to guide them through the course. Knowing the course helps avoid any surprises during the race and allows you to completely focus on your run, the thing that matters the most. Additionally, learning the course means familiarizing yourself with the terrain you will face. Knowing the amount of elevation change and types of terrain you will be facing will give you the mental advantage of knowing you have prepared as much as possible for the trail ahead. Download now the half marathon or the 5K course maps.
Practice Your Race Pace
After weeks of preparation and dedication, you should be ready to log your first 13.1 miles of competitive running. However, you should not be running at the speed you plan on running your race everyday. In the weeks leading up to the race, pick days to give your race pace a trial. Start with shorter distances and increase your distance closer to the final length of the race. Taking time to build up to your desired pace and distance goals will help accumulate your body to the demands of your ideal time while also avoiding injury.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Hydrating throughout the day is one of the most crucial elements to a good run. Drinking plenty of fluids reinforces your body against the rigorous demands of long-distance running. While water is the essential liquid required to fuel a long and successful run, sports drinks can help your body with its hydration needs by providing crucial doses of electrolytes that promote water absorption. Additionally, sports drinks provide a source of carbohydrates which are joyfully consumed by your body as it burns through energy. Utilizing each hydration station along the course is a smart strategy. However, it is important to learn how much you are comfortable with drinking before the race starts. Drinking too much can be just as hindering as not drinking enough. During your preparation, experiment with water and sports drinks in order learn the hydration practices which benefit your running the most.
Don’t Over-Do It
While it may feel reassuring to go on difficult runs throughout the week before the race, taking it easy is a better option. With weeks of preparation behind you, your body is ready to store energy during the days leading up to the big race. Many runners practice tapering -- a process which involves significantly shortening run distances and lowering training intensity just before a race.
Tapering helps your body recover from the weeks of intense activity you accomplished by training regularly. Many runners struggle with running less and may feel as though they are neglecting their fitness, especially since they now have extra time now that they are not training as much. However, it is important to remind yourself that tapering is helping you store the energy that is crucial to run your best 13.1.
The 24 hours leading to race day are crucial to your success. Make sure you have plenty of rest and avoid any strenuous activities the day before the race. On race day, arrive at the start line early to ensure you do not feel rushed. Eliminating stress allows you to focus on your goals and clears your mind for the task ahead. Arriving early also gives you time to prepare by lightly jogging (if needed) and stretching.
Find a Purpose
While runners at every level have their own unique methodology behind their training, most athletes agree on one thing: running hurts. In order to push through the pain of running, assigning a purpose to your efforts can assist your mindset when the sport feels its most difficult. Running for a cause, yourself, or someone else are all great reasons to keep yourself going toward the finish line once fatigue sets in. Ultimately, running to finish for a cause, whichever you may choose, can be more rewarding than focusing on beating a time. If all else fails, remember that fatigue is temporary and make your purpose finishing just so you can share with others what you have accomplished!
There’s No Shame in Walking
As the miles increase, so may your fatigue and the temptation to take a break. However, instead of coming to a complete stop, consider taking breaks by walking. Walking breaks are a great chance to regroup physically and mentally while still progressing toward the finish line. Additionally, giving yourself walking breaks after a specific distance can help keep your legs warm and gives you something to look forward to. Walking breaks give incentive while also giving you a moment to regroup and attack the miles ahead!
While running is a physically demanding activity, it also taxes athletes mentally. As a result, focusing over the course of long-distance runs may become a challenging feat. Many long-distance runners employ techniques such as listening to the cadence of their breathing, music, or give special attention on the mechanics of their running in order to maintain sharpness. NIO’s FOCUS Pre-Workout wellness sports tape is designed specifically with that purpose in mind, to help promote long periods of intense focus. Other runners mentally divide their run in order to conquer specific sections and feel a sense of accomplishment as they head toward the finish line. Finally, eliminating external stress in your life before running is a great way to make sure you have the mindfulness needed to focus your game.
Fuel for 13 Miles
A bad pre-race diet is enough to dismantle weeks of dedicated training and hard work. A well-exercised body can not perform how it needs to without the proper amount of fuel to burn. As a result, a pre-race meal is incredibly important, even if this means waking up ridiculously early in order to fuel up. Ideally, a pre-race meal should include a generous amount of carbohydrates and should be low in fats and fibers. When you combine food with running, timing is everything. Eating too close to the start of the race can hinder your performance so a calculated intake time is a must. Generally, eating a nutrient-rich breakfast 3-4 hours before the race with small snacks approaching the start of the race works for many. However, as with most things related to running, experimenting ahead of time in order to figure out your ideal pre-race eating schedule is best.
Have the Right Gear
Few experiences can be as frustrating as having external factors hinder a race. Making sure your gear works for you rather than against you is a crucial component of setting off down the course on the big day. This means making sure you are wearing the correct shoes on race day. Avoid wearing shoes that you have not put many miles on. Instead, favor trusted shoes that you have trained in over many miles and know will not cause discomfort to your body or blisters on your feet. Additionally, favor non-cotton materials for clothing as these breathe better and remain dry much more efficiently than traditional materials. Once again, materials you have ran in before are ideal as introducing new garments to your race day outfit may cause issues you are unable to predict.
Distance running pushes the body and demands a lot from your bones, joints, and muscles. Cooling down after a race is essential -- a light post-race jog and stretching helps lactic acid move from your muscles. Replenishing your nutrients is also essential. Drinking plenty of water and eating food in order to replace your depleted stores of energy is an absolute must. Finally, do not be afraid to rest. After a race, your mind and body can be exhausted and running the day after a race is not always the best idea. Taking time for rejuvenation is a crucial step in recovery that may benefit your next run.
Take It In
While race day may seem stressful, do not forget that you earned the right to be competing! After weeks of preparation, you have reached a point to be proud of. All of your hard work has led to this moment and, as a result, this race is yours to enjoy. Though you may be tired while running those final miles, look out along the coast of Malibu and remember that you are doing exactly what you worked for! Race day is yours because you have earned it.