If you’re like me when I started running, then getting ready for a race can be a daunting experience. This is especially so if it’s your first.
Understanding what to wear, how to train and the practicalities involved can be an endurance session in itself. You’re with me on that, right?
Knowing exactly how to prepare for a running race will give you the edge over your fellow runners. You will be at the peak of fitness and have the peace of mind every aspect has been covered.
I understand how important this is. I’ve been through it. Hence, I have put together this article to cover the important basics of preparing for the race.
Ensure You Have the Correct Clothing
Both in race training and for the big day itself, the correct equipment is essential.
The most important factor is your shoes. Studies have shown that incorrect footwear is responsible for many running injuries—which could lead to you missing that all important race.
When selecting your running footwear you need to consider:
- Padding and comfort—shoes for longer distances are heavier and more cushioned than those for sprinting.
- Ankle support—this should enclose and “hold” your ankle, but not aggravate your Achilles tendon.
- Ventilation—your foot should be allowed to “breathe,” to reduce chafing and discomfort.
Here’s a useful video explaining how to select the right running shoe for you.
As far as possible avoid cotton in your running wear, as this can hold the sweat. Ensure that your shirts have a “wicking” feature.
This means that any perspiration is drawn away from your body—reducing irritation and increasing comfort. There are many of these shirts available on the market and, in many cases, are no more expensive than “standard” shirts.
Your Training Regime
Hopefully, you are already pounding the tarmac every week. But it may be you are not running on set days.
The key to perfect preparation is to create a disciplined schedule for your training—and stick to it. How long before race day you should start, and the distance you should be running in each session, depends on the length of the race.
Below, I have included an example for a 5k race (five kilometers or 3.1 miles). Depending on the actual distance of your course, it can be adjusted for your needs.
This regime already assumes you can already run a full mile. If not, get yourself to that level first and then begin the following program.
Training for a 5k Race
Your training should start nine weeks before the date of the race. Each week, your training regime should include four days of running, one cardio day and two rest days. A typical week could look like this:
In the first week, run one mile per session. For every subsequent week, increase the distance by 0.25 miles. By week nine you will be running the full 5k distance during every running day. Always allow a two-day rest period before race day itself.
For smaller or longer race distances, increase or decrease the preparation training period and/or weekly increments.
As a guide, marathon running training usually takes around 20 weeks. But, that is assuming you can already run around 10 miles in one session already.
My advice is to work up gradually. Get comfortable running 5k, then 10k and finally look towards training for the marathon.
Get to Know the Course
As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. The more you know about the course to be run on race day, the fewer surprises you will have.
If the course is near you, get down there and check it out. If it’s a road race, then this can be done on a cycle or in a car. Ideally, you could incorporate sections of the course into your training plan.
However, there are times where checking out the course is impossible. Maybe it’s a long distance from your home or is on private land that is only open on race day.
If that’s the case, use online resources, such as Google Maps, to check the terrain and route. Alternatively, if it’s a common course, scour online forums and speak to others who have already run it.
Things to look out for are:
- Inclines and declines—where you have to work hard and where you can take it easy.
- Terrain—is it concrete, grass, gravel or are there steps to navigate?
- Route—I have actually become lost on a badly marked course before.
- Mental markers—look for points of interest that can indicate “mile-markers”.
The Night Before the Race
Firstly, take it easy. Do not overthink or stress about the race. With all the preparation and training you have done, you’re in prime condition. Studies have shown that stress impairs physical performance—so relax.
Occupy yourself by ensuring that you have everything ready for the following day. You do not want any unwelcome surprises on race morning.
Here are my personal tips:
- Check everything is packed—water, energy gels, registration card and clothing.
- Eat carbohydrates—little and often, two or three small bowls of pasta during the day are better than one large one.
- Keep off those important feet—no long walks to the grocery store.
- Put on your Road iD before you go to bed—so you will not forget it.
- Get an early night—aim for eight hours sleep—and no caffeine before bedtime.
Following the above tips will put you in a strong position for the race ahead. Once the race starts, relax in the knowledge that you have done everything possible in preparation for the race. And enjoy it.
To summarize, here are my key tips for race preparation.
- Always ensure you have the correct clothing before commencing training.
- Create a full training schedule, and then stick to it like glue.
- Learn the course, either in person or through the internet.
- Get everything you need for the race day packed and ready the night before.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comment section. Alternatively, let me know how successful you were in your race.