In efforts to resolve those butterflies in everyone’s stomach, here are some tips to consider for your upcoming race.
The first mile.
It’s common to hear others say, “Run your first mile SUPER slow!!!”, or if you are aiming for a 9:00 pace, run the first mile at 10:00 mile. The result of this will be just that- a super slow mile or the loss of one minute that you will have to then make up. The message that they should be relaying is do not KILL it for your first mile. By running too fast you can burn that stored glycogen too soon, but by no means is slowing down a full minute the right thing to do. Go out at your desired race pace with the aim not to run faster.
I’m going to “pick it up” the last 6 miles.
Most of those who trained for the full marathon probably did a 20 miler as their long run. With the thought of getting a PR or beating a specific time some think that they will try to run harder the last several miles. Realistically, even if you ran a minute faster each mile (which is very difficult at this stage of the race) you will only improve by six minutes. It would be more efficient from a glycogen and oxygen standpoint to run 10 seconds per mile faster the entire race and then “picking it up” as best you can the last 3 miles.
For those who have trained for the half, this is a different situation and does not hold true. Running faster the last six in this case would tie in with a “negative split.”
Why a negative split and what exactly is this?
A negative split means to run the last half of your race faster then the first half. There are multiple reasons why this is beneficial, but her is a simple explaination. Your body has only so much energy to run a race. When we perform at distances of 13.1 miles or greater, we need to conserve this energy and use it very wisely. Let’s use the analogy of currency. If you have $100 to spend to get you through the entire race, and you know that each half will cost you $50, then spending $75 for the first have will leave you with only $25 to finish. In other words, if you too much energy early on, you will deplete your glycogen stores and run out for the second half of the race. The challenge is to know your body’s limit and conserve for the first half, then spend more for the second half. Given your body’s fitness level, it would be physiologically impossible to run the first have faster then the second half and end with the same time. Meaning if you would burn out the second half and run slower. So either try to pace yourself evenly the whole race, or hold back just a bit for the second half.
What can I do to run faster on race day?
Nothing. Remember, you spent the last 3-6 months building your engine for race day. You can “mentally” run faster, but only to a given extent of what your body can allow. Meaning your level of fitness and ability to utilize glycogen and oxygen has already been established. Enjoy the race and run to your body’s own potential regardless of what the person next to you is doing.
The Day Before.
More like the week before. While carb loading has never been scientifically proven to have a definite benefit the night before, here’s some of the reasons it has caught on. We know we need glycogen stores to run long and we can gain this from eating carbs or pasta. The problem is that over loading on this the night before a race doesn’t build the stores as adequately as one would think. There may be more benefit to gradually increasing the week before. It’s also discussed that carbs are easier to digest the night before and this is needed to not have a full stomach. Again, what ever is easier for you to eat the night before makes more sense. If you over do it with pizza and pasta, you’ll be on the throne all morning. Not fun. Eat a “normal” portion. Getting some carbs the AM before the race would have more benefit.
Fluids the Day Before.
Again, the week before. In fact, YOUR WHOLE LIFE! Our body’s function better well hydrated. We don’t “normalize” ourselves by drinking a ton of fluids in one day. To hydrate sufficiently means to consume the adequate amounts of fluids on a daily basis and activities, environment, sweating, salt intake, etc., can all change the requirements. Our electrolytes can’t be “finely tuned” overnight.
Dunkin’ Donuts the morning of race?
I won’t even answer that. Eat light, but something to get some glycogen accessible for your body: a bagel, toast, OJ and an energy gel. If you want that cup of coffee that’s okay. Your body likes routine and if it’s used to the caffeine in the morning then that’s fine. Just don’ t drink too much because you risk the “jitters” from the caffeine as well has over hydrating. I know what you’re thinking, “How can coffee with caffeine over hydrate me, it’s a diuretic?” Well, it’s been described as being a diuretic but you see it now in energy gels. The jury is still out. What tends to happen though is you will have that cup of coffee and then follow it with water to hydrate and end up drinking too much resulting in an increased need to urinate.
Mile Times Wristband.
Even though you may be wearing a Garmin, it’s helpful to remember what your time should be at each mile for your goal pace. This website offers an easy way to create a wristband that can be printed out and worn the day of the race. Very beneficial.
When Should I use my energy gel?
It’s hard to say exactly when everyone will need more glycogen. It will all depend on your fitness level and efficiency and pace. Many of the elite marathoners do not even use the energy supplements because they are so well trained and efficient that it is not needed. If you trained with supplements, then follow the times of when you took them on your long runs. For example if you are used to taking one at the one hour mark, then take one. On race day, they are beneficial because it never hurts to have more glycogen at hand. During training however, it’s best to try to avoid them to make yourself more efficient at tapping into your own stores. Definitely do not wait until you feel weak or tired. Then it’s too late.
Keep warm at the start.
Static stretching (bending over and touching toes and HOLDING) before a race has no real proven benefit unless you are injured. Warming up by bouncing around, hopping, or even dancing can be of more benefit. Why do you think kids skip and bounce around so much? Because it feels good and loosens up the facia (deep tissue connecting muscles) to prepare for activity. It also helps to wear an old shirt etc, to keep warm and then throw off as you begin your run. Typically these are collected and donated. Furthermore you clean out your closet!
Our bodies were made to run. For some it may be a race, but at then end of the day, this should be fun!