On Sunday I will be running the Brighton Half Marathon. It’s my second half marathon having completed the same race last year, but I’ve now run a number of races and am feeling a lot more confident about how to prepare for race day. I thought I’d share my top tips with you as a way of also making sure that I’m ready for Brighton!
1) Stick to your training plan and reduce your mileage
This is not the time to be trying to cram in extra miles that you might have missed. One more long run at this stage will not help your chances of a PB on race day but it could well hinder them. Your legs need to rest and recover and be ready for race day.
Relax – you’ve done the training and you’re ready.
2) Review your race goals and strategy
Going for a PB? Wanting to achieve a specific time?
Have you done the training to make that realistic or would it be better to adjust your goals?
What is your plan for the race?
I recently changed my goal for Brighton from running all the way without stopping to getting a new PB. My strategy for the race is to use a 4:1 running to walking ratio. I also want to avoid going off too fast, which is a real issue for me so I’m going to find the 2hrs 30 pacer and stick to them like glue for the first 3 miles at least. They should be running just under 11:30 min miles – I tend to get swept along and put in 10:30 min miles at the start of a race which then just drains my legs later in the race. Not this time!
3) Check the weather forecast and plan your race day kit
If you’re travelling to a race, as I am to Brighton, you’ll need to take a few options depending on what the weather may do. Nothing new though – you should have tried and tested everything you’ll wear on the day at some point during your training. Yes your new running tights may look fantastic but you do not want to find out that they chafe at mile 8 of a half marathon.
Don’t forget to pack your race number, timing chip and safety pins! Other useful items for your race day bag are
- tissues – the stuff in the toilets might run out;
- antibacterial hand gel – for after you’ve used the toilets;
- a black bin bag – to make a poncho if it’s raining at the start;
- an old jumper – to wear and discard at the start if it’s cold;
- lip balm – my lips can get really dry during a race, I like to have some in my bag just in case;
- wet wipes – handy for a variety of uses – hands sticky from sports drink, a quick post race freshen up etc
It’s also useful to think about what you’re going to wear to and from the race. I have a pair of wide legged tracksuit type bottoms and a cosy hoodie that I wear before a race if it’s cold. They’re easy to take on and off and fit nicely into my race day bag. Sorted.
If you’re carrying gels, a phone and anything else with you while you race then don’t forget to pack your running bag too. My trusty Fleetfoot II from Workplay Bags will be one of the first things on my list to pack.
4) Choose your playlist
Are you running with music for some or all of the race? Some races will attract huge crowds and I think it’s a shame to drown out the cheers with music, but there may be quieter parts of the course when some motivating songs will help you get through a couple of miles. Choose your soundtrack and make your playlist.
In Brighton I’m not going to listen to anything for the first few miles – the streets will be lined with spectators until the course heads out past the marina and I want to take in the atmosphere. When the course gets quieter I am going to plug into Hypnogogo for an hour which should keep me running relaxed and strong and then switch to some tunes for the last part of the race to see me home and over the finish line.
5) Charge up your gadgets
If you’re going to listen to music then you had better make sure that your phone, mp3 player is fully charged! And there is nothing more frustrating than having your Garmin die on you mid race, take it from me, I know. So make sure that, or whatever gadget you use to judge your speed is charged up. I’ve also got an interval timer that I use to remind me when to walk and when to run so that needs to be charged up too!
6) Plan your fuelling
You should now know what works for you for fuelling through the race. Decide which gels/energy drinks work for you and make sure you have enough to see you through. I generally carry one more gel than I think I’m going to need, just in case.
If you’re staying away from home for the race then you need to think about what you’re going to eat the night before and the morning of the race. Don’t take it for granted that you’ll be able to rock up to your restaurant of choice without a reservation. Thousands of other runners may have had the same idea – as I found out in Brighton last year.
Also, check whether your hotel serves breakfast early enough. The Brighton Half starts at 9am which means I want to have eaten by 7am ideally. I know that the B&B we’re staying in will accommodate this, and will have brought in extra stocks of porridge and bananas especially, but you don’t want to leave this to chance.
7) Plan your route to and from the race
You know how you’re getting to the start right? You’re not going to find out on the day that the roads are closed and the bus you *thought* would get you close to the start line has been diverted and now you have to walk a couple of miles that your legs really don’t need. No, that’s not going to happen to you because you will have read the information that the race organisers have sent you or posted online and you will have planned your route to the start. Won’t you?
8) Have a sports massage
Probably not a good time to have your first ever sports massage, but if you’ve had them before then it’s a good idea to get those muscles loosened up, early in the week before the race. Get them to concentrate on any areas that have been niggling you during your training. Don’t leave it until the day before the race though – you don’t want to be feeling any soreness or after effects on the morning of the race
9) Do some yoga
I love yoga and find it the perfect complement to running. It strengthens and stretches my muscles and counteracts the effects of pounding the pavements. If you’re feeling twitchy about running a bit less in this final week then a yoga class can help calm your body and your mind. Namaste
10) Believe in your yourself and feel confident
For me running is as much mental as it is physical. I’m a great believer in the phrase “if you think you can or think you can’t you are probably right” and I think it’s really applicable to running. Of course, I’m not going to magically think myself into a sub 2hr half marathoner, but the right mental attitude on race day will have a huge effect on my performance. I’ll be listening to my Sports Performance download from Thinking Slimmer to help with this.
You’ve trained, you’re prepared and you’re ready. Now go enjoy the race and smash it!
What are your top tips for race preparation? Do you have any pre-race rituals?