How to Run a Good Race
Entering a race is exciting yet slightly daunting no matter what level you are. To avoid a drama on the day, there are several things you can do to give yourself the best chance of finishing, and better still, running the best race you can.
Recently a few friends have run amazing races, done fantastic times and completed distances they never thought possible. One actually won an endurance race against the odds, beating several thousand others including fitness professionals and people half his age! So what is it that enables some to deliver on the day? And why is that some achieve their goals and others fall off the pace before they even get to race day itself?
Training is key
Whatever event you’ve entered, you have to train. The training needs to be progressive, relevant and at an appropriate level to help your body prepare: Clearly there’s no point focusing purely on upper body if you’re about to run a marathon, and I wouldn’t be weight training hard on the legs just before a 10k. Equally, entering a race double the distance of anything you’ve ever done is fine, but you need to know you can do it: Feel strong, injury free and prepared for what it involved!
But many people don’t plan, entering things thinking that they’ll somehow just get round! Some may have strong upper body yet weak legs, or focus on the legs, and do nothing to strengthen their core. And vast amounts of people don’t ever run the distance before race day itself, believing that somehow their mind will tell their body to push through and cope with it.
My friend who won the other week, decided one year ago that coming sixth wasn’t good enough! So he set about a training regime which would deliver his goal of potentially winning it this year. In fact he not only won, he shaved two minutes off the course record beating thousands of others, many of whom currently serve in the British Army! Even more incredible, is that this person has a full time job, is a Father of two and staying fit these days his hobby rather than his living!
So, apart from structured training, he also looked at overall preparation to help achieve his goal. And, although the race in question is an ultimate test of character, strength, and endurance, the same principles can be applied to any race scenario:
Eat and drink well
Think about what’s going to fuel you up for the big day and the weeks and months leading up to it. High energy slow release food is ideal. Think muesli, porridge, brown bread and whole wheat pasta rather than white flour, or processed foods and large amounts of sugary snacks which will cause your energy to yo-yo, and your body to run on a quick high energy boost one minute, followed by a slump the next. And on the day, hydration really is key to good performance!
Get some sleep
Especially in the week before the race. Burning the candle at both ends isn’t just a myth, and whilst it may be possible in teens and twenties, it certainly won’t allow you to be at your best, let alone assist even if you just aim to get round. Make sure you give your body time to re-energise and recover after training sessions. Training excessively may pay off in some ways, but not in others, and you need to make sure there are rest days built in around the hard training sessions. Over-loading muscles is how to strength build, but delayed onset muscles soreness occurs because the body has been ‘damaged.’ And the associated pain felt is due to the muscles needing rest time to recover afterwards.
Get your kit right
Wrong trainers and kit can equal pain during the race and worse still, long term injury. It may cost a bit more to get trainers properly fitted, but at least you can get your gait analysed (the way in which you walk and run). A ‘well fitting’ pair of trainers will cause you the least hassle in the long term. However, if you get new trainers too close to the big day, you’re likely to get problems; blisters which are incredibly hard to ignore, or worse still you’ll tear a muscle or injure a joint which can all be caused by running differently in a new pair of trainers and or those which suddenly adjust your stance.
It’s usually not enough to just run if you’re a runner! For sure this will mean your body is used to the discipline, but it generally means the same muscles are worked every time you train, yet what about the rest of your body? How many other muscle groups are you utilising if you just use your legs? Most Athletes have great core strength to help them stabilise. Upper body strength will also assist, plus the more muscle you have, the more efficient your body overall.
Make sure you build in some weight training and abs sessions to accompany your cardio fitness: And you don’t even need to be a member of a gym because you can use your own body weight to squat, tri dip off a park bench, or even use bottles of liquid for resistance or abs work.
So if you want finish and vaguely enjoy the race, or perhaps even win it, you need to work on so much more than just the run in hand. Starting too early can mean you go off the boil, but a structured training regime and holistic approach to what goes into your body and when,can pay massive dividends. Plus the feeling you get from being in control of what you do both on and off the run itself, is truly rewarding.