The person who starts the race is not the same person who Finishes the race
Most runners test themselves on race day by registering for a slightly longer distance than regular practice. This case is especially true for Marathons or Ultra runs. These are distances of 42 km and above. Practically, it might not be possible to run these distances regularly. I wonder, how do these runners achieve this unachievable feat. The ground rule is: “Train.” For a distance as short as 1 km or as long as 50 km, you must train well, and on race day: plan your run. Mentioned below are a few tips that may work for you. These checkpoints have helped me transition and attempt longer runs.
The pre-race warm up is crucial and should be based upon the race distance. It is necessary to understand that you need to conserve as much energy as possible to give your best during the race. So do not go overboard. Try and arrive about an hour earlier on the race-course. It will help you settle down and locate the bathrooms if needed. Find a location which is about 100-200 meters, where you can slowly warm up. A 10-15 min easy run, 15 mins of walking, dynamic stretching. If your race distance is longer like HM or FM, try 3-4 x 30 min strides to loosen up your legs. Try and just walk 30 mins prior to the race. Caution: Do not try any new warmup routines. Focus on what you do every day or have followed in your training.
The Start (~20% of the race)
Since you are in a race, I am sure you would be aware of your “goal pace”: a pace that you know you would be comfortable while running the required distance. The biggest mistake that a runner would make is starting too quickly. Long-distance runs are all about lasting the distance. That means saving the energy and stamina to reach the finish line. The initial 20% of the race (1 km for a 5k race; 2 km for a 10 k race; 5 km for HM; and 9 km for FM) has to be at least 10-15 secs slower than your goal pace. You may feel very slow. You may notice that the other runners are passing by faster and that you are falling behind. While it is difficult to accept, know one thing, you will always have a chance to cross them after the half of the race or the last leg. So, do not worry and focus on your goal – “Completing the race.”
Cruising Along (20% to Race Distance – 1 km)
On crossing the 20% mark, slowly and gradually increase your pace. By the time you have reached your half-point mark, you should have attained your goal pace. It is here that you should look for competitors around you. Find small groups or race pacers that may fall into your goal pace category. Race pacers/buses are an efficient way to achieve better timing. Hop from one bus to another, indicating a gradual increase in your running pace.
Unfortunately, the race gets tougher as it progresses. It requires you to be focused on your goal and needs the courage to overcome that pain in your legs or loss of stamina. As you run faster or cover more distance, you will need more effort to achieve what you want. As tiredness creeps in, it will get more and more difficult to move ahead.
Around the 65-70% mark, the race starts getting harder. But this is not new: a problem encountered by seasoned runners too. The real test is how you handle yourself from here. That is what will make you a winner. Relax and take deeper breaths. Focus on yourself. Here, I usually tell myself, “I am strong, I will finish harder” or “I can do it” or “This feels good, I will go all the way, I need to!” Motivate yourself. Everytime you feel tired, remind yourself that you need to focus on the goal pace.
The race directors strategically keep some sortof distractions like cheerleaders or musicians with drums on the route here. You may also find volunteers taking that extra mile, cheering for you and clapping. The idea is to help yourself cruise through this difficult section. Nevertheless, if you keep motivating yourself and the others around you, it will help you.
The Last Leg (1 km)
The signboards have indicated that you are only a km away from the finish line. You are tired. There is pain in almost all of your muscles. Your skin has chaffed by the constant friction of the wet cloth against it. But, the good news is that you have almost completed the race. It is that last 1 km to glory! Hold your head high. Push yourself a little. Increase the distance in your strides. You will find yourself leaving the others behind. And as you see the finish line, pick that one person you feel you can beat. Stride harder to beat that person. Kick hard and finish the last leg in style!
While it is good to run races once in a while to test yourself, it is also a fact that, without proper training, you are only damaging yourself and your future. The fact remains that every fitness regime requires careful supervision and planning. You can achieve this by hiring professionals, either for a short period of time or a specific to your goal. In some cases a run-buddy or a friend can also act as a coach and may proove insightful. So do not shy away from asking for help; in some cases, expert guidance!
Stay Safe! Stay Healthy!