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Your Half Marathon Race: Be proactive for a fun race day!
Racing is a game but it is also a commitment. You have signed up, you have prepared, you have got yourself to the starting line and all that’s left to do is to enjoy the scenery, the people and the brilliant feeling of completing what you set out to do.
A great event experience starts the day before the race with an intention to rest your legs and fuel your body. The day before the race, try to conserve energy and eat three good meals that are carbohydrate rich in order to top up glycogen in the muscles. Avoid anything that is unusual: this includes novel sport activities or eating food that you would normally never eat. Stick to what you know works for you.
A seamless and stress free morning paves the way for an enjoyable event so before you go to bed the night before the race, organize for the morning so things run smoothly and you aren’t looking for lost items at the last minute. Lay out your race clothes including your warm ups and your number. Plan your breakfast timing and items and most importantly, your morning mindset. The last thing you should tell yourself at night is this:
Tomorrow morning I get to wake up and race!
On the race morning, you will be ready. You know what to wear, what to eat and where to go for the start. Your mindset will be one of excitement and anticipation about the great opportunity to run well and work on being efficient, smooth, and emotionally strong and positive.
A half marathon gives you plenty of time to experience the joy of running well, which includes—if you are pushing yourself—embracing discomfort and staying mentally strong through any rough patches where doubt and negativity like to creep in. Look at the rest of the participants, and the enthusiastic volunteers, as a great big ball of positive energy pushing you on. This is what you signed up for! Anticipate the late race fatigue and have some tools on hand to re-focus. Task oriented self-talk is always good at this point. Focus on your arms, your feet, your breath, being relaxed…can do action items that you control.
Great racing always focuses on what you can do, not what you ‘hope’ to do. Here is a step by step breakdown of what to expect over the course of a half marathon.
1. About 30 minutes before the start do a gentle warm up. Run 10-15’ super easy, super slow, and stretch gently anything that feels tight. Stay warm before the race as long as possible
2. Have a nutrition plan. A gel 10 minutes before the start and at 45 minutes into the race is standard. Plan for small sips of fluid at aid stations every time.
3. Divide the race into logical segments: the first 10k is moderate to conservative. For the first 5k many people go out too fast. If you stick to your goal pace, or a conservative pace you will be creating an opportunity for a strong second half.
4. 10-15k , the pace will start to feel harder, and you want to focus on maintaining pace and energy output, making it ‘feel’ easier by relaxing, tuning into smooth stride and strong body.
5. 15-19k —this is a crucial part of the race. You are beginning the countdown to home, so you need to put more mental effort into keeping the pace, managing feelings and just being in the moment, not judging how you are doing, but feeling proud of WHAT you are doing. This is where you remember of all the great runs you have done, and your own competency. Your great efforts at 15-19k count a lot towards your post-race satisfaction.
6. 19-21k---you have only minutes left in the race. How strong can you be for 10 minutes? I don’t mean turning on the jets, but running strong and proud for the last mile and a half!
7. Be prepared for the last km and to have a lot of fun. Race yourself, race others, race the clock, enjoy the finish line vibe and give it everything right to the wire. You’ll be happy you did.
As a coach and an athlete, I never rely solely on hope or luck for a great race but I do know this:
If you are prepared, the magic will happen.
Lululemon Ambassador and LifeSport coach Lucy Smith is a former Canadian Champion for the half marathon with a PR of 1:13:35. She has coached and inspired hundreds of runners and triathletes to personal best efforts.