So you’ve just signed up for a long-distance race and are now wondering (and maybe freaking out a bit) about how you will make it across the finish line, in a good time – especially if this is your first ever race.
Plan well and you will be rewarded. Whether you are running a 10km, 21km or even a full marathon, preparing for a race should not be stressful. To help you out, here’s our top tips on how to best prepare to condition your mind and body and make your race day a successful one:
Start your run training at a realistic point (i.e. don’t run 10km in your first run if you have only ever run a maximum of 4-5km before), and build it up slowly. You should aim to increase the distance by approximately 10% every 1-2 weeks. Make sure you work backwards from your race day to ensure you have enough time to train properly and you start in good time. Typically, you would need 12-16 weeks depending on how experienced a runner you are.
Set yourself goals:
Having a training plan to follow in the weeks leading up to your race can really help keep you motivated and on track. Knowing your runs are all planned out for you will lessen the temptation to skip a running day. It will also help you see how far you have come, and allow you to celebrate your achievements along the way. Ticking off each run also helps to break down the (what can sometimes seem like) mammoth task of training for a long-distance race.
Monitor your nutrition:
Your body is like a car engine and you should only want to put the best fuel in it. Carbs are not the enemy when you are training for a long-distance race, in fact they should be your best friend. Eat complex carbohydrates that will give you slow release energy throughout the day, and help ensure you have enough glucose supplies throughout your runs. Protein is also very important to help rebuild and repair your body after your run. Think about the quality of the food you are eating, and where possible try to choose foods that are unprocessed, and as close to their natural state as possible.
Ensure adequate hydration:
Don’t underestimate the power of hydration, especially in this hot and humid climate. You need to make sure you are taking on enough water during your runs, and throughout the rest of the day. If it is a particularly hot day, or you are going on a longer run, take additional electrolytes before, during and after your run, to help replace the lost potassium & minerals. Dehydration can have a huge impact on your performance, so make sure you are rehydrating and replenishing your fluids appropriately.
Get enough sleep:
Make sure you get at least 7-8 hours sleep a night. Your body repairs whilst you sleep so you need to give it adequate time to do that. The more running you do, the more tired you will feel. If you need it, take a short 20-minute nap in the middle of the day, it will refresh you and enable you to continue your training strong the next day. If you don’t have that luxury, just make sure you are getting to bed at a reasonable time each night during your training.
Invest in decent running shoes:
Check the bottom of your shoes, if the tread is worn down then it is time to replace them. Every foot is different so no one brand suits everyone. It is worth going to a specialist store so they can assess your foot type and let you know what brand of shoe suits your food (low arch, high arch, pronator, wide foot etc.). Remember to think about function over fashion and don’t just pick shoes based on how stylish they are.
Do the right type of running:
This may sound like an odd point, as there is only one way to run (one foot in front of the other, right?), but in order to get the most out of your running, you need to ensure you are mixing up the runs you do each week. Your weekly runs should include a long run, a speed work session, a steady state run, and an easy run. Just heading out of the door every day for the same run along the same route will quickly become very boring and de-motivating, and you may not see any improvement in your running either.
Find a running buddy:
This is not necessary for long distance training, but it definitely helps to have a friend (or group) you can run with. Firstly, if you make a commitment to meet and run with a friend you are more likely to get your run done. Secondly, the longer runs can be a bit lonely, and it is nice to have someone alongside you helping get you through and distracting you through the tough bits.
And finally…. remember: You will have bad runs, days when you really don’t feel like going running at all, and then there will be days when you feel on top of the world during, or after your run. Celebrate the good days, and chalk the not so good ones up to experience. You’ve got to have the bad runs to appreciate the good ones!
At the end of the day, remember you are achieving something amazing, always keep the end goal in mind and celebrate your successes along the way.
Fancy running with us? We have a great variety of running programmes that can help you get in tip-top shape for your next race. And plus, it’s always a lot more fun and rewarding to train with a fun group. Sign up for a free trial HERE.