Sage Advice For Running — And Finishing — Any Race

Enjoy the race expo, but not to spend too much time on your feet the day before the race. Photo: Competitor.com

Trust Your Training

Most runners are nervous during race week about many things, but more often than not they tend to question their fitness. With a less-intense workout schedule during the tapering phase of training, we all tend to get antsy and have physical, mental and emotional pangs that encourage us to do more. As such, some are unable to follow a coach’s advice and instead ill-advisedly head out for an extra workout or two. Amazingly, I even had a runner admit to running a 20-miler two days before a marathon “just so I could know what the course felt like.”

Sage Advice: Most experts agree that it takes a week or more to reap the physiological benefits of a workout, so any training you do during race week is not going to help you until the following week at the soonest. A good race week taper schedule includes frequent running over shorter distances to aid freshness for both the body and the mind. If that’s not enough, one trick I’ve learned for getting a boost in confidence while you sit in your hotel room is to have printed out a copy of your running journal or a list of all the runs you’ve done during your build up to the big day. That list will most likely impress you enough to avoid the need to head out for any extra runs over the last few days before the race.

Ditch the Music

It’s common for runners to spend hours during their taper period building the perfect playlist for motivation throughout the race. Unfortunately, a lot of runners who choose to wear headphones end up with what I consider to be an inferior race experience, or as New York City Marathon CEO Mary Wittenberg, offers, “You miss out on the thrill of running with millions of spectators cheering you on.” Believe it or not, it’s also harder to get into a consistent running rhythm while listening to music. The constantly changing beats in your ears don’t mimic what should be a consistent harmony between your running stride and your breathing pattern.

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Sage Advice: While I enjoy listening to music on long, solo training runs as much as any runner, I suggest leaving the iPod in your hotel room on race day to better hear your own breathing and footstrike patterns, take in the scene and entertainment, follow instructions from course marshals or police, meet and chat a bit with some of your fellow racers along the way, and actually hear your name screamed out by nearly every cheering onlooker given it is printed on the bib at most major races these days.

This piece first appeared in the February 2013 issue of Competitor magazine.

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Scott Fliegelman is the owner and head coach of FastForward Sports, a running and triathlon training group based in Boulder, Colo.

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