Should Runners Know Their Race Course or Is Ignorance Bliss?

There are two types of runners in this world: those who know their race route and those who don’t. When you step up to the start line, many runners prefer to know exactly what they are in for. Others would rather be surprised. Let’s consider the benefits and risks of course knowledge for the following distances:


If you know the course, you can’t go the wrong way, right? Nope. Getting lost in the middle of a 5K happens more often than you think, especially at shorter and smaller local races that may not have as many volunteers or signs. It happened to me when I followed a lead pack of high school boys, only to find out we missed a very small sign indicating the turnaround. We all ended up running almost an additional mile. It also cost me the win.

Lesson: It’s not always wise to just “follow the leader.”

RELATED:  10 Things That Could Go Wrong On Race Day

Half Marathon

Don’t you want to know what those hills look like? They are usually the biggest concern in almost any race. But hills can mean different things to different runners. The placement of the hills on the course is usually more concerning than the actual hill itself. A half marathon is a significant distance—even if you don’t run for the entire 13.1 miles, you may want to at least drive the course so that you know what to expect.

Lesson: Don’t fear the course—own it! Give yourself the power of knowledge before you step to the start line.

Full Marathon

It’s all about those last six miles and I always suggest running that part of the course. This served two purposes:

1. Mile 20 is usually where you hit the wall. It’s nice to already have some kind of memory of those last six miles, since your brain may start to check out at this point during the race.

2. I want the runner to have a gorgeous visual of running those last six miles strong. It’s important to actually see what the finish area looks like. That way, he or she can conjure up that vision throughout the 26.2 journey on race day.

Lesson: Things can get ugly in those last six miles. Your mental preparation may be the only thing to get you to the finish.

RELATED: The Keys To Running With Mental Toughness

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