So, you have decided to sign up for the Naperville Half Marathon or 5K with only two months until race day. You will need to be efficient with the time you have remaining in order to be properly prepared. Here are nine tips to take your shortened training window to the next level:
Assess your current fitness level. Based on how much you are currently running, you can determine your goal race distance and a realistic goal pace. Make sure you don’t ramp up your mileage too fast. If you are already a runner, 10% per week is about right. If you are a beginner or experienced and the “10% rule” doesn’t get you to a weekend 10-12 mile run 2-3 weeks before the race, consider switching to the 5K race and run/walking it if necessary.
Focus on your key workouts. The most important run each week (particularly for the half marathon) is your weekend long run. Focus on that run and make it a quality workout. Get plenty of rest beforehand, eat high-quality food the night before and the morning of the run. If you get busy and have to skip workouts, don’t skip this long run.
Customize your training route. Since you have limited time, it’s important to do your remaining training on surfaces and terrain that are similar to your goal race terrain. Find out if your race is hilly or flat, asphalt or crushed gravel, in hot or cold temperatures, morning or evening, and train under conditions as similar as possible to your goal race. If you can’t do all your training under race conditions, at least do your long runs that way. If possible, run part or all your long run on the actual course (traffic permitting of course) or run them on similar surfaces. (This is primarily asphalt with some hills for the Naperville races). Be prepared for a variety of weather and temperature conditions since the Naperville races are in October and it could be cool or warm on race day.
Practice your meals. Dinner the night before your long run and your morning pre-run food should be exactly what you plan to eat before your race to make sure it will not upset your stomach and/or cause unplanned bathroom visits. You also want to make sure the meals fuel your muscles sufficiently for the long run effort with a balanced mix of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Use the last few long runs to experiment with quantity, type and timing of food to determine what works best for you.
Practice your hydration. Similarly, your fluid intake the day before and morning of your long run should mimic your race-day hydration. As a rule, for race day (and long run practice days), two hours before the run, drink between 17 and 20 ounces of water. About 10 minutes before you head out to run, drink another 10 to 12 ounces. During the long run or the race, drink 7-10 ounces of fluid every 10-20 minutes, adjust this as necessary based on your own “sweat rate.” For half marathon long runs, consider replacing half of the water with an equal amount of electrolyte drink (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) You can mix the water and electrolyte drink for convenience and digestibility. Here again, mimic the quantities and frequencies of fueling and hydration that you will use on race day. Pay attention to the location of the water stops in your goal race and the type and location of nutrition (sports drinks, gels, etc.) that will be provided during your race. This information should be on the race website and course map.
Practice with the specific brands of nutrition prior to the race to make sure they agree with your stomach. The Naperville Half Marathon serves water and Gatorade Endurance Formula and will have six hydration stations at approximately every two miles (they are marked on the course map). There will also be Clif Shot Energy Gels at the 8-mile point of the Naperville Half Marathon. The Naperville 5K will also serve water and Gatorade Endurance Formula at one water stop near mile 2. You can check out the aid station and other course details for the Naperville Races on the race website.
Choose your race attire. For long runs, wear the outfit you plan to wear during the race: shorts/tights, tops/jog bra, socks and shoes. Also practice with hat/headband, sunglasses, smart watch, face mask and/or hydration belt/pack if you are planning to use any of these in the race. I recommend using a fairly new (but broken in) pair of shoes for the half marathon or 5K race. A common strategy is to wear a new pair of shoes for one or two of your shorter mid-week runs, then for one or two of your longest runs and then for the race. This will give you shoes that are broken in but still with plenty of cushion and life. Make sure you wash any new clothing and practice with all the race day clothing to ensure you know how to combat chafing and blisters with your chosen outfit. Bodyglide is a great product to combat chafing, but you will need to practice with the race day clothing to determine where and in what quantity to apply it.
Get your timing right. Mimic the time of day of the race for your long runs. If you are currently running in the afternoons, now is the time to switch your long runs to a race time start (7 a.m. for the Naperville Half Marathon and 7:15 a.m. for the Naperville 5K).
Practice your pacing. If you are going for a specific goal time for the half marathon or 5K, practice your race pace for at least the final few miles of some or all your long runs. Also, practice even or negative splits (running the second half of the long run faster than the first half.) This type of pacing will help you to maximize your performance and not burn your glycogen reserves too early in the run. If this is your first half marathon or 5K, you should not have a goal time and instead focus on finishing comfortably with an even pace.
Go virtual. If you are concerned about crowds, physically can’t make it to the starting line on race day due to travel or other issues, or don’t like getting up for a 7 a.m. race, Naperville Half Marathon and 5K has a virtual racing option that can be run any time in October. Check out the details here.
Incorporating these tips will help you maximize the remaining time before your race and ensure success on race day.
Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness