By now, your long runs are getting longer. Depending on your training plan, your longest training run may be 12-14 miles for the half marathon or 3-6 miles for the 5K. It’s time to start practicing for your race. Use the rest of your long runs (or at least two of them) as rehearsals for race day. Here’s how:
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.
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.
Fueling and hydration during the long run. During the long run, drink approximately 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 on the 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.) The Naperville 5K will also serve water and Gatorade Endurance Formula at one water stop near mile 2.
Attire. For long runs, you should 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 on using 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 use them for one or two of your longest runs and then wear them 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 of 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 the Bodyglide.
Terrain. Mimic terrain/running surface, elevation changes, climate/temperature and especially 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). If possible, run part or all of your long run on the actual race course (traffic permitting of course) or run them on similar surfaces (primarily asphalt for the Naperville races).
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 of 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 with an even pace.
Practicing these elements of your race during your final long runs will help you to find the best strategies for you and reduce your race-day anxiety by ensuring you are as prepared as possible.
Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness