Running a half marathon is nothing to jump into without considerable mental and physical preparation. Finishing the race is a huge fitness achievement, and you want to make sure nothing gets in the way of that. These tips will help you cross that finish-line strong!
Check Your Gear
A week or so before the race, figure out what you’ll be wearing based on the weather forecast. If the weather is supposed to be cooler at the start of the race and warmer by the time you finish, plan to wear layers you can shed quickly so as not to hinder your pace much. Just like in any other race, you want to wear gear that’s comfortable and already worn in, especially your shoes! Your feet will thank you later for not breaking in new running shoes just days before the race.
Stay Properly Hydrated
Staying hydrated is one of the most important factors in completing a long distance race. If you don’t keep yourself hydrated, your body’s performance is bound to suffer — and the likelihood increases the more you deprive yourself of water. During training, figure out your sweat rate by weighing yourself before and after a run. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), replenishment of fluids/water is 16 to 24 fluid ounces for each pound of body weight that is lost during exercise. Your sweat rate will determine how much water you should be drinking throughout the race. If you don’t want to break your pace too much by stopping at a water station, wear a hydration belt to carry water with you, so you can take a swig whenever you need it. Those with a heart condition, who are older than 50 or who are overweight should take extra precautions.
Run to a Beat
Running 13.1 miles is both physically and mentally taxing, but you can make it more fun by creating a perfect playlist. Not all runners prefer to rock out during a race, and sometimes such devices aren’t allowed, but often the right music is just what you’ll need to make it through the race. You can even queue certain songs to play to remind you to slow down or speed up depending on what mile you’re on. Listening to music can also help release some of that anxiety and stress you may experience on race day. Lighten up — you got this!
Stick With Your Routine
Even if you just got the best advice from a top marathoner, changing your eating, sleeping or hydration habits close to the race is risky. Practice your pre-run fuel strategies weeks before the race, so you know how your body is going to respond. At the race, volunteers will be passing out many samples including gels, energy bars, Gatorade or water, but don’t take what you’re not used to. Stick to what you know works, and avoid any adverse reactions. If you want to try new products or samples, it’s a better idea to wait until after the race.
Fuel Up the Right Way
Before such a long race, you won’t want to start it on an empty stomach. Leave yourself at least an hour prior to the race to fuel up properly so you can maintain proper carbohydrate and protein levels. According to the ACSM, 1.5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight during the first 30 minutes and again every two hours for four to six hours is needed to maintain proper carbohydrate levels. Protein replenishment is also important for recovery. Avoid heavily processed foods before the race and stick to whole grains, fruits and veggies.
Be Aware of Your Pace
When the race officially starts and you’re among hundreds of other runners, your adrenaline will be through the roof! You’ll want to start off running at full speed, but that’s a rookie mistake! Store energy and release it gradually as you pass each mile marker. You’ll most likely be passing quite a few runners who went too hard too soon and are now having to stop to catch their breath — but only if you take it easier in the beginning!
Stretch it Out
The majority of races always seem to be at the crack of dawn. You probably want to get in as much sleep as possible before you need to head out, but make sure you leave enough time before the race starts to stretch properly. Your muscles should be nice and warm before you start the race so they don’t lock up and to prevent any injuries. Warming up by jogging around the course is also helpful, especially if the temperature is a little cooler and you have time to spare.