The final week leading up to race day can feel like limbo when training is complete. So what is the best way to spend the final seven days before you get to the start line?
On the one hand you’ll want to sneak in a few extra kilometres just to top up your fitness level and make sure you won’t have forgotten how to run come race day. On the other hand, you’ll want to rest as much as possible – you wouldn’t want to wear yourself out after all. Which strategy offers better results?
At this point there isn’t really much more improvement you can make to your fitness level so your focus should be on resting your body and getting your mind into the right space for race day. That said, it’s often a good idea to do one or two short runs in this last week, both as a way of running at a gentle pace just to keep things moving while planning your race tactics on the go, and as a means to get warm before you spend a concerted period of time stretching to ensure you’re as loose and relaxed as you can be.
Race day strategy
If you’re new to the distance and your priority is to get round, it helps to break it down into three chunks of 3.3K or even five lots of two kilometres. It’s much more manageable to tackle these distances in your head and to gauge how you feel and how to pace the next section of the race than to continually have the idea of 10K worth of running playing over and over through your mind.
Decide in advance how you are going to fuel and hydrate yourself during the race and whether or not this plan makes use of the water / drink stations along the route or if you are taking your own supplies. Bringing your own food or drink means that you can eat or drink what you are used to during the race and that you can also break up the event with refuelling and have total control over this which you sometimes don’t have if you rely on the race organisers – you may wish to refuel more regularly than they think necessary.
During the race it helps to keep an eye on those around you and pick out some people running at the same pace as you and use them as a guide that will help you maintain your pace throughout the race. Remember its fine to change ‘pacer’ during a race if you need to speed up or slow down. It’s just useful to keep your eye on someone rather than feeling that you’re dong all the work alone. If you’re a seasoned half marathon runner and you’re looking for a PB you’ll need to approach the day slightly differently. You should by now have a very clear idea of your target finishing time and also your target kilometre split times.
Visualise to pulverise that PB
Use the week before the race to take a really good look at the course and plan how you will pace yourself. Look in particular at the course profile and see exactly where you might gain speed down hills and where you will lose it up hills. You need to factor this in to your split times so you’re not surprised if it looks like you are ahead of or behind schedule at any given marker.
Then, in addition to watching your split times, you need to also monitor how you feel continuously and react appropriately. It’s likely that with the excitement of the day and a rush of adrenalin, you’ll feel great for the first couple of kilometres. Resist the temptation to gain some time here and stay on schedule. If you go out too fast, your PB won’t happen. If you still feel great further into the race then it’s fine to hit the gas a bit.