What you should do to prepare during race week
As the season picks up pace, we look at what you should do the week before your race
A competitor removes his bin-liner before the start of the marathon at the Barringtons Hospital Great Limerick Run. Photograph: Diarmuid Greene/ Fusionshooters
Competitiors begin their marathon at the Barringtons Hospital Great Limerick Run. Photograph: Diarmuid Greene/ Fusionshooters
Some 14,000 registered participants of all ages and abilities took to the streets of Limerick for this year’s Barringtons Hospital Great Limerick Run. Photograph: Sean Curtin / FusionShooters
It’s the week of your big race and it is completely normal to be feeling a little anxious. The negative voices in our heads shout louder as we approach race day. Take comfort in the fact that many elite runners experience the same emotions that you are feeling right now. No amount of extra mileage this week is going to improve your performance on race day. Less is more and it’s better to wind down the miles this week, and make the time to get your head in the right place for race day.
Don’t waste your energy pondering what could happen on the day. Instead, focus on practical things you can do to avoid anxiety and set yourself up for a great race day.
Trust the training
Put your worries on paper
Write down everything that might go wrong and what you are going to do if each scenario happens on race day. Once it’s all on paper, know that at least 90 per cent of what is on your sheet will never happen to you, but you do have an action plan if it does.
Get to know your race
Plan your food
If your race is long distance, work out exactly when and what you are going to eat and drink along the route. Buy any products early and make sure they are comfortable to carry.
Write a packing checklist
If the weather is cool, bring an old jumper that you can wear and throw away at the start line. Also, if it is raining, bring a large black sack which you can wear over your body to avoid getting soaked. Once again, remove it just at the start.
Decide your pace
If you can control your pace in this first few minutes, you will be more relaxed and make much better decisions throughout the rest of the race.
It’s better to be overtaking people towards the end than to watch everyone running past you. If you start towards the back of the group, you are more likely to pace yourself from the start.
Round up some cheerleaders
Visualise your race day
Practise creating this video in your head each day and by the time the race day arrives, it will feel like a real possibility.
Let your body rest
Don’t compare with others
Finish in style
Picture yourself being as strong as you can and enjoy the cheers and clapping as you make your way up the finishing stretch. You will get a second wind, no matter how tough you have found the race.
Remember the day
It’s up to you to make those memories ones you will want to revisit. Don’t turn yourself off running by setting unrealistic expectations.
If you do everything listed above, you will arrive at race weekend feeling more relaxed, confident and in control of your running adventure. Consider this week the time to rest the legs and train the head. Your body will thank you for it on race day.
Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Mary is also the creator of all our Irish Times Get Running programmes.