Thursday, July 21, 2011

Preparing for that big running event

I have been running since I was about 10, but I don't think I have learnt as much about running over my entire life as I have in the past year. A lot of my friends have recently started to run or are getting back into running, and I am really enjoying all the "running" talk. It's very inspirational! What else that I find amazing is all my new running friends whom I would consider "experienced runners" and their running stories. Many of them are extremely talented and have a wealth of knowledge about running. I like to "pick their brains" at running events or at training. I ask about all sorts of things from how fast, far and often I should be running, recovery, eating plans and diet, carb loading and injuries. I get all kinds of different advice! But I think the most important thing I have learnt is that I should do what works for me.

I just thought I would share some of the things I have learnt and hope that it helps my friends who are starting out on their running journey to prepare for that "big" running event.... City to Surf maybe?! So here are my tips:

1. Have realistic goals

So, you want to run the City to Surf? Do you have a time you would like to achieve or do you just want to finish? Is your goal to run the entire way? If you have been running regularly for the last year, you'd probably know whether you would be aiming to complete the race or if you have a time goal in mind. If it is your first time in the event you should keep an open mind as there are many factors that can affect your race - how you are feeling on the day, whether the course is hilly or flat, the weather (cold, windy, hot...) among other things.

2. Be prepared but don't overtrain

For a big run like city to surf or even a half marathon, that one long run a week is the most important part of your training. Leading up to the event, increasing the distance of this run is a good idea.... but cutting down your k's at least 2 weeks before the race will help with feeling fresh on the day. I would consider good preparation running regularly (3 to 6 times a week) for at least 10 weeks prior to the race - if you are running 5 or 6 times a week, one of these runs could be substituted for a cross training session like boxing, zumba, yoga or pilates. Don't overtrain as it can leave you feeling fatigued so make sure you taper off your training and have at least 1-2 days rest before the race, so if you are feeling more tired than normal, missing one training session won't hurt.

3. Eat good food

Goes without saying really. The food you eat is your fuel for the race so make sure you eat well - not only in the days before the event, but also during training. It is also a good idea to "carb load" the day before to make sure you have extra energy for the run. I have heard that carb loading doesn't really do much if you are running for less than an hour and a half but I have always found upping my carbohydrate intake the day before a race provides my body with the fuel it needs to keep going! You can find out information about carb loading here.

4. Drink lots of fluid

This is very important and one of the things I need to work on! I have read you need to drink at least 2L of water per day. On the days you do your long training run, you need to consume extra fluid - I would suggest electrolyte for any training runs over an hour. Prior to your race, your urine should be almost clear. If it is dark, you need to drink more!!

5. Listen to your body

Some people can train 6 days a week whereas others need to rest every second day. It all depends on the person. There are all sorts of training programs out there that I have found really useful, but I will always alter it in some way to suit my needs. Running 6 days a week just doesn't work for me... my body is just constantly tired. I need at least 2 rest days a week from running. I like to try and run 4-5 times and do 1-2 cross training sessions a week. You just need to figure out what works for you. Overtraining will leave you fatigued, but not training enough will not allow you to run to the best of your ability. In saying that, never underestimate the value of a good rest! Rest is important for recovery, pre-race and while you are injured.

6. Include a good warm up in every training session

This is something I really need to work on! Warming up, stretching and warming down is really important for injury prevention. A good warm up would be 5 minutes of slow jogging, 5 minutes of stretching and some 50% stride outs before you attempt any hard training. I have read about how important this is on nearly all the training programs I've come across and am trying to make sure I include it in every session.... hmmm...

7. Go hard on race day

Race day is when all your hard work pays off, so make sure you run hard! Depending on the distance, your training and preparation, it is always best to start off by pacing yourself. It is easy to let your excitement take over and sprint the first kilometre then "die in the arse"... so start off easy then go hard when you are feeling good. Psyche yourself up as it is going to hurt! But the mind is a powerful thing.... I keep telling myself while running the City to Surf, it is only 70 minutes of my life!! This quote has got me through many races:

"Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up."
--Dean Karnazes

8. Enjoy the run

The atmosphere of the city to surf is just amazing and there are so many beautiful views so make sure you take the time to look around while you are running... and enjoy the day :)

Good luck!

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