Beginners Guide to Road Racing
Regardless of your starting distance, everyone at some point doubts their training. If you’ve been generally consistent over the past few months, you ought to be well enough conditioned to at least get round. As a general rule, make sure you have completed at least ¾ of the distance in a single training run about 3 or 4 weeks out from the event (up to marathon). This should give you confidence that you can complete the distance. It also gives you a chance to practice your race-day routine and nutrition.
Don’t overtrain! You need to go into the race well rested. Too often people run too hard on the easy days, so they are too tired to run hard enough on the hard days. They then don’t see any improvement, so train more. This becomes a vicious cycle usually ending in injury or illness or at best a flat and poor performance. You are only able to adapt to the demands of training whilst you are resting, so make sure you have at least one day off training per week. It’s easy to look at the training diaries of the elites and try to copy them, but we forget that they have built up to that level of training over years, and training and recovering is their 24/7 occupation.
The extra few days you had off over Christmas and that cold you had in February shouldn’t be playing on your mind if you have recovered and got back to your routine. Everyone has setbacks, but on the startline, you need to be mindful of the commitment you have given to running over the past weeks and months. On the day, you may not be feeling great. Unless you are ill or injured, ‘keep calm and carry on’! Don’t doubt yourself; instead, visualise yourself moving with ease and enjoying running for running’s sake. Focusing on the process helps you to relax and keeps you ‘in the moment’. Over shorter distances a pre-occupation with time can force you to become tense, lose form, and ultimately lose speed. Never sacrifice style for speed! During longer races, thinking about the finish can motivate some people, but for others the end can seem such a long way off. Ticking off little goals in your head as you go and enjoying the freedom of movement will help time to pass more pleasurably.
Another truth of road running is that you are likely to be tempted to start too quickly – particularly if there are hundreds of other runners around you also being swept up in the moment. Remember your training, stick to your race plan and don’t let adrenaline carry you away too briskly. Running with a friend can be both a help and hinderance here. Discuss your pacing beforehand. Once you are past half distance and you know you are feeling strong, then consider picking the pace up. If it’s your first long road race, don’t aim for a finishing time, rather concentrate on completing the distance. This takes a lot of pressure off you and allowes you to enjoy the event.
Monday 2nd of April 2012