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Getting it right on the day

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“Getting it right on the day”
All road running performances are finally measured by your time in an official road race.  It goes to say therefore that you must perform at your best on the particular day you have nominated.  My experience has been over the years that some have got it right and most don’t get it right.  The latter runners are those who excel in training runs and weekend club runs but fail to reproduce the same form on race day.  Most participants in a race have prepared in a very similar way, according to their level of ability, to a recommended programme.

To improve your chances of getting it right on the day there are several factors to consider.  First of all ask yourself if you are entitled to be running this race. Have you honestly done the recommended training and have you performed recently at races of similar distances. Some runners live in the past and remember their PB (personal best) at the distance you are going for but fail to recognise that the PB was done a year or more ago.  Look back at your records and confirm that you are at the same point for distance and speed as you were at the time you ran previously.  If not, you adjust your target time accordingly for this upcoming race.

Being ready for a nominated race combines your recent habits during the last few weeks with your habits on the last one or two days before the race.  The needs of each runner is different in the build up before a marathon or more.  Some need a taper of effort during the last week and maybe a complete rest for up to 3 days. Others like to run continuously up to race day but reduce the distance and concentrate on a few short fast runs.  You need to find out what suits you.

The day before a race is vital. There are all the arrangements to make for maybe travel and accommodation. The better runners plan well in advance and choose all the facilities that suit them such as where you stay, how you travel and with whom.  Make absolutely sure you are aware of all the times and places you have to be for the start.  It is advisable to research the race as well as you can by talking to other runners and consulting Runners Guide or the race website.  Forewarned is forearmed.

To run a good race you have to consider unemotionally exactly what you have to offer against the prescribed race route.  Put another way, what are you capable of tomorrow on that course.  No dreams, no "I will see on the day", no "I will see how I feel at halfway", no "I will run with a friend to pull me along"!   You must commit before you start.

To run a sensible race you have to manage your pace judgement and your time management. As you line up you must be sure how fast you can run for the whole distance and adjust your speed for each part of the race accordingly.  Start off very slowly if it is a long race over a distance you have not run before. If it is a shorter distance that you are familiar with, you can set off confidently at a familiar speed. Time management includes the walking and running times you allow. It also includes your expected stops at pit stops and waiting for friends.  For example, on a notorious hilly route you may well allocate a generous walking time allowance.  For a very long run like Comrades you must inevitably build in a walking allowance that will increase as the day wears on.

The night before a race must be a familiar ritual for eating, resting, drinking and sleeping. Everyone is different. Choose the one that suits you ignoring what others think.  The same applies to the wake up in the morning and the short time before the race. You must focus on your breakfast which is recommended for Comrades and other ultras. Toilet requirements must be available when required.  A runner must start off well hydrated and start drinking early on.  Carbohydrate needs and water must be strictly adhered to, in particular, on long hot runs. The build up races before a big event such as Two Oceans and Comrades can all be used to practice the schedule for getting it right on the day.

Of all things, make sure you are going for a time that you are entitled to do for this particular race. Get used to being a successful racer . You will be the envy of all your fellow club members.

Don Oliver
Cape Town
March 2010

External links: Official Comrades Marathon website

Copyright Don Oliver 2010