The finish line is within reach. The peak of your training is over, and you’re closing in on the final few runs before the big day. Consider the following tips from Apex Benefits health and wellness specialists Ali Harris, MS and Grace Bennett, RDN to physically and mentally prepare for race day.
- Listen to your body. Within the next two weeks, your mileage is probably decreasing to give your body rest before race day. This isn’t the time to push your body to its limits. If you’re still sore or even injured from your long runs in previous weeks, take a couple days for active recovery and stretching, like yoga or light resistance training. Be patient with yourself leading up to race day.
- Practice nutrition. Nutrition is one of the most important factors determining performance, yet it’s the one runners struggle with the most. In the days before the race, keep your pre-race diet consistent with your training diet. From a dietitian’s perspective, a combination of both carbs (whole grains, fruits, starchy veggies) and protein (lean meats, low-fat dairy, eggs) is important. Carb “loading” throughout the week (starting two to three days prior) allows your muscles to build up an energy store and perform optimally on race day. In the two to four hours before the race, stick to simple, easy to digest carbs, protein, and water. During the race, try to consume about 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per 60-75 minutes. Common options include energy gels, orange slices, or sports drinks.
- Trust your training. Think about the weeks and months of training up to this point and give yourself some credit for all the work you’ve done. For first-time marathoners or half-marathoners, trusting your training can be particularly hard. Tapering, or backing off training leading up to the race will allow muscles to load-up on carbs and heal any soreness or small injury that incurred during training. After all the hard work and training, rest can sometimes be anxiety-inducing. However, it is important to let your body rest so it can perform at its best.
- Stick to the plan. Having practiced your nutrition and race pace during training, try to stick to that. The excitement of race day can cause athletes to start the race much faster than planned, which can cause fatigue and an unexpected “crashing” feeling late in the race. Don’t introduce your body to any new food or drink items before or during the race to avoid upsetting your digestive system.
- Enjoy the race. The race is just a culmination of all the work you’ve already put into training. Remember to have fun! Soak up the atmosphere and allow the cheering fans and other runners to motivate you. You’ll experience adrenaline on race day, so be sure to use that to your advantage.