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Top Ten Tips for
Running Races - Achieve Your Best in Your Next
Into physical fitness and challenging your body and
Then running races is an amazing way to
satisfy your competitive spirit.
It isn't just running the race that is important,
but the training and preparation that is
involved can be even more exhilarating than the
Running races is a great idea to keep up your
motivation and training effort.
It can be truly exciting to set yourself a challenging,
yet doable, goal and then working towards
achieving that goal.
The great thing about racing is that it is often not
so much about competing against hundreds or
thousands of competitors. You are competing with
them, sharing an experience, in chase of a PR
(=personal record), getting to the finish line or
just having fun.
Find below my top ten tips to get the most out of
your next race.
Tip #1: Failing to Prepare, ...
Benjamin Franklin said it before: "By failing to
prepare, you are preparing to fail."
Preparation is highly important when getting ready
for a race. Not only do you have to know your body's
limitations, but you have to prepare it for what it
is about to go through, be it a 5k race, a 10k race
or a (half) marathon.
You would usually pick a 12-, 18- or even 24-week
running program and chop it up in training blocks,
first focusing on easy running (building your
base) and later on adding faster workouts as
well. Using different training blocks dedicated to
specific types of training is a process called periodization.
Pages to check out:
Tip #2: Listen to your body
A mistake many of us make when preparing for a race
is that we underestimate the training effort
involved. It is easy enough to say on New Year's Day
that you are going to run a marathon that year.
At that point in time you may not know the effort
involved. That you need to build up your mileage to
doing a number of 20-mile runs. When you are
underprepared and throw yourself into this type of
training, you leave your body exposed to the risk of
It is important to listen to your body, increase
your mileage safely and to follow a
hard/easy approach. This means that you alternate
hard, tough workouts on one day with rest or much
easier workouts the next day, giving your body a
chance to recover.
Tip #3: Know What You'll Eat and
When running races, especially longer ones, you will
be eating and drinking during the race. Make
sure you know which drink the race organizers will
provide you with. It makes a hell of a difference!
I have run races where at certain stops, when I
wanted water, we'd get some fizzy drink that did not
agree with me. Train with drinking certain
sports drinks. When you know that some sports
drink is no good for you, then make sure you carry
your own or make other arrangements.
Same goes for the food you eat during the race: make
sure you have trained eating it and see if it agrees
with you or not. It is nothing less than bad race
preparation if your race goes down the drain
because of the food and drink you consume.
Another thing about drinking and eating during the
race: take a walking break to do it. You
really won't lose time at all. Walk for a few
seconds to get a decent drink of water and to
swallow it properly. Much better than trying to run
through it and not getting enough water and ending
up in a coughing fit because you couldn't
swallow your drink easily.
Tip #4: Arrive Early
Allow yourself enough time to get to the race,
store the items you carrying on you, do a relaxed
warming up etc. Nothing worse than having to skip
your warm-up or not being able to go to the toilet
anymore because you got up too late.
Keep in mind you will not be the only one
who will want to go to the toilet just before the
Tip #5: Find out about the Course
Make sure you know the course. Is it hilly,
is it a city race (between buildings) or in a more
rural environment where the elements (wind
especially) might have more influence?
Nothing worse than planning for a PB, only to find
out that the race turns out to be a lot
tougher/hillier than you expected it to be.
I have been there, and I can tell you it really
stuffs up your day! I did this 10k race and really
had my mind set on running a personal best.
The race was supposed to be this loop of 2.5k which
we had to do four times.
This is in the time before GPS watches, so I
felt it was beneficial to run the same loop four
times and get a check-in every 2.5k of how fast I
was going. Those were the days... :)
Little did I know that there was this big hill with
pretty tough ascent that lasted about 500m in this
course. So that was 4 x 500m of climbing. Rest
assured, I did not run a PB that day. But I did
learn a valuable lesson.
Tip #6: Gauge Your Ability
Make sure you have got a good idea of the time you
will be able to run your race in.
There are several different ways of achieving this.
You can do this by incorporating time trials or
tune-up races in your running program. It is also
wise to include a few goal pace sessions in
your running training so you can figure out whether
the time you are planning to run is achievable.
Some ideas to work out how fast you'll be in your
Tip #7: Pace Yourself, Know Your
While running races, you need to make sure you pace
yourself. You need to rely on your training and the
fact that you know what your body can and cannot do,
and stick to the game plan.
Ideally you would have listened to the previous
running tip and followed the links. You'd then
have a pretty good idea of the time you'd be able to
achieve using a variety of tools.
Knowing your possible end time allows you to pace
yourself. It should then be your goal to go
for as even splits as possible.
So every mile, whether it is the first, or the
fifth, or the tenth, or the twentieth in the race should
be run equally fast (not taking into account
hills etc). Oh, The amount of people you will pass
by in the second part of the race!
80 to 90 percent of your fellow competitors
will start off too fast, getting caught up in the
excitement of the race. Your race will be so much
more enjoyable when you find yourself being able to
keep your pace throughout the race. You will
pass others in the second part of the race rather
than getting passed by.
Don't ignore this tip.
If there is one thing you take away from this
article, it must be to know your gam plan and
Tip #8: Have Multiple Goals
A great tip I picked up from a running forum is to have
multiple goals on race day. Something like
One goal time for when you have an extremely
One goal time which you'd still be happy with;
One goal time for when you find that things are
going horribly wrong.
It is important to realize that you can have an
off-day, that during the race you suddenly get
pains, bowel issues, etc. You don't know which great
things your body has got in store for you... :)
Of course, there is much you can do to influence
I guess it is important to realize that missing
your ultimate goal does not necessarily mean the
loss of months and months of running training.
In the end, you are still part of a tiny majority
that put in the work and made the effort to
participate in the event. So even when things don't
go your way, try to make the best of your racing
Battle through and compliment yourself afterwards
for the character-building exercise you just went
through! One exception to this would be if you get
an injury during the race and continuing the race
would mean that you are causing longer term damage.
Otherwise, soldier on and make the best of a bad
Tip #9: Post-Race Evaluation
Additionally, do an evaluation after race day,
no matter how good or how bad it went. Try to pick
up at least one new learning, one adjustment
you could make to do better next time.
This last part isn't always easy. I am part of a
corporate competition which runs the same lap
every fortnight for three or four months in a row.
It is a great little competition and because it is
only a short distance it is something you
can easily fit in at lunch time.
The course has got a big hill in it and with the
friendly rivalry going on, you'll always do your
best to improve upon last time.
Even with that race I try to do a short evaluation
on my way back to the office. Did I drop the
ball somewhere? Could I do better?
When I started doing it, I started off too
conservatively. Too afraid of the hill. My
last kilometre would be by far the fastest. I made
Then I noticed that I was going too aggressively
on the hill. The kilometre split with the hill in it
would usually be pretty good, but the kilometre
straight after that would be slower. Again, I made
And so on.
Try to improve little things every time. One
percent better every time adds up over time!
Tip #10: Something about Etiquette
A bit of a bug bear of mine are some of the behaviors
witnessed during races. One important thing is
to know your place. Going to run your 10k in
50 minutes or so? Then don't position yourself
between the guys and gals who will do it in 30. It
is only decent to make sure that that person
is closer to the starting line than you are.
So, do not try to be the first at the starting
line if you are not going to be the first at the
finish line. Try to position yourself fairly
in amongst the field.
Middle of the pack? Go line up somewhere in the
Back of the pack? Go to the back, etc.
It only makes sense. I am nowhere near elite, more
front of the middle of the pack, and the number of
people even I pass by during a regular race in the
first few miles is just incredible.
Another issue I have seen, particularly in very
popular, very big races is if "slow starters"
run together in a bigger group and combine
this with starting off way too much to the frong.
I have had situations where I had to try to pass six
people running in one line all next to each other
with hardly any room to pass them either on the left
hand side or the right hand side.
It is quite selfish to position yourself like that,
and dangerous as well. I have seen people getting
knocked over by faster runners just because the
people behind them couldn't pass them and were
getting angry and frustrated.
Keep these things in mind, to make sure you make
the race enjoyable for everyone around you, not
I could go on a bit, about wearing music devices
when race organisers have asked you not to,
manoeuvring from left to right to left without
taking into account people around you, etc, etc. As
I said, I could go on, but I won't. I am sure you'd
ask me to get off the soapbox soon enough!
However, just show some common sense and courtesy
towards everybody involved in races. Thank
volunteers, if only by giving them the thumbs up
when you are passing them, and I could go on. But I
OK. End. Rant. Now.
And end of article as well.
Running races can be very rewarding.
Nothing like a race that goes perfectly to plan
after months and months of preparation!
I hope the tips provided help you a bit come race
Now Move on to Your Favorite Race Distance for
Race Specific Tips!
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