In the first post I talked about getting the right food and clothing for the race. In the second part of the blog I want to deal with the biggest error most people make on race day, plus some other assorted tips to ensure you have a great race.
The single commonest error for novice and experienced runners alike is getting pace judgement wrong. You want to run at a consistent pace all the way round as this is most efficient and will get you round quicker. The first mile or two may be slower if the route is crowded with runners, but once you can get into your rhythm and stick to it, don’t speed up to make up time.
You need to work out what pace you can sustain in your training period. There are some useful tools online to help you work out your half-marathon pace based on your time for other distances. Most people start off too fast and then pay for it later on in the race. The aim of having a pace plan is to prevent you doing this or realising after the first mile and correcting before too much damage is done.
Once you have worked out your pace, write the splits (what time you should hit each mile marker at) on your arm in biro or some other non-smudging pen. Write down every mile split because when you’re tired you may not be able to do the maths to work out what eight miles at 9.30 pace should be! Wear a watch and when you come to each mile marker check to see if you’re within a few seconds of your target split and adjust your pace if not. One word of warning-it can be hard to spot mile markers if there are big crowds partially obscuring them, so keep your eyes peeled.
Training at your race pace at least once a week will help you get used to that pace. Good training can make your race pace your ‘default’ pace so you are most likely to start at that speed and avoid running too fast.
There are a few other useful tips I have developed based on my racing experiences or seeing the errors of others. Firstly, tape up your toes at any point that is prone to blisters. For me that is my little toe and second toe. I use micropore tape, which is a bit papery and like glorified masking tape! It is very thin but protects the skin well. Just make sure you don’t tape toes so tight they don’t bend freely.
Changing facilities are often poorer than you expect or over-crowded, as are toilets! Travel in your race clothes with extra layers on top so you can gradually strip off and not need to change. Also plan to make your final toilet stop 30 minutes prior to the race. I know many people who have left it later and missed the start of the race in toilet queues!
Use Vaseline on anything that might rub! For most people this will be between the upper thighs, where underwear touches the body in the groin, the armpit and worst of all the nipples. I have been to many races where people, especially men, get runner’s nipple from their top rubbing and finish with a blood-stained vest. Chafing can occur anywhere two bits of skin or clothing and skin move against each other.
Take four safety pins for pinning on your race number. Read the event website for any other advice. Plan exactly where to park and have a plan B in case that car park is full. Finally, enjoy yourself! If you’ve prepared properly and done your training you’ll be fine, so enjoy the day.
Jamie Johnston is a Birmingham Personal Trainer and founder of At Home Fitness. He has raced at local and national level in athletics, road and cross country running.