It's almost the half way point of your journey towards completing your half or full marathon goal. Mileage will be going up significantly over the next few weeks. Taking advantage of recovery days and drop-back weeks is crucial now as injury and over-training symptoms have a way of sneaking up on you about 6-12 weeks out from race day.
Your training has gone pretty well thus far. You’ve logged all your miles up to this point. You’ve negotiated your way through a few aches and pains. You are starting to dial in the appropriate amounts of hydration and nutrition you need on the go.
What's next? Just keep logging miles? Get a fresh new pair of shoes to break in? Wish upon a lucky star that all goes according to plan on race day?
All of those are great. But, if you want to properly prepare yourself you should practice racing! Showing up to your goal race without having recently toed a starting line could leave you ill prepared. Sign yourself up for a couple tune-up races.
The simple acts of signing up, picking up your packet, getting to bed early the night before, waking up early on race day, eating your race day breakfast, negotiating your way through crowds to the start line and then the races themselves are the best form of practice you can get.
You do not need to cover your full goal distance in your tune-up races. Is your goal a half marathon? Try a 5K and then a 10K, or maybe a 10 miler or a 15K. If your goal is a full marathon start with a 10 miler, then a 25K, or a 20 miler. One tune-up race may be sufficient for some, but often two or three tune-ups will more adequately prepare you for race day.
Often you may find that goal races don’t necessarily fit into the mileage for your training schedule. Have a 10 miler on your schedule but were really hoping to use a 10K on that weekend for your tune-up? No problem! Add an easy 2 mile warm-up before the race and a mile or 2 cool-down after. If you find yourself a mile short don’t worry about it. The effort you put into preparing for the event, competing in the event and then learning from the event will be more than adequate.
Stepping to the starting line of any race can be extremely nerve wracking. So practice! The more often you get yourself in the race atmosphere the more comfortable you become.
Learning from tune-up races is crucial. Chances are you may have a “bad” race in your tune-up. Maybe you didn’t drink enough the week leading up to it, or you didn’t fuel yourself properly during. Perhaps you went out too hard from the start of the race. There are a plethora of things that could go wrong during a race. Let it happen during a tune-up race so that you can use what you learn during your goal race.
See you at the races!
Contributed by Jeff Henderson - MIT Head Coach