Tactics to ensure you start and finish your race healthy.
Hello again, runner!
It’s that time of year. Yes, marathon season is near, and dare we say it, we might finally get a whole year of uninterrupted in-person races.
As we return to our regularly scheduled programming of training, racing, and run groups, many athletes will be shooting their shots at personal records after a long while off. While it is exciting to make our return to the racing world, this does not come without potential barriers.
After such a long time away from the more competitive side of running, many runners will face challenges like training, injuries, fuelling, and footwear/apparel.
Of course, races don’t always go to plan.
Accidents can still happen and no one has a magic ball to predict the future outcome of your running event, but there are steps you can take to ensure you start and finish your race as safely as possible.
Here are some obstacles you may face on your training journey, and how to tackle them to arrive (and finish) your event safely:
1. Not training properly
If you’re new to training for endurance events like a half or full marathon, one mistake new runners make is to take on way too much mileage too soon. To complete an event safely and in good health, runners should start with a good base of about 30-40km/week, or at least 5km every day. From the base, build your weekly mileage slowly.
By slowly we mean, don’t add more than 10% of the total weekly mileage to the following week, and don’t run long runs that take up more than 30% of the total weekly mileage. For example, if you are running 50 km/week, your long run shouldn’t be more than 15 km and the following week should not be more than 55 km total.
When it comes time for your event, if you haven’t run a race before, you should know it’s easy to get carried away in the first few kilometers of a race. This can make the rest of the event a rather taxing experience for the mind and the body.
Improper training could also mean not training enough, training too much, not practicing your fuelling strategy, skipping warmups or cool-downs, no strength training, running too fast on long slow runs, or even as much as exercising during your taper.
Not sure how to train properly? Consider joining a running group or hiring a coach.
2. Improper nutrition or hydration
Running endurance events takes a lot of practice and a lot of hydration and nutrition. Many recreational runners can get away with their regular diets for most events, but if you start to notice problems like chronic fatigue, headaches, or extreme muscle soreness, you probably need to dial in your fuelling strategy.
During long runs, you almost always need fluid and fuel. Even during cold weather. If you’re even slightly dehydrated this can severely impact your performance, causing cramping, and potentially organ damage. Needless to say, don’t pound a six-pack of beer the night before a race and try to avoid painkillers like Advil and Tylenol.
Practice fuelling and hydration on your long runs and don’t take chances on race day.
Other mistakes can include under-fuelling, or not taking in enough calories during your training block; over-fuelling, thinking you can eat unlimited carbs, carb-loading, or eating too many “treats”; and not refuelling after long runs (you need to feed your muscles)!
3. Running in old gear or shoes
While running may be an “inexpensive” sport in that it does not require a lot of equipment, races and shoes are not cheap. Some runners may try to get the most life possible out of their running shoes but the reality of it is that you probably need to replace your shoes a lot sooner than you are. Once every 6 months is the bare minimum.
Pro tip: if you experience black or missing toenails, you need bigger running shoes.
But running in old shoes can be extremely dangerous. After about 500-800 km of wear, the shoes’ midsoles lose their rebound and are so compressed that they no longer absorb any shock. You will feel this in your joints and knees and may even develop shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, or stress fractures.
It’s also a good idea to refresh your sports bras at least annually to avoid chaffing and any socks that are worn out or have holes in them to avoid blisters.
4. Not having goals
Don’t get us wrong, you don’t need to have a goal to run, but if you are entering an official, timed event, it’s good to set some goals to help you train properly. If your goal is just to finish, that’s great. But to help train properly and safely, you can use your current training times and paces to extrapolate a rough estimate of your capabilities for race day.
This can also help to keep your ego in check. If you don’t know what to expect going into a race and believe you will run a marathon in four hours, without any idea of how to train for a four-hour marathon or what type of outcome your current training paces indicate, you will likely be disappointed. It’s all about managing expectations and setting an A, B, and C goal that you will be happy with no matter what!
5. A poor attitude
Plenty of uncontrollable factors can occur on race day. But what you can always control is your attitude. This will play into how these “uncontrollable” factors really play out.
Remember, running a race is supposed to be fun.
But you can’t control the weather, so if it’s raining on race day, go into it with a positive attitude, remember you paid to be there, and make the most of it. Of course, stay safe and make intelligent decisions, and it’s okay to be upset if you don’t meet your goals. But there are always opportunities to try again, and most of us don’t make a living running, so we’re not losing out on potential wins or career-defining moments.
Can I take my training for one event and turn it into a marathon?
For those runners in southwestern Ontario, you may be wondering if you can use your Around the Bay training and race to run a marathon shortly afterward (like the Mississauga or Toronto Marathon at the beginning of May).
Well, there is no straightforward answer.
If you want to use your Around the Bay race as a time trial or one of your long runs in your spring marathon training build, go ahead! In fact, we’d even encourage it so you have a better idea of how you’ll fare at kilometer 30 of your marathon.
But if you want to know whether you can run the Around the Bay race and then stop doing long runs until your marathon, we’d highly advise against this practice.
Looking for training advice or camaraderie?
Our coaches are happy to lend an ear and our run group is always open!