Running is one of the most intimidating sports out there, and even seasoned racers experience stress in the days leading up to a big event. Unlike most races, running requires little equipment—shoes, clothing, and an optional hydration system are the only variable pieces. As a result, race preparation and training are essential for even the shortest of races or the most experienced of runners. Popular Couch to 5K programs emphasize that even the smallest amount of effort can make a difference on race day, but longer distances necessitate a strict training and eating schedule. Below, we have included a few of our favorite running race prep tips.
Athletes should choose their training programs based on the length of their race. Most beginner 5K programs are between four and six weeks long, while 10K and half marathons can take around 12 weeks of training. If you are thinking of undertaking a marathon, you should give yourself at least 18 weeks to complete a training program. It is essential to choose a race based on your current fitness level—most training programs require a base weekly distance, so don’t expect to run a marathon in 18 weeks if you cannot currently run a mile.
When it comes to training, runners should focus on the sport itself—running—and strength training. Though preparation varies from program to program, serious runners should aim to incorporate at least four days of running each week, one day of additional cardio (kickboxing, cycling, skiing, &c), and two to three days of strength training (can be combined with cardio days). It is essential to work on strengthening each part of your body; though running is primarily a lower body workout, spend some time toning your arms and abdominal muscles. You may be surprised by what is sore after a race.
As with every race, it is essential for athletes to give their bodies time to rest between intense workouts. If you are preparing for a marathon with 10mi+ runs, rest or do low-impact exercises between long runs. If you feel like something is wrong, take a few days off and see a doctor. If you have to take a break from training, focus on your diet, stretching, and mental preparation for the race ahead.