Prepare For Race Day
Have a plan or hire someone who will build one for you. Periodizing your training will be something your coach will do for you. A good coach will make sure there is a gradual buildup in milage followed by an adaptation week or recovery week. They will include training blocks with the appropriate training goals based on where you are in the build up to your event. As the race gets closer, your running will be very specific to your race. For example, in the marathon, a workout 6 weeks out from race day might include 12 miles @ planned marathon pace, or maybe it is broken up with 6 miles at marathon pace followed by a short jogging rest, then 6 more miles @ MP before a cool down.
Include Some Quality Runs
If you always run a 9 minute mile then it may be hard to run a race at a 7 minute mile. So, segments of faster running must to be sprinkled into your training plan. How much and what kind depends on your age, injury history, running history and the event for which you are training. That said, I think roughly 80% of your running should be easy. Adding hill work builds leg strength and helps you with your running form. The other benefit of hill work is that it is hard to run so fast uphill that you cause injury - you are more likely to run too fast on a flat surface like a track. So masters runners, or those that are injury prone, may be smart in moving their speed work to the hills as the outcome will be improved power, speed and running form.
Don’t Overdo It
Your coach or training program should include purposeful workouts. There should be a training effect desired on every workout. A “recovery” run is designed to set you up for the next “hard” bout of training. Easy runs strengthen muscles and build a greater aerobic base. Marathon pace runs help you practice you marathon pace and tempo runs help your body clear blood lactate and also help race pace feel easier. Short bouts of very fast running help improve running economy, which is the amount of oxygen you require. Easy run days need to be kept “really” easy so that the hard days can be hard.
Don’t Neglect Strength Work
Be sure to incorporate sufficient core work into your training regime. It will help you maintain good running form and prevent injury over the long term. Start with things like plank, side plank, basic lunges and exercises that strength your hips and glutes like clams, side leg raises, single leg bridge and body weight squats. All of these exercises can be found on Runners World’s website. Be sure to go over proper form with a certified personal trainer or running coach before entering any strength training program.
Trust Your Training and Stay Relaxed
Once you are at the starting line, the race is “in the bag”. By now, you should have talked to your coach about your race plan and practiced it in the weeks leading up to the event. Remember, the race is simply another training day; but now you are rested and have support on the course from spectators, friends, family and volunteers. Remind yourself the hard work is done. Now, all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other.
Review the course map. Having a solid plan is great, but you also should know where all the aid stations are, where the climbs are (if any) and what sort of nutrition is offered on the course. All these things should be sorted out well before race day so that you can adapt your training to the specific demands of the course. You also may choose to use the same gels and drink mix that will be provided at the aid stations. A dress rehearsal gives you confidence that you can tackle whatever comes your way on race day!