That’s the basic formula for success regardless of the race distance. What if your plan is to have no plan? Well, that’s a plan as well; just run to enjoy the day.
Whatever your plan may be, whether to PR, qualify for Boston, finish strong or just have fun – don’t forget the basics.
1) Nothing new on race day – that includes 24 hours before start time. If you haven’t eaten it, drank it, worn it, or done it – then don’t start now. Conversely if you’re used to a glass of wine or whatever the night before your long run, then by all means – ‘nothing new’ works both ways.
2) Start slow – the excitement at the start of any race, heck, almost any event is palpable. The excitement generated by hundreds or thousands of runners starting out as a group on their individual journey creates it’s own energy field and participants feast on that. Therefore almost always your first mile is faster than goal pace – and of course you’re thinking, “I feel great!” Well of course you do you ninny! You trained for 26.2/13.1/3.1 so mile 1 is a piece of cake! In the words of the comedian Killer Beaz, “Save up!” Check your pace with the mile 1 marker – yes, you may have a GPS, but your official time comes from the race….match it.
3) Thank the volunteers – without volunteers there is no race. This should go without saying, please stay ‘present’ enough IN the race enough to thank them…please. P.S. headphone wearers; turn DOWN your volume. 1) you don’t want tinnitus 2) Others don’t want to hear your music 3) how are you going to monitor your breathing and 4) Most important! How will you hear directions, an emergency vehicle or a warning of a lunatic driver? Police and volunteers are there to help, but if you can’t hear a shouted warning…..don’t be that guy!
4) A few notes – carbo-loading is a myth. East smart all week, let your body adapt and absorb. Your taper will make it seem like a lot of food anyway. Don’t try to hydrate in 12 hours – drink a little more (water) each day. Arrive early – parking can be challenging at best when you’re NOT in a hurry. If it’s cold wear an outer layer of something old, cheap and warm that you can toss when your body temp goes up. If it’s wet add a trash-bag with a hole for your head. If you run in a rain jacket you’ll get just as wet from sweat, so embrace the weather.
5) Lastly (speaking of unplugged) Tune in! High 5 a kid, encourage a struggling runner, congratulate a powerful one. If you’re struggling be gracious when you receive encouragement. Most bad patches are just that – temporary. An encouraging word can ‘snap’ you back. More importantly enjoy the sights and sounds of racing – heck you’re going to be in that mile for 7 to 11 minutes, might as well enjoy. As Jimmy Buffet said, “Go fast enough to get there, but slow enough to see.”
Have 3 goals: 1) An out of body, everything clicked, all systems were go Perfect Day goal. 2) Realistic, this is what I expect/hope I can do based on my experience and training. 3) Just get the damn medal! Things happen, if the wheels come off the wagon or it’s just not your day yet you still dig deep and finish then you earned that medal! Maybe more so than if you ran that ‘perfect’ race. Never belittle your accomplishments….and always remember that:
You don’t have to win to be a winner – when you finish; you win.