So, the big half marathon you’ve been focussing on is here. How do you prepare this week? How is a half marathon different from other races? What should you eat in the build up?
March and April brings a host of great half marathon races to the UK running calendar, Bath Half, Reading Half, Fleet Half to name a few. Many of our athletes are training for a spring marathon or even triathlon events later in the year and using the half marathon as a tune up race and mid-term goal; others are looking for a half marathon PB as a standalone event.
In the final week of training for the event there are a number of ways you can ready yourself for the race day:
- Don’t stop the intensity of your workouts. Ease back on the quantity, but keep the tempo going. A few running drills, 400s / 800s on the Tuesday with your clubmates will keep your legs turning and refresh postural cues for the race day. Some athletes we work with race at their best with a very short race pace run on Thursday and a short run the day before with strides; but we work runners that this doesn’t work for, and they need more rest in this taper week. Work out what routine works best for you, don’t just blindly follow an online plan. Use these last tune up sessions to plan your race pace, have a clear plan in your head to prevent you starting too fast.
- Go steady on the Physical Prep. This is one week not to do the circuits, go to the gym or do the heavy squats and lunges. Keep your body moving and keep the core engaged with some gentle Pilates, yoga or core work, but leave the legs till you’re back in full training again.
- Stretch and roll. We always suggest to our athletes to use the time they aren’t training this week to get more rest, raise your feet when sat down with a cushion. In more active parts of the day use your roller and spiky ball for some myofascial release work and stretch well afterwards. Some athletes like to visit a sports therapist in this final week, but do book this early on in the week. The day before the race it is very important to rest as much as possible and stay off your feet.
- Prepare your kit bag. Work out your race day needs, prepare your kit bag, race number, make sure your GPS device is charged, buy your protein milkshake for afterwards, check you have the right gels and enough of them, check your racing kit and shoes.
- Check your race day travel. How are you getting to the race? Check train times. Check your lift share, parking, parking tickets. Alleviate the travel stress, by being ready and prepared early in the week.
- Nutrition. Eat normally for most of the race week, do ensure your vegetable intake and water consumption are increased a little though. During this part of the week you should be taking on board 5-7g/kg of carbohydrate. I do suggest that athletes eat slightly less in general at the start of the week, just to prevent weight gain, but we don’t advocate the carbohydrate depletion techniques; they leave the body too open to infection. For a half marathon a whole 3 days of loading is not needed and may lead to unnecessary weight gain. We recommend with 2 days to go adjust your carbohydrate intake to 7-10g/kg, slightly less for females, and increase water intake, and especially electrolyte. The day before is very important for a half-marathon, increase your carbohydrate intake further 8-12g/kg, 8-10g/kg for females and switch to white based, non-fibrous carbohydrates. Consume an electrolyte based drink; if mixed with a carbohydrate this will help with the loading, don’t just drink water. Try to eat two smaller main meals rather than one big meal in the evening, but keep the loading going throughout the day. Example foods: porridge with raisins, honey and a banana, bagel and jam, jacket potato and beans, energy bar, chia flapjack, banana, apple, pasta with tomato and vegetable based sauce, bread on the side and maybe fruit and yoghurt for pudding. Race day – make sure you eat what you normally eat and have practised. If travelling take food with you. A good example is porridge with honey, raisins and a banana. Drink a carbohydrate/electrolyte drink up to the race start time. Only use gels during the event you have practised with. For faster runners, we recommend a gel at 8 miles; slower paced runners might want to take 2 gels at 5 and 10 miles.
- Finally, sleep. Really try to get to bed earlier this week. Put the phone or other blue screen devices away, watch a TV programme or grab a book/magazine. Aim for 8 hours each night during the build-up week. It’s highly likely you won’t sleep that well the night before. Try to avoid caffeine after 4pm each day, this will also help with race day if you are looking to use caffeine to boost your performance, but that is another article…