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marathon, Training

Race Taper and Race Preparation

Race Taper and Race Preparation

How to take care of yourself before, during, and after the race

By Alix Shutello

Next Sunday, Karen Rossi will be standing on the starting line of the biggest race she’s ever run and I am anticipating she’ll be a little nervous.  First, the race is 10 miles long; the longest race she’s ever run. Second, the race will be attended by over 10,000 people. That in itself may be more overwhelming than the race itself. Until you’ve stood like cattle in your color corral or sweated with thousands of others, a big day like this can be exciting and a little nerve-wracking!

So Karen and I will be in the green corral among the 9-minute milers. I loved how Karen accidentally input her birth year as  on the registration form 1978 instead of 1968. Oh well, she gets to be a decade younger for couple hours as she makes her way down broadstreet with thousands of runners and thousands more volunteers handing out water.

But it’s the week before the race, what should be Karen be doing as she prepares for Sunday.

No Over Training:
The number one mistake people make is that they have a compelling urge to run too much before race day. You cannot cram for a race like you do a test.  A race over 5k requires at least some training but the last week before a race is about tapering. No long distance runs the week before the race and no grandiose speed or hill workouts. Take the 7 to 10 days before a race to run some solid 3-5 miles runs at a relaxed pace.

Get Sleep:
While things might be stressful at work and while you may have deadlines and things that may cause you to burn the midnight oil, if there is any way to push things back or change your schedule to get some sleep, this is the time to do it. While you can compete in a fatigued state it’s just not recommended. This is a week to relax and if that means skipping a couple of runs (or reducing mileage)  to get some added hours of sleep, consider the sleep as more important this week.

Think Good Thoughts:
If you have trained appropriately this is the time to think positive thoughts.  You can do this race and it’s going to be a great day. This race is about you, not the other runners.

Reduce Race Day Stress:
It really helps if you know your way around on race day. With tens of thousands of people to contend with it relieves a lot of stress if you have a general idea of where you are going and more importantly, when you need to be at the starting line or in larger races, in your corral. For example, when I ran the Peach Tree 10K I knew I was in the orange corral and it was a 45 minute wait until our group would be starting (and that was to be in the middle of 50,000 other runners!). So here are my top five things to know on race day:

1. STARTING LINE: Know how to get to the starting line and . For example, Karen and I were debating whether it would be better to stay downtown in Philly and take the metro to the race start, drive to the starting line if that’s a possibility, or take the train from her house. 

2. WHAT TO BRING TO THE RACE: This is important if you are running alone – you may want wear shorts with pockets so that you can put a metro cards, $20, chapstick, Ipod or whatever you need along the route. Things like your jacket, a change of clothes, or other things you might carry like your phone, will be locked in a staging area for those things. Please make sure you read the paper work on all the logistical information about locker services.

3. RACE MAP: Just knowing where you are going on race day is very important. Memorize the race route in terms of knowing where certain things are. While I am a fan of driving the route, some prefer to be surprised. Know what corral you are going to be in, where the starting is (because it’s not always where you expect it to be), and at least know where about you are going to end up. 

4. FINISH LINE: At the finish line there are going to be thousands of people cheering you on. You need to focus to get across the line but after you are done you cannot just go home – not in a big race. Someone will stop you and remove your race chip or more likely you’ll need to stop somewhere and remove it yourself. That can be daunting after honking out 10 hard miles but you’ve got to do it, so do it graciously and nicely through the chip into one of the nearest chip collection buckets you can find.

5. MEETING PEOPLE AFTER THE RACE: If you’ve raced with a buddy or a group or if you are going to be meeting friends and/or family, it’s important to have read the race logistical information so that you can guide people and yourself to the right rendezvous point. Normally in a big race of thousands of people there are going to be many food and water tents, bands, First Aid tents, and potentially some vendors. Pick a spot and stick to it. Once you find your people you can then make your way to the clothing drop off and pick up your clothes, phone, and other things you may have brought to the race.

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