if you're aiming to Run competitively, you'll need to pull out all the stops on the big day. this article shows you how, from making sure that you're at your mental and physical peak, to giving yourself the best chance by fueling your body correctly, your training will pay off only with a well-planned race strategy.
GET INTO THE MIND ZONE
1 - BE POSITIVE
The key to a good race is a positive mental attitude, according to most sports psychologists. If you enter a race alongside someone of a similar level, who has followed the same training, nutrition, and recovery schedule, the runner who has also prepared mentally will perform better. You should start every race feeling confident that you will achieve your goals.
2 - SET GOALS
Setting yourself race goals will help focus your mind on the task ahead and guide your performance during the race. If you are a beginner, just finishing the race could be your primary goal, but you still need to work out how you will achieve that. Set your goals by focusing on elements that you can control, such as your pace. Setting a target finish time is a great way to motivate yourself and will also help you work out your race strategy. Remember that during the race your performance can also be affected by factors such as the weather, which are beyond your control. If you acknowledge that fact and you are well prepared, then these elements won’t throw you off course.
3 - BE CONSISTENT
Don’t be tempted to change anything before your race. Keep your training consistent, plan your tapering program, and stick to your regular diet and sleep patterns. Avoid testing out new running clothing or footwear— a marathon is no time to break in new sneakers. Any changes to your normal routine could potentially undo all your hard work in training, or at least have an adverse effect on your performance.
4 - WHILE YOU SLEEP
Your body needs at least 71?2 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, and ideally up to 9 hours in the tapering phase. The body goes through several different sleep stages. During stages three and four it releases a hormone that repairs muscle tissue and speeds recovery from injury.
5 - RESEARCH THE COURSE
Familiarize yourself with the course route and terrain so that you know what is coming throughout the race. This can really boost your confidence, which is especially helpful during the later stages of the race when physical and mental fatigue set in. Try identifying some key landmarks along the route that you can use to count yourself toward the finish line. For races of up to 6.2 miles (10 k), walk or cycle the whole course a few days beforehand. For longer distances, such as a half-marathon or marathon, it’s best to cover just the last 6.2 miles (10 k). Never walk or drive the entire marathon course—the realization of just how long it is can have a negative effect on your mental preparation. If you don’t live near enough to the race course to be able to walk all or part of it, study a map or research online.
6 - GET PLENTY OF SLEEP
Rest and relaxation are key to performance and a positive mental attitude. In particular, make sure that you get enough sleep. In the two weeks leading up to the race, you should aim for between 71/2 and 9 hours sleep per night. Not only does this help your mental approach, but the body also repairs itself while you sleep.
7 - CONTROL YOUR NERVES
Even the most experienced runners feel nervous before a race. If you accept that this is part of the competition experience, then you can feed off the anxiety to boost your performance—learn to recognize the feeling of adrenaline, and channel it toward the finish line. You can also try repeating a mantra to yourself, or doing breathing exercises before the race. If you are in control of your nerves, you are less likely to let uncontrollables throw you off your plan, or to be wound up if they do. Above all, knowing that you have trained well, fueled efficiently, and planned your race strategically should give you confidence that you can reach your goals. Be positive— you have completed your training and are ready for the big race.
Taken From "The Complete Running and Marathon Book" -- Omriyadat