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Feeling under prepared for race day?
January 26, 2016 // Rachel Ellis
With 7 weeks to go until the 2016 Vitality Bath Half, many of our runners are feeling the pressure of getting race fit in time for the big day. Perhaps you’ve been unwell recently, or you’ve been suffering with a niggling injury, or maybe your training just hasn’t gone to plan and you aren’t as prepared as you’d hoped to be.
Fear not; here are some tips from Andrew, our race director, that we hope will help get you to the start line – and safely across the finish line – on Sunday 13 March.
Feeling under the weather?
There seems to be a lot of colds and viruses lingering around at this time of year and it’s pretty impossible to avoid them. There is some evidence that training can weaken your immune system and leave you susceptible to these bugs and viruses. It can feel so disappointing to get ill while you’re training for a race, but it does happen to all runners at some point.
If you’ve been poorly recently or you’re feeling unwell at the moment, then please don’t panic. The important thing is to feel well again, and not to worry too much about that PB you’re chasing or the miles you haven’t banked yet. Most runners will have set backs as they prepare for a race and the thing to do is adjust your goals accordingly rather than to charge on with your training and neglect your body’s recovery.
If you’ve lost a week then start back where you left off and dont be tempted to just just skip that week on your training plan. Start back gently and build your mileage back up gradually. Try to accept that you’ve had a spot of bad luck, don’t push yourself too hard and know that you can still enjoy your race day.
Don’t train at all for 24 hours after a fever, vomiting or diarrhoea. Then you should only begin to run again once you are fully recovered. Pushing yourself when you have been unwell can cause further damage or even serious illness.
Injured or returning from injury?
Most injuries are caused by overuse and therefore without treatment or changing what you are doing then sadly they wont just get better. Sometimes it can be a simple change that will help – some new running shoes, or finding a new, softer surface to run on, such as keeping off the road and running on soft grass. Ensuring you are warming up and cooling down correctly as well as making stretching part of your routine is key.
It’s often tempting to just head out of the door, get your head down and simply run, or maybe do a few half-hearted static stretches before you leave the house. Most of us can plead guilty to this kind of warm up from time to time! It’s important not to stretch cold muscles before your run so we recommend starting with a few minutes of walking and jogging first then doing a few gentle stretches before you get on with your run, or you could try something like this dynamic warm up from the Guardian’s running blog. But most importantly, don’t neglect stretching after you finish your run, muscles shorten during exercise, so you need to gently stretch them back to their pre-exercise length, this is the most common cause of injury.
Finding a sports physio is a good idea if your budget allows. Get a recommendation from a friend and try to find someone experienced with runners’ injuries.
There is also a whole host of self-help tips to help you overcome injury. Some of these can be seen on the runners’ medical resource, which is also a great place to read more about eating, hydration and training in general.
If you are returning from injury you must assess what your fitness base is. Start slowly and don’t over-do things and think about setting new goals for race day. Now is the time to re-assess and think about what is realistic. In the same way as when you are returning to training after illness, dont push yourself or you’ll be in danger picking up another injury.
I just haven’t done enough training
It happens,a lot. Sometimes, for whatever reason, we just aren’t able to get those miles banked into our legs and the thought of running 13.1 miles can start to feel a little scary. If you’re fit enough to run 5 comfortable kms then training to get round the half marathon distance in 7 weeks is still possible. We suggest that you aim to be able run 10 comfortable miles (still able to hold a conversation while running) by race day. We’ve found this 8 week intermediate runners crash plan on the Women’s Running website that might come in handy.
If you’ve not yet got 5 comfortable kms under your belt then start to think about a run/walk strategy for race day. Our suggestion would be to train by running at a comfortable pace and when it starts to become uncomfortable walk for a while. When you feel you get start running again, then go for it, but keep it to a comfortable pace. Do the same on race day. We’d rather you finish with a smile than go hard at the beginning of the race and then not be able to finish. We’ll be waiting for you with an enormous cheer and a medal at the finish line, whether you are walking or running as you cross it!
Most runners drink far too much fluid on race days. Try practicing your hydration strategy in training and find what works for you. The best guide to hydration is to check your urine colour before and after your long run – sounds gross but it works! Try adjusting the amount you drink before (and during) your run to maintain a pale straw colour. Mild dehydration is perfectly natural after running, and won’t effect your performance at all, especially for a half marathon in March. Stopping for a toilet break will seriously slow you down, and is unnecessary. Drinking too much fluid can be dangerous.
Good luck over the coming weeks. We’re love seeing so many of you pounding the streets, parks and country lanes in and around Bath. You make us proud even before race day is upon us!