Race Prep & Strategy
The following is an outline I created for a series of talks on the very basics of race preparation and strategy given to the NYRR's 'Young Runners' middle-schoolers:
Race Preparation and Strategy
- 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night is always best.
- Two nights before your race it is crucial to get a good night’s sleep for race day. The night before is important as well, but research shows that being well-rested two nights before carries over to race day in case you get a bad night’s sleep the night before.
- Tips for a good night’s sleep:
- An hour before you lay down to sleep turn off any computers, TVs, and electronic devices. Electromagnetic waves emanating from these devices are known to disrupt sleep patterns.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each day - this includes weekends! - creates a sleep pattern that improves sleep. With time your body will naturally want to stick to the pattern.
- If you can, try to keep the temperature of your bedroom cool when going to bed (maybe open a window or turn on a fan or AC). When the room is too warm, sleep is often disrupted.
- Lay down for bed only when you’re ready to sleep! Don’t do other activities in bed like using the computer, talking on the phone, homework, etc.
- Hydration is very important. You should be drinking 8 to 10 cups (8 ounces each) of water a day. Every day.
- Eat healthy every day. You should incorporate whole-grain carbs, lean protein, veggies and fruit ideally at every meal. STAY AWAY FROM JUNK FOOD like soda, chips, and other fried and overly fatty foods. Healthy food is fuel to improve your performance. Unhealthy food hurts performance and makes running harder.
- Two to three hours before your race eat a full regular meal. Choose things that are easily digestible and low in fiber to allow adequate time for digestion. Suggestions: pasta and grilled chicken, turkey, tuna, or egg salad sandwich, oatmeal and banana, PB&J.
- One hour before, if you are still feeling hungry have a banana or a ½ bagel with natural peanut butter.
- If you have eaten and hydrated properly prior to the race, you should be able to complete the race without having to drink water during it. But if you are thirsty and feel that you need water during a race, be sure to drink some. Hydration is key – it’s better to drink during a race then get dehydrated.
III. Day Before & Race Day Preparation
- The day before your race only do minimal light jogging or take a full rest day.
- Ideally it’s best to get to your race site one hour before the beginning of race. This gives you time to get settled, put on your race number, use the bathroom, etc. On the bus, mentally prepare for the challenge of the race. Talk to your coach about the race course and how to approach it. (Is the course Flat? Windy? Hilly? How long is it? Who else will be racing with you?) Visualize yourself running through the course swiftly, feeling strong and steady. If going to a Jamboree, make sure you know your events and when they are, find the track and the clerking area.
- 30 to 45 minutes before the race starts, begin your warm up routine:
- Start with 5 minutes of dynamic stretching - leg swings, arm swings, etc.
- Follow with 3 to 5 minutes of light jogging, plus a couple of strides.
- End with 5 to 10 minutes more of light dynamic stretches, or other optional warm-ups/stretches.
- Leave about 10-15 minutes to get to the race start - find your corral if at a cross-country race, get to the track if at a Jamboree, and so forth.
IV. Race Strategy
- Beginning of race: Pacing is very important in distance events. Don’t get sucked into going out too fast. Let the other runners go, hold back and find your own relaxed and efficient running rhythm.
- Middle of race: If you find yourself running near another competitor that is running near or about your pace, run with them. This is an effective way to maintain a more consistent pace throughout, which can net a faster time. Alternatively, by drafting, or running just behind a runner who’s slightly faster, you can save up to 10% of your energy.
- End of race: When you see that you’re within striking distance of the finish line, now is the time to give it all you have and run as fast as you can. Finish by running through the line and 5 meters beyond. Make sure, however, that you have maintained a steady pace throughout the race. If you finish a race and still have a lot of energy left over, you could have run faster throughout the race.