By Rod Koborsi
There are times in everyone’s running life where you feel the need to jump in a race that you are not quite prepared for. We would all love to be 100% prepared for every race but, as most can attest, life sometimes gets in the way. For some it’s the decision to sign up for next month’s marathon because you feel the need to accomplish something right away. Others might be fighting an injury and after time off want to suddenly jump in a race. And many of you up north may have had to deter training plans because a snow storm. No matter the circumstance, there are a few tips that every runner should keep in mind when feeling the impulse to race.
Don’t play catch up
Never try to fit everything in before a race because you are behind in training. This is the first and most important piece of advice. It is also much easier said than done. For example, let’s say the two main workouts of the week with your training partners is 10 hill repeats on Wednesday and an 18 mile long run over the weekend. The last time you worked out was on a 90 degree day and your longest run since has been 10 miles. I would recommend setting a max limit of 6 hills and a long run of 10-14 miles. Give yourself a range to work with, but also set a maximum level of effort.
One important note that experienced runners may already know is that the effects of doing too much too soon is unfortunately not felt right away. You may find yourself feeling well enough to train fully with the group at first, but how will you feel next week? Will you be able to keep training at the same level?
You still need to rest.
Just because some time was lost in training does not mean your body can take in more work leading up to a race, especially if you will be running a half marathon or longer. Do not attempt to run more during the week leading up to a long race. Get in your recovery run, put your feet up, and enjoy the rest.
Be modest at the starting line.
The Superman costume can wait until later in the race. The best way to run a race when not fully prepared is to set a manageable pace for at least the first half. In most cases, adrenaline and the crowds will push you through a lot faster than you may have planned. Try to be patient and wait until later in the race to decide if you should push the pace.
Post-Race Recovery is Important
Make sure to get in a cool down, grab some fluids and a bite to eat after the race. I repeat, get in a cool down! Walk if you are too sore to run. This is very important in enabling you to come out of the run feeling recovered so you can get back on the horse.
Many runners, including myself, have exceeded expectations when the pressure is low. Don’t get confused between running smart and running scared. Get out there with a plan, let your legs do the work, and enjoy the race.