To cross the finish line strong on race day requires more than just proper training. It also depends on smart nutrition, mental preparation and a race-day plan that puts you in the best position to succeed.
Here are seven running experts sharing their strategies to help get you ready for race day—and possibly help you achieve a PR.
Race-Day Tip No.1: Add Tempo Runs to Your Training
"Tempo training is among the most important types of training for competitive racing, as it determines how fast you will be able to run the race. To race fast, you must train fast.
"To simulate the first, comfortable half of the race, you won't be able to sustain tempo training levels of intensity for very long (since in a race, discomfort is just around the corner). This is why tempo training occurs in brief intervals followed by short rests. Theoretical comfort levels aside, fatigue in the first half of a race is not so uncommon; it usually means you have not built up an adequate base of tempo ability in your training.
"Another way of thinking about tempo training is this: if your tempo intervals are too short, you are probably going to wind up running them faster than race pace, making them speedwork, not tempo training. If they are too long, you are likely to become uncomfortable trying to complete them at race pace, making them endurance repetitions, not tempo training."
Race-Day Tip No.2: Reduce Volume on Race Week
"Recent studies have found that a reduction in volume, coupled with high-intensity work the week before competition, yields the best results on race day. Tapering allows athletes to go into competition feeling rested, while injecting some speed into this period means you'll be ready when you're called upon to run fast in your event.
"I run sharpening workouts early in the week, running the harder session on Monday, the less taxing one on Wednesday. Racers prepping for a 5K, 10K, or half-marathon should run their final quality workout faster than race pace so that race pace feels more comfortable. For marathoners, the last quality session should be at marathon pace; this will reinforce a sense of pacing and help counter the urge to go out too fast."
Race-Day Tip No.3: Rehearse Your Run
"If at all possible, run one or more of your long training runs on the race course. You'll learn how to get there, where to park (or which rapid-transit station to exit), and what the site is like. Run over the last half-mile of the course at least twice. This is the most important part of the course to know. Many runners will run segments of the course on several different long runs.
"Visualize your line-up position. First-time racers should line up at the back. If you line up too far forward you could slow down faster runners. You want to do this first race slowly and have a good experience. Because you will be taking your walk breaks as you did during training, you will probably need to stay at the side of the road. If there is a sidewalk, you can use this for your walk breaks."