If the half marathon you signed up for has a monster hill at mile three, wouldn't you like to know that ahead of time? Of course. But unless the race is in your hometown on roads you're familiar with, how are you supposed to know what a course has in store for you?
There are ways, especially in this amazing digital age we're living in. And for numerous reasons, it's worth being on top of. Not only does familiarity with the course eliminate surprises that might otherwise wreck your race strategy (like that monster hill), but knowing the course you're running will be immensely helpful toward your mental preparation, as well.
Here's how to head into a race with an intimate knowledge of the course you'll be running.
If the race is in your area, get in the car and drive the route. Most established races will have a course map on their site, which at the very least gives you an idea of what streets you will be running on. Take that map, get in the car and get a first-hand look.
If you're traveling for your race, show up a few days early and motor through it. You'll be amazed how much it puts you at ease going into the event.
Golfers play practice rounds on the course leading up to a big tournament. It can't hurt to do a practice run for the same reason.
While you may be tapering in the days before the race, it's wise to head to a section of the course and get a light run in. The physical benefits are miniscule, but the mental advantages will be noticeable once the race begins.
Technology is amazing. If you know the streets your race will be on, head to Google Maps and use the "Street View" to get a point-of-view look at certain parts of the course. While this won't work if your race is on trails or paths, it's great for road races—especially if you're an out-of-towner who won't have time to personally explore the course in advance.
Contact the Race
Though many races have websites, and put user-friendly course maps on those websites, it's possible that events have even more information about the course than they've publicized. Some races have more detailed maps, or elevation charts, or even flyover videos. Oftentimes, the event staff is more than happy to assist if you reach out. If you're wondering about the big hills or the type of terrain or anything else, send them an email, give them a call or reach out via their Facebook page.
It could lead to a tidbit of information that will have you feeling calm and confident before the starting gun goes off.Search for a race.