Ace your race
You’ve done the hard training but getting your race-day pacing and nutrition strategy right is the key to your best-ever race. Follow these tips from elite runner and coach Shaun Dixon.
Whatever race distance you’ve signed up for, if it’s your first time then all you need to focus on is getting to the finish line and enjoying the experience. Besides, by finishing the race you’re guaranteed to get a new personal best!
That said, most people start a race with a target time in mind, and it’s great to give yourself a goal to try and hit. For first-time races, your best bet to get the best time possible is to try and run at a consistently and even pace throughout.
Starting too fast - which is very tempting when you’re feeling great, excited and nervous thanks to the adrenaline buzz - will make the second half of the race much harder because you’ve burned up too much energy early on. Starting too slow means you’ll have to work very hard in the latter stages of the race to make up the time.
Therefore, consistent and comfortable is the way to go. You not only want to get a good time, you should also be aiming to enjoy as much of the race as possible.
Knowing what you want and need to eat ahead of your race isn’t something you finalise on race-day morning! You need to find out which breakfast foods work for you, so always stick to foods you can stomach and don’t try something new or different just because it’s race day. The last thing you want to worry about is an upset stomach. Stick to your normal morning routine as much as possible, and do what you always do before a training run. It’s important to try and treat your race just like any other run to stay relaxed and calm.
For a 10K race you don’t need to take on extra calories during your race, so don’t worry about energy gels, drinks or bars. You focus instead should be on hydration, especially if the weather is hot, so start the race well hydrated and then top up your water levels along the route at the designated hydration stations.
And sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you don’t need to shovel carbs down your neck in the evenings leading up to your race. Your body can only process and store so much glycogen so instead focus on eating healthily with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. You can slightly increase the proportion of carbs in your diet overall during this final week but you really don’t need to overdo it.