Running in a race can be an exhilarating experience—but one that also requires lots of hard work and dedication. While there is no one-size-fits-all training plan that will ensure perfection on race day, having plenty of practice and the right strategies in place will give you a greater chance at success. Here are six tips to help you train for a competitive race event and make sure the big day goes as smoothly as possible regardless of if you’re running a 5K or a full marathon.
Develop a Plan and Stick to It
Most training plans, regardless of distance, include 4-6 weekly runs (3-5 short runs and two long runs) that increase in distance each week. It’s crucial to stick to the distances outlined in your training plan—those “easy” runs at the beginning of the program will create a strong foundation for race day, just as much as those hard, long ones will. Look to the Deseret News to find free, downloadable training programs for 5K, 10K, half, and marathon races.
Go “Long” Every Week—But Not Too Long
Long runs are an essential component of any runner’s training regimen; they help prepare your body and mind for the physical and mental demands of distance racing. However, it’s critical to keep a balance between pushing yourself for the miles and ensuring that you don’t go overboard in order to prevent injury. You want to challenge yourself during these weekly long runs, but it’s crucial to avoid feeling overly sore and burnt out afterward. As you run, remember that taking the appropriate precautions to prevent exhaustion is equally important as hitting your weekly mileage goals.
Train Your Stomach, Too
It’s just as important to train your stomach for the race as it is to train your heart, lungs, and legs! Many runners struggle with stomach cramps mid-race because their stomachs aren’t used to consuming gels as fuel mid-race, especially over longer distances. However, it is possible to train your stomach to handle the stress of race day by incorporating the same gels, or other food sources, into your training runs as you would use on race day. Commonly used gels for fuel include HoneyStingers, Gu, Cliff Shots, etc, and should be consumed regularly mid-run, especially on runs longer than an hour. While consuming these during training may cause initial discomfort for some, consistent practice using a desired mid-run fuel source can lead to fewer stomach cramps and a better race day experience.
Mimic Race-Day Terrain During Training
One key factor to consider is the race-day terrain. Look ahead at the race day map and identify anything significant (steep hills, for example), and use this to tailor your training routine to better prepare for these challenges. For instance, if training for the Deseret News Marathon, you’d want to practice running on a gradual downhill slope while incorporating sporadic “hilly” inclines. By taking these steps and planning ahead, you’ll be ready for any obstacle–hill or otherwise—come race day.
Take Timed Water Breaks
Managing your water intake throughout the race and while training could be the difference between a tired, dehydrated last mile and one that you run at a record pace. To ensure your body is prepared for the big day, it’s important to plan your water breaks during training to coincide with the race route’s water stations. Most marathons have water available every 3-4 miles—look ahead and see when water is spread at your race, and mimic this during training. This way, your body can get used to rehydrating when it needs to on race day and you can bring extra if necessary.
Cross Training is Crucial
There’s more to proper training than simply running! Cross-training is crucial for building strength, preventing injury, and ultimately improving your overall performance. Incorporate weight lifting, yoga, swimming, or other activities into your weekly training routine for the best results and less chance of developing an injury on race day and throughout your training process.
Register to Run The Deseret News Marathon
Ready to run? Register for the 2023 Deseret News Marathon on July 24th, 2023. The Deseret News Marathon is Utah’s oldest and most history-infused road race, as its course traces the route taken by the original pioneers who first settled the region. With distances ranging from 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and full, there’s a race for any runner—no matter your experience level. With 50 years’ worth of history inspiring every step of your race journey, this event promises to be a truly special part of your Pioneer Day festivities—register today!