Race Preparation tips #17: 4 days to go

Excitement / panic / bewilderment is building – it’s suddenly dawned on you what you have committed to … your first, or next, running event. 4 days / 5 sleeps to go. You’ve done your training … so what’s important now? Here’s my list … more or less in this order.

  • Every night – get to bed early / on time (set an alarm on your phone or watch)
  • Tuesday / Wednesday – trim your toenails.
  • Wednesday / Thursday – check the course and talk to friends and family about where they might stand to cheer you on – and where they expect to meet you afterwards (the ‘G’ is a big place!).  You may also want to check out post-race celebration spots or events!
  • Check train times or book parking (Hint: Hisense Arena do $7.50 prebooked parking).
  • Thursday / Friday – lay out your gear … pre-race, race, post-race. Remember gels, lubrication, bandaids, extra loo paper, cap, watch – and you’ll need a throw-away sweater or garbage bag for a start-line warmth and to keep out the rain. Note: Any clothing discarded at the start line will be collected for charity … so a visit to an op-shop can be a double charity gift!  If you are missing anything, put it on your shopping list!
  • Thursday / Friday – one final slow, short run before race day. Note: Both SLOW and SHORT are essential!
  • Thursday to Saturday – visit the expo and pick up your race goodies and number. Talk to the pacing team, chat to the Spartans, get lots of tips and buy some cool gear. JUST DON’T be fooled into buying something for race day that you have not tried out. Those new socks or shorts – save them for your first run after the big day!
  • Friday-Saturday. Drink water, eat healthy, get rest. Spending Saturday wandering the city would NOT be good for your race day.
  • Sunday … that’s another post!

Race prep tip #17: The last 4 exciting days!!



Race Preparation tips #16: Taper is not a 4-letter word.

Tapering runners are often pictured as out of control monsters, with voracious appetites and a deep emotional need to run further!  It’s all true! The Taper is hardest on our minds – but that’s normal.

The logic of the human body in training is that muscles build and the body gets stronger in the rest times – not when we are out on the track/trail/road. Our normal training programs include natural run/recover/rest cycles. The taper is the longer version of the recover/rest part of this, and is crucial to enabling your body to be at its peak for race day.

To be in top condition for any event, tapering runners need to pay particular attention to the following:

Body stuff – ‘Taper flu’, muscle niggles and gripes are common during taper. This can be a shock for first-timers, but even experienced runners experience physical and mental issues in the lead up to a race. Some of this is your fears messing with your body; some of it is just your body settling. It’s normal. Don’t panic. Trust your training. If you think it might be serious, see your physiotherapist or myotherapist who will often set a good plan for getting you through your event.

Sleep – Get at least 8 hours sleep every night. Your body does amazing recovery stuff while you do nothing! Tip: Set an alarm on your phone or watch 1 hour before bed. Turn off all electronic devices, lock up the house, prep for the next day, write in your journal / read / do a little yoga or meditation or breathing control, etc to prep for sleep.

Nutrition – In recovery, you might naturally crave more / bad food. For the next 10 days, stay the course with your nutrition. You can dive back into the pies, pizza and beer immediately after your event (if that’s your thing). Tip: have healthy snacks on hand at work, in the car and at home.

Stretching and massage – in taper time, use the extra training time to do careful stretching. Spend extra time on the foam roller and spikey ball, especially in those tight places like calves, feet and glutes.  Up to 5 days out is a good time to get a massage too. Your body will love you for it. Tip: Check out Caleb McInnes’ post here.

Focus – Your physical training is done, now is a good time to focus on some mental stuff. Calming your mind/heart is an important part of the Taper, as is visualising the course and your finishing. Tip: Check out Kate Atkinson’s post here

Running – Just because you are tapering, doesn’t mean you are not running. Your long runs should be getting shorter by about 30% at a time, and your speed work should take a similar cut. The normal rule for the first 1/3 of a taper is to cut distance, but not intensity. My taper is 3 weeks. For the last week, you should be only doing one short session at race pace (NO FASTER!) – I’m planning 2x2km on Wednesday (with a warmup and cool down). A short Monday and Thursday or Friday easy run are good too. Just don’t be tempted to dial up the pace when your body is feeling so good. Save it for race day.

9 days out!  Running tip #16: Use the taper to prepare your body and mind to be sharp and ready for race day.



Guest Post: Race Prep tips #15: The efficiency of your feet

Caleb McInnes is a Sports Podiatrist (Co-Director) at Freedom Sports Medicine; Multiple Age Group Australian Champion Duathlete & Triathlete; 4 x Australian representative at World Duathlon / Triathlon Championships and qualified Lvl 1 Triathlon coach.

Your feet are the only things that contact the ground when you run and they are one of the biggest shock absorbers we have, but they are also static support and dynamic spring.

Most runners train almost every other area of their bodies … but when was the last time you whipped off your shoes and trained the 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles of your foot and the 13 muscles below the knee which assist with you foot function?

Running requires efficiency, and being inefficient increases the stress on your body. To reduce the stress on your body there are a few key things to address:

  1. Mobility
  2. Stability
  3. Strength
  4. Technique

Today I am going to touch on a small part of just one component technique.

So many people ‘over-stride’ especially as they fatigue, but over-stride is not really a word I like to use. To address this issue, words and phrases like ‘RUN QUIET and CADENCE’ are cues to consider in order to start becoming efficient.

For the majority of people who run a 10km event you likely take 10,000 + steps in a single run and hence you hit the ground 10,000 + times. This in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing but what if you could reduce the stress on your body each time you hit the ground by just 5-10%. Guess what – you can (!), and that results in a MASSIVE decrease in the amount of impact stress on your body.

Those of you who run with headphones in, try this. Take them out and concentrate on the noise you make – even if for only short periods of time. Try making less noise and think about what you have to do to achieve this.

Our bodies have multiple in-built shock absorbing systems, but so many people can’t or don’t use them well. There is good news though! We can get stronger, more mobile, more stable, improve our technique and become efficient, resulting in less stress on your body, less fatigue, fewer injuries and enhanced performance.

So many more things to consider but start small and see you will see the improvements.

Caleb McInnes (Sports Podiatrist; Director – Freedom Sports Medicine & Feet Alive Workshops)



Race Preparation tips #14: Find your place in the crowd.

Running is an individual sport –  but it isn’t a solo sport. As often as we run alone, we are always a community – on trails, pavements, track, suburbia and wild places.

Community in an individual sport means that we have particular responsibility and massive opportunity.

Opportunity: My first marathon I ran with Dave – an extrovert with a story. He talked, I listened. I learned. If I’d had the energy, I might have wept.  After all my 2 years solo training, it took that event to realise that truth about connectedness and community.

Recently I ran with Stan – an introvert with an addiction. As an introvert, a bloke and sometimes a bit slow to respond verbally, running is great for conversation for me. I don’t need to look anyone in the eye – and they don’t need to see me struggling to think. And silence isn’t awkward … it’s just running.

So running is an opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t normally – addicts, astrophysicists, professors and hairdressers – and to value new stories that we get to join to our stories. One of the best questions to ask the person running along side you is, “So what got you into this running thing?”

Our responsibility is in both care and respect. Mid race it’s ok to ask a stranger how they are doing. Genuinely.  A conversation about cramping can chew up some miles; and it can also help ambulance or medical staff if you are present if your companion collapses.   When you grab water at the aid station, grab 2 cups and pass one on to someone else.

Respect is learned along the way: respect others’ journeys; respect the volunteers; respect the distance; respect the race director. Say thanks to those handing out water at aid stations; on Facebook after the race say thanks to the race director (who carries legal liability for you and thousands of others!); Cheer on the faster runners as they run past you!

That’s what I mean by community. No one else can run for us – but we never run alone. Those who try, only miss out on one of the sweetest parts of our sport – and don’t last very long.

Running tip #14: Find your place in the crowd – there is room for everyone.

Guest Post. Race Prep tip #12: Mental Fitness

Kate Atkinson is an inspiring marathoner, coach, personal trainer and co-owner of 360-wellness. She also manages to pack in a full life as a wife, mum, vegetarian, and a prolific writer across facebook groups on fitness, food and family-fun! You can catch her here.

Below is an edited version of a post I wrote last year in my 360 Running group on Facebook. Hopefully it helps a few of you who are running Melbourne Marathon or Half Marathon!

It’s aimed at RACE WEEK, but mental training is important to practice throughout your whole program. The main aspect I focus on in the last few weeks of training is MENTAL training;

  • Meditation
  • Visualisation
  • Mantras
  • Self-talk
  • Self-belief and confidence

Mental training is part of the program and just as important (if not more important) than other aspects of training.

Meditation: Many runners are active, goal-driven and focused, so calming the mind doesn’t come easily. Meditation isn’t easy. I recommend starting with a few minutes at a time and I often refer people to apps like Buddhify. It has short, guided meditations for different scenarios. You may already practice meditation, but if not you can still benefit from it in the last weeks before an event. Deep belly breathing is a form of meditation and again, even if it hasn’t been part of your program, you can still benefit from introducing it now.

Visualisation: this is a technique I became familiar with when I competed in gymnastics (my coach was a sports psychologist). I soon realised the power of the mind! I visualised my routines (like watching a movie). You can visualise yourself running with correct technique; close your eyes and see yourself with a forward lean, strong hips and core, tall posture. Or you might choose to visualise the time on the clock as you cross the line.

Mantras: Mantras are my favourite aspect of mental preparation because there are so many inspiring phrases. It’s fun to make up your own mantra. Mantras I’ve used include –

  • Light, Fast & Strong
  • You’re stronger than you think and faster than you realise
  • You’ve done this before, You can do it again!
  • I’ve trained through worse than this (weather, pain… whatever your ‘block’ is at the time)
  • This is the final lap
  • I have mental toughness, I can do it
  • Harder, Faster, Stronger
  • You’ve got this!
  • Strong legs

… and many more.

There are other conversations you can have with yourself on race day. You can count, do your times tables, sing songs, go to your ‘happy’ place. You can tell yourself it’s easy or you feel like you’re getting your second wind. You can use cues (like, Toe off my big toe).

Self-talk: Positive self-talk is KEY! I’m a big believe in Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). The more we repeat a habit the deeper our neural pathways become. If you tell yourself you hate running hills, then you’ll hate running hills!! If you tell yourself you hate the heat, then you’ll hate the heat. The more you talk to yourself in a negative way, the more difficult it becomes to change that thinking. Positive self-talk means privately and publicly backing yourself; recognise how far you have come, highlight your strengths, talk about what you like or what went well.

I developed a positive habit of saying I have mental toughness (one of my mantras) and I have said it so much, now it’s true! It doesn’t mean you’re conceited or you must live up to other people’s expectations. It means you’re choosing to focus on the positives.  A key example is in regards to race day goals like your time goal; If you tell yourself you can achieve a certain time, then you have a much better chance of achieving that time.

Meditation, Visualisation, Mantras, Self-talk. These skills combined will help develop Self-belief and Confidence!

On race day, it is important to visit all of the above. Take a few minutes in the morning to meditate or visualise. Be mindful of your self-talk. And choose a powerful mantra!

Another Race Day tip: If you are the type to get nervous, stay off social media! Social media make our lives public and expectations can be overwhelming. Keep it in perspective and stay focused on YOU.

And most importantly when it comes to RACE DAY… ENJOY IT! You have trained for this. You are strong, capable and competent! Now go out and RUN!

Running tip #12: What goes on in your head affects your body. Mental fitness can be trained! Practice and train your mind (as well as your body) to prepare for race day.


Race Preparation tip #11: Ouch!

Sleep, run, stretch, eat, rest … and OUCH! It’s just about race time and something starts hurting … abnormally sore. Do you back off, stop running … or just suck it up and do the next session?  24 days out … a snip over 3 weeks from race day. This weekend could be the longest run some of you do before race day … which means you’ve been training hard.  Your body has taken a pounding and has experienced various versions of ecstacy and agony.  But suddenly your calf/hamstring/glute/foot says “ENOUGH”.

So what do you do? Here’s my recommendation to anyone who asks**. If it hasn’t put you in hospital or left you unable to move for an hour, take 2 Nurophen plus (if you can) and sleep on it. You could even chuck some Comfrey Gel or Fisiocrem on it. Most of these injuries also need ice (NOT HEAT!) for the inflammation. If it is a sharp pain, skip the rest of this paragraph!  If it’s still sore in the morning, gently roll it out and try light running. If you are still limping after 1km, turn around and take the rest of the morning / evening off.

If that doesn’t resolve it you have two options. First, STOP intensive training for a few days … do some pool running, or a gentle short run, or cross training (cycling, swimming, etc).  Second, book in with your sports physiotherapist / sports podiatrist (who is probably a facebook friend anyway!) (PS If you don’t have a sports physio / podiatrist on your team, it’s time to get one!!) DON’T wait a week; DON’T go out and do the next track or interval session; DON’T consult Dr Google!  If you’ve got this far with little injury, it’s likely that you can repair in time for The Event;  Rest and investing in good medical advice are as integral to training as any workout session!

** I’m a runner with experience, not a medical professional. The suggestions here are general and not specific to any particular situation. If in ANY doubt, consult your Physiotherapist or Sports Podiatrist.

Running tip #11: If it hurts … Slow down, stop and consult.

Guest Post: Race Prep tip #10: Don’t go out too hard

Today’s guest blogger is Les Corson – a marathoner and ultramarathoner, with a love for trail running and his running mates.  He posts occasionally at http://pborwall.blogspot.com.au/

So, you’re about to to run your first marathon, and armed with all this advice about how to run it. One piece really stands out, “Don’t go out too hard!”. Easy really. I mean, simple, straight to the point, it’s not ambiguous. Or is it? What does that really mean, and how do I apply it to me?

Quite simply put, there is a pace (and ultimately effort) that you will be able to sustain for the marathon that will enable you to hit your target time. You do have a target time? You don’t? Then how do you know how fast you want to go? (And this can often can be remarkably different to how fast you CAN go!) This post is aimed at those who have a target time; but those that don’t, read on – pacing applies to all of us.

The faster you want to run, the more likely you are going to experience “The Wall”, that moment when energy stores fail, and lactic acid builds up to the point that the body cannot expel it efficiently enough. How do you know the pace you need to avoid this? There are many ways, doing V02 tests, lactic threshold tests on treadmills are one way. But the simplest way is to incorporate race simulation into your training. In other words, find that point of crossover in training before you find it in racing.

These run types are as follows;

  • Tempo runs (i.e. short warm-up, medium distance run (say up to 10k) run at somewhere between 60 and 70% effort, where 100% is completely flat out),
  • Increasing pace. At the end of a long Sunday run, use the last 5k’s to increase your pace to your expected marathon pace. This gives a twofold benefit. Firstly it allows you to run the majority of your run easy (saves the legs), then you get to experience the increased effort required for late in the race. And no matter your skill/speed/experience, late race fatigue will be experienced by most, if not all of us. Running at marathon pace also gives you an insight into what that pace actually feels like.
  • Consistent mileage. Seems strange this one, but the more consistent runs you do, the more you will fatigue, but you will also toughen up those legs. The better chance you have of holding that pace just that little bit longer. (assuming you rest and taper effectively)

And getting back to that expected marathon pace, how do I know what it is? Well, there are many online pace calculators that will help. If you’ve run a race (and I mean really raced it, not just turned up and trotted through) you can plug that time and distance into a calculator and get an expected race distance time. Be warned, the bigger the gap between race run, and target race distance, the greater the degree of inaccuracy. For a marathon, a half marathon time is ideal, 15k not too bad, 10k at the very least. You can use a 5k time, but my experience is that they just don’t stack up. One such calculator is Run Coach. They have a Basic and Advanced calculators.

On race day, follow these simple rules;
The first 15k should feel deliriously easy. And I mean deliriously… You should be able to get to the 15k feeling like you’ve done next to nothing. The 2nd 15k should feel much harder, but still being at a comfortable effort. The last 12 will be hard. That is a simplified breakdown, many factors on the day will affect performance.

Be careful using pacers provided at the event. They are not foolproof, so make your own Plan B in case it all goes pear-shaped with them.

Be prepared to slow down early in the race even more if heat and or humidity are a factor. Windy conditions will also affect your performance.

Above all, keep things simple for your first marathon. Too much information, particularly too much tinkering with your programm will leave you with inconclusive results (dunno what worked, and what didn’t).

Enjoy it and it will be worth it – whatever happens on the day.