Hey, Marathon Mission team! I hope you were all able to participate in a turkey trot over Thanksgiving. It typically isn’t the most competitive race (at least not around here) as we have around 7,500 doing a 5K loop . . . by the time the last person crosses the starting line, the front runners are nearing the finish!! : )
But now it’s on to Christmas and if you haven’t been running in tights in your outdoor runs, don’t worry, that kind of weather will soon be here!
Anyway, I’ve decided to provide you all with 12 running tips as my Christmas to you -- learned through my experiences (in other words, mistakes) . . . from rookie to after years of running. Some of these you may already know, but maybe there is one that will really help you turn a corner.
Well, here we go . . . your 12 tips for Christmas:
• When training for a race distance where your goal is “to finish,” you don’t need to run that distance in training . . . especially not the day before the race. : ) If your long run is 5 miles (8K-ish) you can do a 10K. If your long run is 11 miles, you can get to 13.1 in a race. I remember my first 10K, I was so worried I wouldn't make it that I ran 6.2 miles the Thursday night before the race (that was the farthest I had ever run). As you can imagine, my legs were a bit tired for the race. : ) On the flip side, my first half marathon my longest run was 11 miles and it went fine (I just didn’t get caught up with speed, but stay focused on finishing).
• Don’t pin the top of your race number to your shirt and the bottom to your shorts. Although that MIGHT center your number better or give you a more secure place to anchor the bottom of your number, there are two BIG problems with this – 1) if your shirt tends to ride up at all, that means your shorts are also going to ride up . . ; 2) AND TRUST ME . . . , when you’re desperate to use the bathroom and you’re trying to unpin that stupid race number FAST in the middle of a long race OR even after a race, it’s pretty close to impossible . . . we’ll let it go at that! : )
• Okay, for a lot of newbies, the shirt they race in is the race T-shirt they get at packet pick-up. Problem with that . . . ? Well, one of the cardinal rules of running is to never race in clothing that you haven’t run in before. Why? Well, clothes can chafe, they can have an uncomfortable thread knot in them, they can possibly be binding, and you don’t know how they will be once you start sweating.
• Marketing. It’s Christmastime. You understand how advertisers make everything look better than they really are? That goes for anything, including running gear and shoes. If you let an ad sell you or even choose to wear something because another runner does, change tactics. Fit and feel vary from person to person. My understanding is that elite, sponsored runners typically are sponsored by big companies (Nike, Asics, etc.), but their shoes are CUSTOM made (as in, not off-the-rack shoes). So, for shoes, make sure you get fitted properly by someone who knows what they’re doing (running store) and who doesn’t just offer one or two brands of shoes. Clothing – stick with wicking and find a style you like. : )
• If you rely on goos or a certain sports drink for long distance runs, be sure you learn what the half-marathon or marathon you’re training for is providing and try it out on a long training run to make sure it agrees with you. In my first marathon, I didn’t do that. Less than a mile after eating the race’s goo packet of choice (which wasn’t what I trained with), my gut was cramping and I was desperately searching for a porta-potty. Not a good memory. : )
• Tying into the prior tip, make sure you don’t eat anything unusual the night before or day of the race . . . like pickled octopus. Yes, I tried pickled octopus the night before a half-marathon race . . . I was up most of the night, feeling like my feet were on fire, restless, itching . . . , but I ran anyway. Ended up finishing, just finishing . . . I literally couldn’t take another step and had to be driven (golf cart) to the medical area – two bags of IV fluid later, I started feeling better. Yeah, haven’t tried that little trick again since then! : )
• Race your own race – no matter how cute or handsome the runner near you. I’ll never forget the half-marathon I was in where a really attractive woman started to pass me and another runner who had been a few paces ahead of me for about two miles (we were about 5 miles into the race). Well, she went by him and all of a sudden, he picks up his pace to stay with her. I laughed. I knew what he was doing AND that he had just blown his race. Yeah, within two miles he was about 1/3-mile ahead of me . . . only now he was walking. Passed him and never saw him after that . . .
• Hills. One of the best tricks I’ve ever learned about running hills is to focus on bringing your knees up as you go up them. When you run up a hill, you lean forward naturally. If you DON’T bring your knees up, much of your energy is simply wasted driving your foot into the hill . . . not to mention, while you’re focused on bringing your knees up, the hill doesn’t seem near as bad. A friend of mine did the San Francisco Marathon and reported how much that helped him (yes, it was a very hilly race).
• Are you looking to have an edge in a 5K? Well, choose a course that had a lot of turns . . . and here’s the trick. As you go into turns (get inside, close to the curb), dip your shoulder and just pick up your pace a slight bit. The dip of the shoulder gets you into the turn . . . so many runners take the turn as a point to relax, it is actually an easy way to get more out of your brief acceleration than on a straightaway . . . it can make up yards on the runners ahead of you, put runners near you behind you by yards, and it also gives you an emotional boost (can you say “adrenaline”?), which helps you run faster without extra effort. : ) This is a great trick for shorter races that have a lot of turns . . . not so much on long races as adrenaline is limited.
• As I mentioned earlier, you always wear clothes PRIOR to racing in them . . . includes socks, shorts, tights, top, shoes. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t invest in some Body Glide, especially on longer runs/races. It never hurts to apply some Body Glide (or similar non-friction substance) to potentially high friction areas. I can run a half marathon without a friction problem, but when it comes to marathon training, around 16 or so miles, I start getting friction burns . . . I’ll also never forget the joyous feeling I had when I discovered longer runs gave me burns when I got into the shower and the water hit those burns!
• Men . . . if you’re running long, really consider either using band-aids or nip-guards on your chest. There are few rub-rashes more painful than friction burns on your nipples . . . I’ve seen guys finish races with their shirts bloodied from the friction . . . and I’ve read horror stories of guys who got infections from those burns. So save yourself the pain, and buy some band-aids or nip guards and use them (this holds especially true when your shirt gets sweat saturated).
• AND FINALLY, avoid this rookie “first big marathon” mistake. Typically, what do you do when you cross the finish line in a 5K? That’s right, stop your watch because it’s really your only accurate measure of your time until race results are posted. What do you do when you stop your watch? Right again, you look down. At big marathons, they almost always have photos at the finish line and you just may want to have a photo of that life accomplishment . . . it’s a lot nicer photo if you’re looking up/straight ahead so your face is visible, rather than having to frame a picture of the top of your head because you were messing with your watch. : )
Well, I hope one of these Christmas tips has proven to be a gift to you.
Have an awesome run today!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!