The marathon is a long race and requires a level of precision to hit a specific goal time. If you’re running for a specific time, there are to me four key moments that will determine how well you do, whether you meet your goals, and whether you’ll hit the wall or sail on through it. Today, let’s take a look at those four moments and think about why each of these is critical to your race day performance.All running races require a level of pre-planning that goes way back to the beginning of the season when your training schedule was constructed. Having laid out a plan and done the work, race day is the execution of the strategy that was embodied by that plan. Where many marathon runners mess it all up is by changing up their goals or strategy on race day — or to put it another way, by forgetting what they did in training or not following their own plan. That’s why these four moments become so critical: they keep you glued to the plan that you’ve trained to execute.
Moment #1 — Twenty minutes before the race — My first and perhaps most critical moment comes just before the race. Before taking a single step of the race, and before the gun goes off, I like to spend five minutes of quiet reflection thinking through my training and what I have set out to do in this particular race. Twenty minutes is usually just before I hit the start corral, after my warm-up, and before all the singing and fireworks start. It’s also when I take a first energy gel to get the energy pump primed. I spent a few minutes asking myself some key questions and reminding myself of what I set out to do. “How did this training go in comparison to how I thought it might go?”; “How are the conditions today as compared to the way that I envisioned them?”; “I am ready to run XX time and that’s what I plan to do.” This is my final review of how things went and a reminder that grounds me to my actual capability on the day.
In my last national Duathlon competition this Summer I recall giving myself a reminder that I had not come to that race to win, but only to qualify for a spot on the next year’s team. The course wasn’t what I expected and my training had been weak due more than expected travel. Pulling myself out of the pre-race hype right before the race, helped me calm down and have more reasonable expectations. I did this while lying on the grass and talking about my expectation with my partner. She helped me remember what I was trying to do on the day and this stayed with me all through the race.
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