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Page 1 2 Many of you will race your 5Ks hard. Please don't start your first few races too fast or it will make your races stressful mentally and physically. If you run your first few races just a few seconds per mile faster than usual Tempo runs, you'll have a more positive experience. You can race faster over ensuing months. At 20 to 30 miles per week you can consider racing any distance from a one mile fun run to a 5K race. Add half a mile every other week to increase your longest run to 8 miles and you should be able to handle a 10K race. You'll also have more endurance for the 5K!

Your local newspaper's sports section should have a list of up-coming races with contact information to allow you to enter a week or two before the race. You can also search the race data at sites like runnersworld.com. Search by race location and distance to find entry information. active.com also has a search base and allows you to enter online. Most specialist running stores have race flyers and they often have regional magazines covering a radius of several hundred miles.

Once you've entered the race, ensure that you don't over-train in the final days of preparation. Rest is the most important element over the last few days, but it starts about 10 days pre-race. Whereas you've been used to running for 40 minutes on a Thursday, run a mere 30 minutes on the penultimate weeks Thursday. This will leave you fresher than normal on the Saturday before your race weekend.

Then for the final week:

  • Sat - 10 x 200 meters, jog back recovery.
  • Sun - 35 min steady.
  • Mon - 25 mins including 10 mins of gentle fartlek in woods.
  • Tues - Rest.
  • Wed - Long repetitions, but do only 2 x three mins relaxed.
  • Thurs - 20 mins steady prior to the race on Saturday.
  • Fri - Make a point of staying off your feet more than usual.
  • No cross-training this week.

Race Day preparation

The day before the race: check your race clothing; use your most comfortable shorts and singlet; use good shoes, but not brand new shoes. Racing flats or lightweight shoes may interest you in the future, but for now, use the shoes that accompanied you through your repetition and tempo runs. Stay well hydrated today. Sports bag: Take 4 small safety pins for your race number (it goes on the front of your racing shirt). Though there will probably be enough food to feed the 10,000 after the race, pack an energy bar, banana and a 32 ounce sports drink, plus water to be sure you get some. You'll also need sunglasses, cap, sunscreen (even on cloudy days), timing chip if used by this race (attach to shoes), lube, change of clothing and a towel.

Get up 2 to 3 hours before a morning race to snack, shower and stretch gently with your running gear on. Or, 4 hours pre race: last meal...light and easily digested such as cereals, toast and banana. Try a small but early lunch for an early afternoon race. You can eat your usual low fat, modest protein, and high carb lunch before an evening race. Coffee or tea should not be a problem if you're used to them. They can stimulate a bowel movement, yet they will not dehydrate you. Stay with the familiar. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a 400 to 500 calorie meal about 3 hours pre-exercise.

2 hours prerace: Drink some tomato juice for its potassium and sodium, which helps to keep your water content up. Watermelon is a lower sodium source of potassium to keep your heart healthy. Drink enough water to keep your urine pale yellow. One-third strength fruit juices such as apple are a great energy source during the last two hours. You don't have to buy a sports drink. Find the race site early to ease your parking hassle and to stay relaxed. Check in to collect your race number if necessary. Some races allow you to pick-up your race number the night before the race. Pin the number on the front of your race shirt…which should be the lightest one you own. A light color to reflect the sun and a light fabric to allow your sweat out. Despite the number of people who wear them, race T-shirts are rarely the ideal shirt to wear.

The Internet, the entry form and running friends were good sources for route information over the last week. If you still need info, find a course map and check for hills. Drive around the course if you can. Decide how fast to start. Uphill starts require restraint. After the hill, you can stretch out and overtake many people who pooped out (actually, runners use the term, died) going up the hill. Steep downhills early demand as much respect as uphills because you'll fatigue your quads if you run them too fast. Note the finish area and the last half a mile of the race ready for a final surge for the finish.

One hour to go: Getting nervous? Tell yourself you're well trained and rested for this race, and that you'll start at a sensible pace and enjoy it. Breathe deeply, relax... it's time for a drink of water if it's hot: if it's not hot... time for a last drink of water. If it's hot... consider the option of a steady start. It's probably time for the bathroom, which may have a long line. Relax, talk and stretch gently while in line. Special trick: Fast food places and service stations within half a mile of the start. Walk/jog there for the bathroom; stretch and then jog back.

Or, 30 minutes to go: ten minutes of easy pace running to warmup. Find somewhere quiet to do your stretching. 15 minutes prerace: put on your race shirt and lighter training shoes if you have them. You will, as always, double-tie your laces. You should not need to take spare laces. If your laces break it implies that the shoes are too old to offer support or that you tie your shoes too tight, which restricts your foot's inner workings. 10 mins prerace: run a few gentle strides near to the start. Not into the wind or up a slope... conserve your energy. Arrange for someone to look after your sweats or exercise tights (if you needed them in the warmup). Hint: At a temperature of 70 or below, it's prudent to keep on a pair of lightweight sweats to maintain muscle warmth while you stretch and relax. Though they are called sweats, you should not be sweating very much. You will strip those sweats off just a few minutes before the start. Your metabolism is now ready for 5K pace running, able to take in lots of oxygen to fuel your warm, injury resistant muscles. Don't start at mile race pace! Page 1 2