Millions of people across the world run. All of them competed in a road race for the first time at some point. Maybe you are preparing to run a 5K, 10K or even a marathon.
Are there steps you can take to make the experience enjoyable? Are there ways to decrease the chances of getting hurt or sick leading up to the race, or even during the race itself? Here are some ideas.
Cut back on training the week of the road race.
The days leading up to the road race are not the time to add more miles or make up for missed training runs. If anything, you should cut back your mileage the week of the race to allow your body to be rested for the big day.
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Get plenty of sleep.
Sleep is crucial to performing your best. Many runners say excitement or nervousness make it difficult to sleep the night before the race. One night of little sleep probably won’t have a huge impact on your performance, but do what you can to sleep well throughout the week leading up to race day.
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Don’t change your diet.
Stick with foods you know leading up to the race. If you don’t normally eat meals full of pasta or vegetables, skip those foods the night before the race. Also don’t eat a huge meal the night before the race. They could cause gastrointestinal distress, like stomach pain or diarrhea.
Don’t buy or wear new running shoes.
Change your running shoes frequently throughout the year to avoid injuries from running on worn out shoes. Don’t experiment, though, with new ones or different types of shoes right before the road race.
Inspect and change running shoes regularly
Test your race clothing before the race.
If you plan to wear new clothing or gear, wear them during a training run. Make sure they are comfortable and that they don’t cause itching or chafing.
Experiment with morning runs.
Many people prefer to run in the afternoon or night. Still it can be a good idea to try a few morning runs leading up to race day to get your body used to it. Use those runs to test out your morning meal to make sure it sits well and aids your run.
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Consider eating about two hours before the race.
On the morning of the race, try to eat something that your body can easily digest to minimize any stomach issues. Make sure to hydrate as well. Be careful not to eat or drink too much.
Be careful not to overdress.
It might be chilly the morning of the race, especially in the spring or fall. Your body will warm up quickly once the race starts. Consider wearing extra layers before the race that keep you warm while standing at the starting line. Then take them off or discard them before the race starts.
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Don’t use the first two or three miles to get your muscles warmed up. Instead, jog slowly for 5 or 10 minutes. Add a short period at a quicker pace, and add a few short bursts at faster speeds.
Pace yourself early.
Once the race starts, adrenaline will push you to run fast. You might not have enough energy for the second half of the race. Go slower than you feel like you should. If you are running with a partner, don’t try to keep up if his or her pace is faster than yours.
Don’t increase your training too quickly
Pay attention to your surroundings at the start of the race.
All races can be crowded at the starting line, and it often doesn’t thin out for a first mile or two. Watch the people around you closely so you don’t trip and fall if someone stops or steps in front of you.
Tips for decreasing inflammation
Relax the rest of the weekend.
If this is your first race, you will be pretty sore for the next few days. Don’t work very hard the rest of the day or even the next day. If you do feel like working out, make it a light exercise session that doesn’t involve running.
A modified version of this article appears as my sports medicine column in the March 28, 2016 issue of The Post and Courier.