You’ve been training for months, and finally it’s the last few days before you run a half marathon. You’re excited and maybe a little nervous, and you start wondering if there’s something more you should be doing to make your race a successful one. I’ve been there! As someone who runs half marathons and full marathons, I’ve tried a lot of different approaches and my best advice is to trust the things that have been working for you throughout your training and try not to get too overwhelmed in the days just before the race.
In my experience, it’s best not to change the way you eat and drink right before running a race. If you go out to dinner the Friday before a race, eat a normal, balanced meal as you usually would. Don’t suddenly load up on carbs if that hasn’t been a part of your training routine. Keep hydrating the way that you have been and take advantage of the water stations on the race path, but don’t push yourself to drink more water than you’re used to. Pay attention to the needs of your body when you feel thirsty, have some water. Veering away from your normal nutritional routine may lead to mid-race bathroom breaks.
Race day is not the day to try out new running accessories or clothes. If you buy something new, like a pair of leggings that you want to wear for the race, try them out first-go out for a jog in them or wear them while you’re out running errands and see how they fit and feel. You’ll have enough to think about throughout the race and trust me; you don’t want to have to keep pulling your leggings up the whole time.
One thing that has worked really well for me in the past, especially for half marathons, is working on my core stability one to two days before running. In the last three miles when my legs are fatigued and my body is feeling tired, I find that I get that extra push to reach the finish line from my core. And in terms of strength and feeling good afterwards, I can’t tell you how essential the core work has been to my running. It’s increased my pace and my time, and I recover so much faster. Some examples you could try are taking a Pilates or barre class, or a core-focused class at your gym. You could even do 10 minutes of core work at home-every little bit helps.
Finally, get some rest the day before and the day after. The last four days before a half marathon can feel a little intense, but run the race the same way you trained to run and don’t overthink it. Running is like any sport in that the more you get into it the more aware you become of your body and how it reacts to certain things. Keep developing that awareness but remember that the reason for doing the race is because you want to, so let that goal be the thing that carries you through to the finish line.
Here is an infographic on how to increase your mileage presented by the Rehabilitation Department at Hospital for Special Surgery:
Varsha Parasram Seemangal is a doctor of physical therapy with the Rehabilitation Department at Hospital for Special Surgery. She received her doctorate in physical therapy from Columbia University and her masters in teaching from Pace University. Prior to becoming a physical therapist, Varsha taught high school English and coached high school boys and girls cross-country and track & field through NYC PSAL. She is a lifelong runner and has completed two marathons, several half-marathons, and many 5K races. Her clinical interests include sports-related injuries, specifically in runners and race-walkers, and how they relate to musculoskeletal deficits.