For those of you who know me understand that I strongly believe in a tune-up race before your goal race. While I am competitive, this is not the sole reason I enjoy racing before my goal event. The real reason I like racing before any goal event, especially a marathon, is to see how my training is going and seeing if I’m on pace for my ultimate running goal (in this scenario, a marathon).
Plan out Your Tune-Up Races
If I am going through a 20-week training cycle for a marathon, I may run a race every 4-5 weeks leading up to the marathon. So I may run a 5k-10K in month-1 of my training, then a 10K-half marathon in month-2, then drop back down to a 5K or 10K in month-3 and then run another half marathon 3-5 weeks out from marathon race day. The reason I do this is to:
- Compare my earlier race times to my ladder race times to see how much improvement I have made.
- Get my body and mind in condition to race. I like being anxious and excited for a race. When the juices are flowing it is good to see how you react.
- See how comfortable I can feel running each of these races. I may not race to run a PR (actually, this is hardly ever the goal of these races), but will race with a certain pace in mind that I feel I should be able to hold due to the conditioning I should have reached in my training.
Don’t Taper Too Early
Another factor to think about is to not taper very much for these dress rehearsal races. While you may mini-taper (take an extra easy day or have a day-off the week of the race) for perhaps the last half marathon, you don’t want to taper for a week or two to get ready for a dress rehearsal race. One of the points of these races is to see how fit you are without changes to your training routine.
It’s Not All About Faster Times
“But Dave, I don’t care how fast I run my marathon, so why should I do a dress rehearsal race?” some of you may ask. Good question. Especially if you’re goal event is a big one where there are a few thousand people running, you may want to get a feel of just how to plan for the big day. If you can find a popular dress rehearsal race where there are at least hundreds, if not thousands, of runners competing that would give you a better understanding of the following:
- How long did it take to park your car?
- Did you need to get bussed to the start or not?
- How were the bathroom facilities?
- What food/drink, if any, was at the starting line?
- Where was the gear check area? Was there even one?
- How was the traffic getting to the event?
- What did you eat before the race?
- Was there a place to warm up?
- Was it easy to find any friends or family who met you there?
If you can only find a local race to run before your big event, it’s still good to get some of that nervous energy out and take in how you may feel come your main race.
In the end, it’s good to practice what you are going to go through come your big day. It’s impossible to get the exact feeling of your big marathon, triathlon or any endurance event, but you’ll have a better handle of your emotions and how to compete if you jump in a race, or two, beforehand – this way the starting-line won’t be so foreboding.