Saturday, April 2, 2011
This morning I just completed a 5K (3.1 miles) run for charity. As I rounded the 1.5 mile mark, I thought "Only halfway there....gotta push through it". As tired as I was I knew I had to keep going, if not for my own dignity but also for fear of losing the playful smack talk that I had with a fellow coworker (for the record, I beat his time by over 2 minutes).
Much like there is a way to take a test, there is also a way to run a race. Experts have lots of test-taking strategies such as only spend so much time on one question, cancelling out the wrong answers if it's multiple choice to get to the correct answer and so on. A race has its own strategies which I like to call the three P's- Preparing, Pacing and Priming.
Preparation is key with anything but even moreso with running. I like to get a good, long 20-minute stretch in the night before the race. This consists of 30-second stretches for all of my running muscles- hamstrings, thighs, calves, hips, heels, back and even feet. I use Static stretching, which is when you hold a stretch for a certain length of time (usually 20 seconds).
During this time that I'm stretching I'll put on a TV show and relax whilst watching it or just zone out and visually prepare for the race. Studies have shown that visualization is a key to achieving higher goals in a lot of areas, from sports to work to life in general. I ate a light dinner so as not to have my stomach trying to digest it all the next morning. By the way, carbo-loading doesn't work in the sense that everyone thinks it should. It's OK for marathons and longer events but practically does nil for anything under 30 minutes.
The next morning I'll get up early, do some static stretching and then dome dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is active movements, such as knee bends back and forth and running in place with the knees high in the air. I grab a breakfast bar and some OJ, again keeping it light. At the race I'll run in place a bit, do more knee high running and dynamic stretching.
The Pacing starts at the beginning. As you start your run, go at a consistent pace. Some people will shoot ahead, some will shoot ahead and fall back shortly and others just stay back. After the mile mark, take note of who is around you. Try to pick someone in your group slightly ahead of you, so long as you're not going to collapse from not pacing and try to catch up to them and run 5-10 feet behind them. If you notice them slowing, go around them and pick someone else. The idea is to maintain a consistent pace which you can gauge at each mile mark with your wristwatch.
I go at this pace until the 2.5 mile mark. Once that hits the Priming comes into play. I throw on my best finishing music on my iPod (1-2 songs) and pick up the pace just a little. When I'm about 1/4 mile out from the finish line I go all out. I have a great kick, which is the ability to finish a race. Steve Prefontaine, the great runner who died tragically in his mid-20's, had a great kick. He would be at the head of the race then all of a sudden at the last 1/2 mile or so, he would turn it on and leave everyone in the dust.
At the end, hold yourself up. Don't grab your knees and bend over trying to suck in air- this collapses the lungs. Keep your body upright and breathe in at a consistent pace while sipping water or juice. Walk around for a few minutes to cool down. Usually races have registration buildings/tents that you can go to where they have juice and food. I HIGHLY recommend going here to cool off and get some refreshments to re-charge.
Also while there, make sure you stretch for a good 15 minutes, much like I did the night before. Stretching after a race is even more important than stretching before the race. This is because your muscles are tight from running and if you don't stretch them properly and soon after the race you run the risk of injuring yourself or being sore the rest of the afternoon. Plus it's nice to get some food, recoup, stretch and chat with friends or just to zone out and visualize the race in your head.
While running a 5K is taxing, it is still supposed to be something enjoyable. You might hate running in the first place but running is a great way to keep you in good shape, give you great endurance and keep your weight maintained. This might not seem like much but the reward of finishing and everyone congratulating themselves is definitely worth it in the end.