On Sunday, May 5 over 40,000 runners will take part in the largest 10-mile road race in the United States, the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. For many this race kicks off the running season. For the past several months both professional and amateur runners have been preparing for this day. The elite male runners will cross the line in under 45 minutes. The females will finish around 50 minutes. For many of the runners their only goal on Sunday is to cross the finish line. Whatever your personal goal is for this race it’s important to make sure that in the final week of preparation that you take some steps to help you finish the race strong. During the final week you can’t really improve your fitness however, you can hurt your chances of having a great race if you don’t plan properly. Below are 10 tips that can help you feel great at the finish line so that you can celebrate with your friends and family.
Tip No. 1: Taper
Your hard work is done. You have logged the miles and your body is ready to run fast on Sunday. During the final week of your training it’s important that you reduce your volume of training anywhere from 50-60 percent. However, you want to maintain your intensity of the sessions. During the last week you need to maintain a level of training volume that is low enough to allow for the body to eliminate fatigue and recover , but high enough that the body ‘s fitness during this period stabilizes.
Your goal this week is to think quality over quantity when it comes to running. Set up the week to make sure that you take two days off (I would recommend Wednesday and Friday off) and allow your body to rest.
Tip No. 2: Get to bed early this week
Recovery is critical for runners. If you fail to get adequate sleep this week you may hurt your chances of having a great race. Your body needs a chance to rest and recover from all of the miles that you have logged in preparation for the 10 miler. I understand that it’s natural to have pre-race jitters (that’s a good thing). However, make sure that all week long you do your best to get a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep each night. When we sleep our body repairs the damage that we have done to it so make sure that you make sleep a priority this week.
Tip No. 3: Stick to your plan
Every experienced runner knows that on race day you never try something new. It’s easy to head to the race expo and get caught up in all of the new gadgets and energy drinks. A big mistake that people make is to try something new on race day. Stick to your plan. Eat the same foods you have eaten during your training. Don’t buy new sneakers at the expo and run in them the next day. Have a plan and stick to it.
Tip No. 4: Start slow, finish fast
For many runners this is where they make a mistake. As you stand at the start line you are excited, you have tons of energy and you’re ready to run a PR (personal record). The gun goes off and after 3-4 minutes when the large crowd actually lets you start to run, you feel the need to try and make up time and run faster than normal. Don’t do it, ease into the race and allow your body time to warm-up. It’s always better to start slow and finish fast. Save a little gas in the tank for the final mile and finish strong.
Tip No. 5: Get to the race early
The Blue Cross Broad Street Run has over 40,000 runners signed up for this race. With a race like this you want to make sure that you allow plenty of time to get to the start line. Expect delays waiting for the subway system because the cars fill up quickly! Don’t think you can cut it close and arrive at the start line on time. Give yourself plenty of time to get to North Philadelphia for the start. The last thing your body needs is added stress. Wake up early and have a plan to arrive at the start at least 45 minutes early.
Tip No. 6: Carbo Load
If you ask any experienced runner they will tell you that you need to “carbo” load for a big race in order to have enough fuel to get you to the finish line. I agree that you should increase your carbohydrate intake in the final 2-3 days before the race. However, don’t carbo load all week long or you may feel sluggish by the end of week. Instead what I would recommend is that you reduce the amount of carbohydrates early in the week (i.e. Monday-Wednesday). During this time increase both your protein and fat intake (Example, instead of a plain bagel for breakfast eat a 2 egg omelet with peppers and spinach with an avocado and some strawberries). You can still eat carbohydrates just cut back a little. On Thursday gradually increase the amount of quality carbohydrates that you eat from REAL food. Try and avoid processed food during this time. The majority of your carbohydrates should come from sweet potatoes, fruits, vegetables as well as some grains (i.e. pasta, rice, etc.). During this time do not eliminate proteins and fat. Simply increase the consumption of quality carbohydrates.
Tip No. 7: Have a test run with your clothes
Pick a day during the week and go for a 10-15 minute run in the same clothes that you will wear on race day. Make sure that they fit comfortably. After the run, wash them and pack them away for the race. It’s really important to feel good in the clothes that you will run in so don’t overlook this simple strategy.
Tip #8: Have throw away clothes
If this is your first big race expect to see a lot of clothes on the side of the road as you start. The clothes that you see are “throw away clothes” that the runners have donated to charity. You have no idea what the weather is going to be like on race day so it’s important that you dress warm and have clothes to strip away at the start. I would recommend an old sweatshirt as well as an old pair of sweat pants. About ten minutes before the gun goes off strip down to your race gear and get moving.
Tip No. 9: Bring toilet paper and wipes
At the start of the race people get nervous. When we get nervous we often have to go the bathroom. Do you think there is enough toilet paper for 40,000 people? My guess is no, so why not pack your own and be prepared.
Tip No. 10: Hydrate
As an athlete you know that you need to properly hydrate in order to have your body work both efficiently and at its peak. The mistake that people often make is that they simply drink water to hydrate. Don’t get me wrong, water should always make up the majority of your hydration, however, you need to mix in some other options in order to have the proper balance of electrolytes. My recommendations in addition to water are the following:
- Coconut water
- Adding sea salt to drinks
- Adding sea salt to your diet in the days leading up to the race.
If you have done the necessary work up to this point you are ready to have a great race. If this is your first Blue Cross Broad Street run just go out and have fun. Have a goal in mind but the real goal should be to finish strong. I believe if you implement some of these tips into your current regimen you’ll see an improvement in your overall time. I wish you the best in the race and finish strong!
Have a question for strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller? Leave a question in the comments below.