Piepenburg - from
Road Runner Sports Run Today
Practice Makes Perfect
Its a good idea to do a
trial run a few weeks before your big race on the race course or a simulated
course -- this is particularly important for a marathon.
Do a trial run on the course
if your race is local. If youre gearing up for a marathon, run just the
last 10-12 miles. The purpose of the trial run is to become familiar with the
course. You dont want any surprises on race day! (Like a mile long hill
at the 20-mile mark of a marathon or a hairpin turn you werent
If the race is out-of-town you
have two alternatives. Get a course map indicating elevations. Most races,
marathons in particular, publish course maps on entry forms. Course maps are
also usually published online. Contact the race director if youre having
trouble finding a map. Once you have the map find a course near you thats
similar. If you live in a part of the country thats flat and part of the
course is hilly, youll have to improvise try running the route on
a treadmill. On the other hand, if you have the time (and money!) to travel to
the race destination city a few days early, you can practice on the real
Do Your Trial Run at Your
Except for the last few
hundred yards when you can pick it up, run your trial at the same pace you run
your easy days. Remember, this is a run designed to familiarize yourself with
the course. It isnt a time trial.
Know the Marathon Starting
Begin your run at race time.
If the race starts at 8:00 a.m. and youre planning on getting up at
6:00a.m. on race day, get up at 6:00 the day of your trial run. DO EVERYTHING
ON TRIAL RUN DAY THE SAME AS YOULL DO IT ON RACE DAY. In other words, if
youre planning on eating prior to the race, eat before the run. Drink the
same liquids youll drink on race day. Lay everything out the same way
youll lay things out on race day. If youre one of those people who
likes to take a shower before the race, take a shower trial run morning. Your
objective is to mimic everything on trial run morning youll be doing on
A runner asked this
question during a pre-race clinic at the 1988 Boston Marathon: "Whats the
best way to train for this race?" The answer from an elite athlete on the
panel: "Train at noon on a Monday in the middle of April. Run a course that
drops significantly in elevation for the first 16 mile, has four big hills from
miles 17 through 21, and flattens out again the last four miles." Probably not
practical, but you get the idea.
Going for Time
Many runners like to so a time
trial before their big race. When you do a time trial depends on the distance
youre running. If youre running a marathon or half-marathon,
youll want to do your time trial no later than three weeks out. Run at
approximately half the distance of the goal race at race pace. Six or seven
miles for a half marathon and no longer than 12 if youre running a
marathon. Ideally, you should run a race at race pace three weeks out. (A 10K
for a half marathon or a half-marathon if your goal is under 3:00 for the
Tapering: The Most
Important Part of Your Training
A good taper can make all the
difference in your race performance. Elite runners plan taper weeks into their
schedule as part of their training. (If your goal race is less then the
half-marathon distance, you wont need to taper.)
Dont make the mistake of
thinking if you drop your mileage from a high of 50 to 60 miles to 35 or 40 the
last few weeks before the race youll lose conditioning. Quite the
contrary! Provided youve put in the hard weeks for several months prior
(three to six depending on your fitness level when you started training,) the
last few easy weeks will leave you refreshed, well-rested and ready to race.
Tapering prepares you mentally for racing. Tapering also prepares your muscles
for racing: theyre storing as much glycogen as possible to use on race
Keep in mind that the taper
will feel a bit strange to you, but itll be a "good" strange. Not getting
up before dawn every Saturday or Sunday to do a long run will throw you
off-kilter. Remember: Were creatures of habit. We get used to doing the
same thing at the same time week after week. Even running for two hours! The
first week youll feel something is missing. But by the second week,
youll begin to enjoy the springiness in your step! Make no mistake,
youre going to feel anxious, nervous and jittery. Its normal.
Dont try to assuage the jitters with unnecessary miles! Relish the rest
How long should your taper
be? Mark Conover, winner of the 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials and coach,
suggests that two weeks is an appropriate length for the half-marathon. In the
book "The Runners Book of Training Secrets" by Ken Sparks, Ph.D. and Dave
Kuehls (Rodale Press, Inc., 1996) several elite runners shared their tapering
secrets. Most marathon-trained for three to six months and then tapered for two
to three weeks depending on the number of weeks they built-up to the
important! Plan the taper as part of your training. If youre
scheduling a twelve-week marathon build-up, two to three weeks of twelve is for
your taper. If you didnt plan a taper into your schedule, its still
possible to do one. Youre better off shortening your build-up, doing one
less long run and getting in two weeks of rest.
Marathon Eve: The
What you do the night before
depends to some extent on what distance youre racing. Youll eat
differently prior to a 5K than you will before a marathon. Pre-race meals are
the only variable; otherwise preparations are the same for any length race.
- Try to stay off your feet
as much as possible through the early evening before you go to bed. You want to
have "fresh" legs. If youre going to do an easy run, do it early in the
day. (It doesnt hurt to do an easy jog of two miles or so, even before a
- Drink throughout the day
and into the evening. Drink until your urine is clear. If youre urinating
every hour, youre well hydrated.
- Lay out your clothes. If
you already have it, pin your number on your shirt. Put your socks in your
running shoes. Lay everything out on the floor or an extra bed, starting from
your head down so you wont forget anything: hat or visor, sunglasses,
singlet, gloves, shorts, tights, everything you'll be wearing.
- Gather together other race
sundries: lubricants, gels, powder, whatever youre going to need in the
morning. Put it somewhere youll see it immediately. You dont want
to spend any valuable time race morning searching for a jar of
- Set aside some time to
meditate and visualize the race. Take as long as you need. If youll be at
home, let your family members or anyone else who shares your home know that
youre going to need some "quiet time." If youre staying at a hotel
away from home, dont "hang out" with other runners in the lobby. Go to
your room and rest. Leave the socializing for after the race.
- Set as many alarms as makes
you feel comfortable even though youll probably wake up early. If
youre staying in a hotel, dont rely solely on a wake-up call. Set
your running watch and the radio alarm.
- Dont worry if you
cant sleep well. You should have slept well in the two nights
prior. Pre-race jitters are common. The harder you try to fall asleep, the more
youll stay awake.
The Main Event!
After months of preparation,
youve finally made it to the big day. Here are some tips to
- Drink at least one quart of
water in the last two hours before a marathon or half-marathon. You wont
need as much before a shorter race, but you still must be well-hydrated.
- Dont bother with a
warm-up run. Do a few easy strides and some easy, short stretched. If
youre too warm, youll start out too fast.
- Monitor how your body
feels. Whether youre running a 5K or a marathon, you need to be aware of
what you bodys telling you. Respond accordingly.
- Unless its an
extremely hot day, you shouldnt need water in a 5K or 10K. Any distance
over 10K, even if the day is cool, plan on taking water at every aid
- Be aware of your pace. 5K
through 15K, youll probably want to run an even pace. In the marathon and
half-marathon, youll need to be patient. For the first six to seven miles
of the half, and the first ten miles of a marathon, you should maintain an
effort level that feels like youre out for a fast, long run. You
shouldnt be working or breathing hard.
- From miles 11 to 20 in the
marathon, look for runners up ahead you can pass. At mile 20, shift your focus
to racing and start pushing the pace.
- No matter what distance
youre racing think positive thoughts!!
No matter how your race turned
out, you should do a post-race evaluation. Its important whether you ran
a PR or had a bad day and DNFd. Ask yourself these questions:
- Was I fully prepared,
mentally as well as physically?
- If I lost my focus, did I
lose it long before race day or did it drift away during the race?
- Did I peakt oo soon? Was I
over-trained going into the race?
- Was I excited, but not too
nervous at the start?
- Did I start out too
- Did I feel strong and
in-control throughout the race? If not, when did I start to falter?
- Did I start having
self-doubts about my performance at any time during the race?
Once youre answered
those questions, follow them with these:
- What will I do the same or
differently next race to prepare myself mentally and physically?
- Will I train exactly the
same for the next race?
- Will I do more
visualization and practice more affirmations?
- Will I practice more
- Will I run more mileage or
less? More speed-work or less?
- Will I rest more? Will I do
more cross-training on my non-running days?
- Will I eat differently?
Will I drink more?
Write the answers to the
questions down. You may come up with others. Use the answers to help you train
for your next race. Tape them to a mirror or your refrigerator. Put them in
your running log. Use them to help you get better. Dont be too critical
with yourself; your critique should be positive. You probably did many things
right. Focus on those things and move forward.
Claudia Piepenburg has been
running for 21 years and is the current editor for Peak Running Performance. She holds or
has held state age-group records in Michigan, North Carolina, Florida,
Tennessee and Virginia. In 1990, she was ranked 18th fastest masters woman in
the world and 8th fastest masters woman in the U.S. in 1990 and 1991. She
competed in the 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials, was 20th woman overall in the
1987 Boston Marathon and women's winner of the 1986 Virginia Beach Marathon.
She has been coaching running since 1984. You can reach Claudia at