The Golden Rule of Racing

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The golden rule is very simple; "never do something in a race you have not practiced in training".

This advice is so simple, it is easy to miss.

  • Train in the shoes you will race in. Don't race in new shoes.
  • Practice drinking like you will in a race. If you are getting paper cups that you are going to drink on the run, practice on a long run. It is tough to drink and run!
  • If you are intending to eat on the race, this requires practice at race pace. Even getting a gel out of a pocket and open at race pace can be difficult. With gels, practice if you are going to take with fluid, swallow fast, or take a bit at a time while mixing with saliva (my approach).
  • For races that are in the dark, practice running with a light
  • If you will be running overnight, practice running overnight.
  • Use your long runs to perfect your pre-race routine. You need to know how you body will react to different types of breakfast or fluids.
  • Include the night before in your long run in your training. What you eat the night before can have a big impact on your run the following morning. The general advice is to eat pasta or similar, but I find that a high fat meal the night before is far better for me. Try different meals in training, not racing.
  • Terrain - train for hilly races on hilly courses. Train for trail runs on trails.

Some things are hard to practice

  • Hanging around before the race starts in the cold. Think about what to wear to keep warm at the start that you can discard.
  • Spring races where it may be warmer than your training. Overdressing to build heat adaptation can help a little.
  • Altitude can be replicated via technology, but it is very expensive. Trying to get to the race location a few days early can help, but is often impractical
  • Tapering is one of the hardest things to practice. Your only choice is to learn from each race.
  • Don't be stupid. Sadly, this is often only apparent in hindsight. Make a note of your mistakes in your pre-race checklist, so hopefully you don't make them twice.