Race Weekend is a couple weeks away – are you ready?
The Ottawa Race Weekend is an annual event in the National Capital. It is the biggest multi-distance race event in Canada and the largest marathon in Canada. 50 000 people are expected to participate in this year’s 5k, 10k, half-marathon, and marathon. Thousands more will flood to Elgin street to encourage loved ones and to volunteer for this epic logistical prowess of an event. Race Weekend also acts as a great motivator to get out and run. It makes the people of Ottawa start training early in the year, even when the weather is less than clement. If this is your first race, there are a few things to consider and prepare in the weeks and days coming up to the Ottawa Race Weekend.
Taper your exercising
As Race Weekend approaches, it is important that you decrease the amount you are exercising. For many people, the decreased running can be unsettling and feel counter-intuitive. Avoid replacing your runs with lots of cross-training. The taper is designed to allow your body to recuperate, rebuild, and be fresh and ready for race day. Use the time to see your chiropractor, or get a massage. It’s okay to relax – it will pay off come race day. Adding in extra training at the eleventh hour can cause your fitness level to dip and actually lessen your race-day potential. Enjoy the rest and focus on readying yourself mentally for the race.
Planning is the name of the game on Race Weekend. It is a good idea to experiment in the weeks to months before the race so that you’ll know how your body reacts to certain foods and how long before running you should eat. However, in the last 3 days before the race, the experimenting should end. What is most important is that you eat foods and drink beverages that you are accustomed to consuming before training runs. Race morning is not the time to try anything new. In the days leading to the big race, there are foods to favour and avoid.
- Salty foods or foods with high sodium contents
- Foods with a high fat content
- Foods with a high fiber content
- Nothing new only tried and true
- Calorie and nutrient dense foods
- Foods you digest easily
- Foods with a higher carbohydrate contents, for the days leading to the race.
During a longer race, you may need to refuel. Again, this is not the time to experiment. Stick to the products and brands you know.
On the days leading to Race Weekend, get organized. Firstly, make sure you know where to show up on the day of the race. Plan how you’ll get there, where you’ll park if you chose to drive and allow enough time to get there with the expected increase in traffic. Many roads will be closed on the day of the race.
Secondly, survey the course map and familiarize yourself with it. Know where the water stations and bathrooms will be but also find out if there are significant hills on the course. Know also which corral you are in – this will dictate your starting position in the crowd at the start of the race.
Lastly, Pick up your bib and your race kit ahead of time, you can do so from the Thursday before the race and beat the crowds. Prepare all of your clothes the night before – you don’t want to find out you’re missing your favorite running socks the morning of the race!
Pay attention to your form on Race Weekend. Running by yourself is very different than running in a sea of thousands of runners. It often takes a few kilometers to find a comfortable space in the crowd. You may feel the need to run faster than usual, to try and weave your way through the crowd at the starting line. Start with a slower pace than usual and keep at it. You’ll be glad later that you didn’t burn up the extra fuel at the start. Running faster than usual can also affect your form. Keep in mind these few pointers:
- Relax your shoulders and upper back
- Keep your head high and run with your gaze ahead of you
- Take small, quick steps
- Aim to land on your midfoot
- Run light and avoid pounding
These pointers will prevent stress that causes strain and injury and keeps your running efficient. If you feel like your form is getting sloppy, move to the side and walk at a brisk pace for a minute, recenter yourself, and get back at it.
Along with good form, proper breathing when running will decrease your chance of getting a side stitch. It can contribute to the relaxation of the diaphragm and respiratory muscles. Breathe in two steps and breathe out on the third. That will improve the depth of your breathing and relax your muscles. Practice belly breathing in the weeks prior to the race – it can be very helpful come Race Weekend.
Relax and enjoy yourself!
It’s normal to have race day jitters – use that energy positively. Unless you are a serious competitor at the race, Race Weekend is meant to be a fun event for the participants. No one else really cares how fast you went – only you will know. You’ve worked hard to make it to the race, and the medal at the end is only one of the wonderful rewards for your participation. The pride, confidence, and sense of accomplishment you will feel at the finish line are the best rewards for all of your hard work. Flash a big smile at the camera as you cross the finish line – someone will be there to immortalize this great moment for you!