f or anyone taking on a half marathon, whether they are seasoned pros or first-timers, the final week is just as important as all your training to date.
Think of all the training you have done up until this point as if it was the first 12 miles of a half marathon. You are nearly there, you have the finish line in sight, but there are some things you can do to make sure you don't stumble at the final mile.
You have, more than likely, been training for some time by now. I devised a 12-week training plan ahead of the Rock 'n' Roll Dublin Half Marathon, which sets out what distance participants should be running, starting out at two miles and working up to a 12-mile run and incorporating rest days.
By now, with just a few days to go, you have cut back on your mileage. This is known as tapering, and it is a crucial part of your prep for any race.
By cutting back, you are allowing your body to rest, your muscles will store carbohydrates and you reduce any risk of injury.
At this stage, you should take on a three-mile run today and a final one-mile run on Saturday. You might be tempted and feel that you are able to take on longer runs, but don't do it. Remember, less is more, and taking it easy now will help you go the extra mile on race day.
The most important thing to remember throughout the day of the half marathon is to make sure you stay hydrated. Sip on water from when you wake up until about 30 minutes before the start time. There will be plenty of hydration stations along the course, with Deep River Rock and Powerade to keep you going. Also, at around the halfway mark, you will be able to grab a PowerGel from the hydration station. Eating the right foods is key to a successful run.
Protein helps rebuild the muscles that have been stressed during your runs and should make up a large portion of your diet over the next few days. Protein can be found in lean cuts of beef, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and in plants such as nuts or beans. Carbohydrates should mainly be consumed the day before your half marathon. Complex carbs give you the energy to get through the workout and allow for a successful recovery afterwards.
For example, eating brown pastas and nuts the day before will give your body long-lasting energy the next day without that full feeling. But make sure that you don't eat a big meal late in the evening or it could leave you feeling uncomfortable during the race.
On the day of the half marathon, you should have a small breakfast at least two hours before the start time. Aim to eat something that's easily digestible, low in fibre and made up mostly of carbohydrates. Wholemeal toast with peanut butter is my favourite. But you should stick to what you have been eating before your weekend long runs. If it has been working for you up until now, don't change it on race day. Just before the race you can take advantage of the PowerBar you will receive in your race pack.
On race day morning, you should aim to arrive at the start point about an hour before your start time. This will give you time to drop off your bags, warm up and get into your corral. The Rock 'n' Roll Dublin Half Marathon starts at 8.30am, so it will mean an early start as you will need to eat your breakfast by 6.30am.
Make sure you allow enough time to travel to the starting point. There is limited parking in the area, so where possible use public transport. The Luas Red Line runs close to the start line, with The Point and Spencer Dock being the closest stations.
Once you are at the starting point you can leave your belongings in the gear-check area. As it is a point to point race starting at North Wall Quay and finishing in the Phoenix Park, all gear-check bags will be transported to the finish line for you.
As you know from your training, warming up is vital. It can be hard to warm up properly when you are in a crowded area. I find that walking a mile or two before any race helps me to loosen up my muscles. If you can walk to the start line, do so. If not, try to keep moving as much as possible at the start area.
You should also incorporate some dynamic stretches. These are motion-based stretches. I like to do leg swings, where I swing my leg back and forth, increasing the range of motion each time, and walking lunges.
Start easy If this is your first race, you might be tempted to give it your all from the very beginning. This may hinder you later on in the race, so start slowly and gradually increase your pace. Do not let the fact that you are well rested fool you into running too fast at the start.
While these tips will help you get through a half marathon, it is your own hard work and determination that will get you to the finish line. Completing a half marathon is a great achievement, so make sure you take it all in and enjoy the day.
For everyone taking to the streets of Dublin this Bank Holiday Monday, don't forget to enjoy yourself. Running a half marathon is a great achievement.
Online registration is now closed, but you can still register at the Health & Fitness Expo in the RDS this Saturday and Sunday. The expo is open from 11am to 5pm and admittance is free.
See www.rocknrolldublin.com for more information