Runners, Take Your Marks, Set, Race!
For the sake of discussion, assume that your half-marathon race is scheduled for Sunday at 8:00 A.M. By experimenting with concerns during your long training runs, you greatly increase the chances that your half-marathon experience will be a successful one.
First, you need to get lots of rest Saturday night. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep. What you don't want to do is tire out your legs, so make either Friday or Saturday a complete rest day for the legs. If you must train, do something light (not a run). If you train on Saturday, make it a very light workout on the legs or, better yet, do some core work. If your friends want to go dancing, ask them to reschedule for the following week.
What to Eat and Drink
What you drink and eat can make a big difference in your performance on race day. You have to fight the possibility of dehydration, so drink water throughout the day Saturday. Remember, it is possible to drink too much water, so be careful.
Additionally, you can eat a lot, but make sure you eat smart. Eat meals high in carbohydrates for lunch and dinner Saturday, but don't eat the wrong foods. Select the right pre-race meal for you, such as pasta with marinara sauce as opposed to Alfredo sauce.
Avoid foods high in salt, excessive protein, and fat all day Saturday. Also, this may surprise you but go light on salads and vegetables; these can cause a host of digestive problems.
On Sunday morning, drink about 16 ounces of water prior to your race. Additionally, eat a light snack. Figure out what you must eat and how early to do so to avoid digestive problems.
While running, you want to drink lots of fluids. Be sure to stop for water frequently throughout the run. For runs and races longer than 90 minutes, you should strive to drink sports beverages every 2–3 miles or every 25–30 minutes. Drinking on the run requires careful planning of the route (make sure there is water available frequently, along with places to stash sports drinks). Most races have frequent aid stations, and almost all (with the exception of some 5Ks) provide sports drinks.
You may also want to consider using gel carbohydrate replacement products during the run for race distances longer than 10K. Be sure to chase these products down with water to avoid stomach cramps and to enhance absorption. (Please dispose of gel and energy wrappers properly by throwing them away in trash receptacles or placing them in your fanny pack. There's nothing worse than a disrespectful runner.)
Shoes, Apparel, and Accessories
You should remember that, especially for a long run, good equipment is essential. To get through the race comfortably, pay particular attention to your shoes, apparel, and accessories.
When dressing for a run, remember that excess clothing causes overheating of the body. Once you begin running, it will feel as if the outside temperature has risen by 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Also remember that hats trap body heat, making them perfect for a cold-weather race but a bad idea for a race with hot and humid conditions.
For your footwear, make sure that your shoes have low mileage to maximize absorption of shock. Do not wear new shoes or shoes that are not sufficiently broken in for a long run or race. On the other hand, make sure the shoes you wear aren't on their last legs or broken down.
In addition to shoes, comfortable and functional clothing is one of the most important ingredients for runs of all distances, particularly for long runs and races. Wear Coolmax® or synthetic-blend socks, singlets, shorts, and leggings that wick away moisture and won't cause chafing.
Again, don't wear anything for the first time at the race. Wear socks and other apparel that you have worn at least once during training and that have been washed. Also remember to use Skin Lube® or Vaseline® petroleum jelly (on feet, under arms, between thighs, nipples, etc.) to eliminate or reduce chafing and/or blisters, which may bleed during a long race.