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How to create a race plan

Want to achieve your race goal? Make sure you plan for it


Like most runners, you probably follow some kind of training plan when preparing for a goal race, but when race day arrives, what do you do? Do you simply show up on the start line and hope for the best, or do you go into the race with a plan? Here at Canadian Running, we believe the latter is a better strategy if you’re trying to achieve a goal. Not sure where to start? Follow this guide to ensure you arrive at your goal race with a plan for success.

4 tips to overcome self-doubt before race day

Know your pace ahead of time

In the last couple of weeks before your race, take an honest look at how your training has been going to create a realistic goal. If you’re not sure how to translate your times in workouts to a realistic race goal, ask a more experienced friend or coach.

Many coaches suggest having more than one goal heading into a race: a best-case goal, a realistic goal and a backup goal in case things don’t quite come together on race day. That way, you won’t be constrained by your goal if things are going better than expected, and if they go worse, you still have something to aim for rather than just giving up.

Have a strategy

In most races, ticking off kilometres like a metronome is not realistic. A hilly section of the race will likely be slower, and you may find yourself running a bit ahead of your goal pace at the beginning thanks to nerves and excitement. Knowing how you’re going to tackle different parts of the race ahead of time can stop you from panicking when you don’t hit your splits perfectly.

For example, if you know you tend to start out fast, plan to run the first kilometre a bit ahead of your goal pace and then settle into something more realistic after that. If you know there’s a hill late in the race, plan to adjust your pace to get you to the top without burning you out for the rest of the race. Want to have a strong finish? Plan at what point in the race you’re going to start your finishing kick.

Plan your nutrition

Regardless of what distance you’re running, you should plan what you’re going to eat on race day morning in advance so you have everything you need. Make sure it’s something you’re used to eating before a run or workout, so you know it won’t cause tummy troubles during the race.

If your race is longer, like a half or full marathon, make sure you plan out when, how much and what type of fuel you will be taking in during the race. This should be planned and practiced well in advance of your race so you know what your stomach can tolerate.

Plan your clothing

The night before the race, set out everything you’re going to need on race day morning. This includes the clothes you’re going to be running in, your warmup clothes, your nutrition (if you need it), and anything else you may need. If you got your race bib ahead of time, attach it to your shirt so you don’t accidentally leave it at home. There is no such thing as being over-prepared the morning of your race.

Make a schedule

What to do when things go wrong on race day

Finally, plan out your morning so you get to the start line with as little stress as possible. Write out a schedule, starting with what time you’re going to get up, when you’re going to eat breakfast, when you have to leave your house and when you’re going to start warming up. Remember to give yourself more time than you need, because having extra time is far better than rushing, which will only increase your pre-race anxiety, and consider setting alarms throughout your morning to keep yourself on track.

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