Whether you’re a pro runner, a beginner or somewhere in between, we’re willing to bet that you want to run a personal best at your next race. While nothing can guarantee you a PB, we’ve come up with eight things to do in order to give yourself the best shot at running one. So, whenever you plan to hit the race course next, and whether that’s at an in-person run or in a virtual event, use these tips to improve your chances of running faster than you ever have before.
Nail your nutrition
Don’t go into a race without testing out your nutrition plan. This includes your meals before the race (dinner the night before and breakfast the morning of) and anything you’ll eat while running. You need to eat enough before the race so that you won’t bonk mid-run, but you can’t eat so much that you’ll cramp or get sick on the course.
Similarly, if you plan on eating anything (like gels or bars) or drinking a sport drink during the race, test it out in training. Take your mid-race menu with you on a few long runs so you can figure out what you like and what works well for you. Nailing your nutrition plan will definitely increase your chances of running a PB at your next race.
You should run as fast or faster than your goal pace in training during track or speed sessions. After all, you can’t expect to hit a certain pace if you’ve never run it in training. You don’t have to run all or even most of your workouts at this pace, but when you hit the track for quick repeats, try getting comfortable with running fast. If you don’t, your body won’t know how to react on race day, and it could be tough to beat your PB.
Get used to goal pace
Going off that point, it’s important to get used to your goal pace so you know how it feels. If you have no clue what your goal pace feels like, you’ll spend the whole race checking your watch, and you’ll never be able to find a nice flow. Spending enough time in training figuring out what PB pace feels like will help you forget about your watch on race day and find the zone as you work your way through the course.
Try a test race
If your goal race is a few months out, add a test race or time trial to your schedule so you can see where you’re at with your fitness. You might find that your training is working well, or maybe you’ll realize that you’re not as fit as you’d like to be and that you need to make changes to your workouts. Whatever the case may be, a test run will help you get dialled in before your big race.
Know the course
If you can, drive the race course before you run it. If that’s not a possibility, try to find a map that shows the course’s elevation loss and gain. You don’t want to go into the race blind and be surprised by a massive hill (or multiple big hills). Learn the course and prepare yourself mentally for what’s coming your way.
Don’t get caught up in the start
It’s so easy to run way too fast at the start of a race. While you know exactly how your goal pace feels, your judgment is apt to be a bit flawed at the start of the race when you’re feeling fresh and pumped with adrenaline. If you’re not careful, you’ll look down at your watch and see that you ran your first kilometre 10, 20 or even 30 seconds faster than you had planned.
This is hard to recover from, and although it’s just one kilometre, it can ruin your race. We know the start will be exciting, but calm down and take it easy. Many of the runners in front of you probably let the adrenaline mess with their heads, and you’ll pass a lot of them later.
Train in your race gear
Test your shoes, your shorts, your tights and whatever else you plan to wear when you race. If you don’t, you could set yourself up for a long and uncomfortable race filled with blisters and chafing. Break every piece of equipment in well before race day. You’ll hate yourself if you don’t.
Run a new distance
OK, we lied earlier — there is one way to guarantee yourself a PB: run a distance you’ve never raced before. New to the marathon? That’s great, because even if you bonk and run 20 minutes slower than you wanted to, you’ll be walking away with a shiny new PB. Enjoy it, because you won’t be guaranteed a PB next time.