Often dress rehearsals and scrimmages are nerve-wracking, but then the big show or game seems to come naturally. At first glance, it doesn’t make sense but think about it for a few minutes and you’ll realize that it is because of those practice runs that the main event was so smooth. Dress rehearsals and scrimmages share a lot of themes: participants are nervous, others are scrutinizing their every move, the clothing is new and not worn in yet, there are stops and starts, mistakes are corrected. The kinks are worked out, problems are corrected so that when the real thing comes the players know what to do. Something else happens too, players realize that small mistakes won’t ruin their day and they learn how to adapt and move on. Game day and show time come naturally because the players’ bodies and minds have been through it all before, when it didn’t mean as much to them. Running is really no different. We call our practices, training runs, but because our sport is so physiologically driven we can’t simply go out and run a half or quarter marathon three days in a row and then go do the race! We’d be completely wiped out. That doesn’t mean however that runners can’t benefit from a practice race or a “lead up race” as many call them. We can learn invaluable information about ourselves, our fitness, dealing with crowds, and so much more by putting ourselves in the race conditions. It also helps to calm our nerves come race day because we have been there before! Scioto Miles training series was developed precisely for this reason; to give athletes a chance to run a race in the spring before the “big” races hit. There are 5, 10, and 15k distances so everyone should be able to find a happy distance to race.
Lead up Race Goals
Lead up races are meant to be practice runs. They are not the main event and should be approached as such. You are there to get something out of it and what that is exactly only you can determine. Many times just the simple practice of running with hundreds or thousands of others can be challenging and it is nice to have done it in a practice race so you don’t panic come race day. Race strategy can be practiced too, for example if you want to run negative splits (i.e. running the first half slower than the second half of a race) now is the time to practice that. Running specifics like your race outfit, shoes, pre-race meal, in-race nutrition, whether you want to run with a pace group are all important and you can try something new out in a lead up race. If it works, great, you’ve got your plan for race day. If not, you still have time to adjust. Even practical logistics such as how early you want to be before the gun goes off, where to park, how much to cool down, etc are important to work out now. If you are trying to determine what pace you should be running the half or quarter, you can even figure that out in a lead up race (if you need help you can ask me).
Distance and Pace for a Lead Up Race
This question always comes up and can be controversial. My answer goes back to your “why” for doing this lead up race. If it is a practice of the logistics of race day and only that, then you can run a 15k 3-6 weeks,out for a half marathon and a 5 to 10k for a quarter but DO NOT RUN IT FAST. This, not coincidentally, matches up with this weekend’s Scioto Miles. You are still in training and if your goal is to practice your race day logistics, then you want to run the same pace you are doing your long runs. Running a lead up race that is too long or too fast can actually hurt you on race day because you have fatigued yourself. Once you figure out your goal for the race, be disciplined and don’t get sucked into racing your buddy. You don’t know what her “why” is for the day!
First Timers and Anyone Who Simply Wants a Practice Run
My suggestion for first timers at the quarter is to run the 10k but run it at or slower than your normal training pace. 6 miles is the distance on your schedule this week anyway. You are only trying to practice things like drinking on the run and which shoes work, you are not trying to run your race in your lead up! For first time half marathoners, same applies but for the 15k. Run the 15k, instead of the 10 miles I have on your schedule (believe me it is close enough, but if you want you can do the extra .7miles as a cool down jog!).
If you are NOT running the half or quarter for the first time, then you can run the Scioto Miles race as a pace predictor. For half marathoners, you will want to run the 15k. Go through this race day as you will on Cap City, same food, clothes, and preparation in the morning. You can approach the race itself in a couple different ways. For best pace prediction, you’ll want to give it a hard effort. You don’t want to be struggling to cross the finish line, but you want to feel like you would not have wanted to run much more at that pace. If that’s the case, you can best predict your half marathon pace for Cap City. For quarter marathoners, run the 5k at a hard effort. Same applies for you, don’t be passing out at the finish line but feel like running another mile would have been tough at that pace. There are numerous pace predictor tools out there if you google “pace calculator.” I have one that is a combination of several, so if you want help with this feel free to email me your times and we can figure it out together.
Another approach is to take the first couple miles easy as a warm up and then start to hit your planned race pace for Cap City. If you are doing this, your goal isn’t to run your fastest ever 5, 10, or 15k time, but to consistently hit your quarter or half marathon pace. If you take this approach quarter marathoners can run the 10k, but run the first 2-3 easy then try to hit your goal pace for the remainder. For halfers, run the first 3-4 easy then hit your goal pace for the remainder. You’ll get a good feel for the pace and how comfortable you are holding it.
The most important part of a lead up race is to make sure you are fully recovered from it AFTER the race. If you simply ran it at training pace you can probably continue on with your normal schedule, but be aware of your body. If you feel especially tired, take an extra day off. If you ran it at a hard effort, then you’ll want to take the next day off completely or do some very light non-running based active recovery. Take the next several days very light. Don’t do speed work the following week, remember you just did speed work in race form! You want to benefit from the lead up race, not tire yourself out before Cap City! Note that if you are following my schedules on the Cap City website, you will probably need to switch your Saturday and Sunday this week so that the long day falls on race day (Sunday).
The MIT pace team will be out pacing this weekend and since it is a loop course you can come hang out with the pacers no matter which distance you are running. If you are considering running with a pace group for Cap City, try it out this weekend. A note about pacers. We are human. We sometimes run too fast or too slow. Our goal is ALWAYS to get you to the finish line at the time we have on our signs, but just remember the human element. We try very hard to hit the paces as advertised, but it is wise to have your own plan. I personally have run races with outstanding pacers and also some where the first 3 miles of a marathon were a full minute/mile faster than advertised which did NOT work with my race plan. When in doubt ask your pacers and also have your own plan in the back of your mind! The MIT group is awesome and is the same group that will be there on May 4 (though probably not the exact same faces). If you want to run a 9:39 pace this weekend then come join me! I’m pacing the 1:30 15k group and would love to talk with you all and run with you!
Happy Training and as always, email me at CoachAimee@m3ssports.com with any questions