Race Day – Nutrition and Preparation for Endurance Runners

It starts with the nipples. You’ve laid out your racing kit the night before. If you are a male runner this includes some surgical tape for your nipples. Even the most hardened endurance runner sometimes find that his nipples start to bleed, because of the friction created by the movement of the running shirt.

Stick to your regular race day diet, but try to eat 3 to 4 hours prior to the starting gun. Also make sure you drink something before the start. This may be water or your own pre-race mix, but it’s not a bad idea to add an hydration agent.

There are studies to support the physical and physiological benefit of caffeine use by athletes. Stay off coffee 3 days prior to a race to heighten your sensitivity. On race day take 3 to 6 mg of caffeine for every kg of bodyweight prior to the start. There are still some differences in opinion about how long before the race. Opinions range from 30 minutes to as long as 6 hours. Make sure you take some water with the caffeine.

One approach I have considered is to start the day with a cup of coffee, because of the amount of caffeine required, and then take some more caffeine in capsule form closer to the start.

On this topic it is also important to note that energy drinks must be avoided, because of the high amount of concentrated caffeine they can contain.

The final word on coffee; it also improves the working of the the small arteries, which includes slowing the occurrence of inflammation.

Check the weather report to see if it is cold. If so, take some old clothing with, something which you can throw away. Just before the gun goes, toss your clothing over the side fences, or run with it for a short distance to help you warm-up. Never throw your clothes on the ground, you might end someone’s race prematurely.

Be early at the start of the big races. Especially if you are a novice, you are more than likely to find unexpected traffic, no parking and a long line at the toilets.

When the gun goes KEEP CALM. Focus on relaxing your neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Where the hands are concerned; imagine gently holding a chip between your thumb and forefinger. If you find yourself tense up, shake out your hands for about 100 meters to help you relax and recover.

Don’t follow the frenzied masses. Start slow, be disciplined and stick to your race plan. This includes NOT weaving in and out of the crowd of runners, wasting energy in the process. If you execute your plan well you will start passing runners in the latter part of the race.

Always keep going forward. Never go backwards, sideways or spend time at a water point. This can cost you the race – especially in an ultra.

Your race feeding normally starts 45 to 60 minutes into the race. NEVER TRY SOMETHING NEW ON RACE DAY. If you have not experimented with this you will begin by calculating a high end and a low end to yield a range for appropriate hourly carbohydrate intake. The range should be adjusted in time based on individual differences and effort level.

The high end is determined by bodyweight x 1.0 = grams of carbohydrates per hour.

The low end is determined by bodyweight x 0.7 = grams of carbohydrates per hour.

Remember to take some water after feeding. An hydration mix with water somewhere in your race can also be beneficial.

Don’t eat or drink during the final 5% of the race – unless you feel you really need it.

If you are on the road for more than 2 hours, make sure you have a recovery drink within minutes after you finish. It should include protein and carbohydrates … and drink some water.

Last but not least, enjoy it. Don’t make yourself miserable in the pursuit of a personal best time, rejoice in your ability to run.

About Author:

Quintus van Rensburg is an Athletics South Africa Certified Coach, registered with Western Province Athletics. He serves on the Western Province Athletics Statistics Standing Committee and on the Bellville Athletics Management Committee as records official, statistician and coach. He competes in road running in distances ranging from 10 km to 100 km, with a focus on endurance events.

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