Neil Featherby: The hard miles may be almost over, but don’t forget these important tips

The right choice of food - before, during and after - is vital. Picture: Archant

The right choice of food - before, during and after - is vital. Picture: Archant - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

Running expert Neil Featherby with some excellent advice for those close to the start line ...

Pouding the course - hard work, but worth it, as long as you follow the guidelines. Picture: Archant

Pouding the course - hard work, but worth it, as long as you follow the guidelines. Picture: Archant - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

As we approach the end of March, for many a runner, it can mean only one thing – they are now very close to the end of many weeks and many miles of hard training in preparation for the month they have all been waiting; April and the start of the big city marathon season.

There's Manchester, Brighton and London, and, nearer to home the Bungay Half and Full Marathon and of course the Larking Gowen City of Norwich Half Marathon.

Therefore, and with all the many miles just about now completed and thoughts turning towards winding the training down, this is a good time to tick a few other boxes to ensure that when you stand on the start line you are ready to complete the challenge which lays ahead.

With this in mind, here are a few tips which might just help some of you, especially those marathon and half marathon first-timers...

Runners at the City of Norwich Half Marathon pound the course. Picture: Archant

Runners at the City of Norwich Half Marathon pound the course. Picture: Archant - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

Before race day do a dress rehearsal run. The weekend before is usually good. Get up at the time you expect to on race day, have a light breakfast and wear your race day gear.

You could even run at the same time of day as your race starts and even add one or two short sections at desired half or full marathon pace so as to get a really good feel for your big day. For the more established athlete, the distance of this run will be dictated by their fitness levels. For the first-timer, the distance should certainly be no more than two thirds of the half marathon distance or 50pc for those doing the full distance.

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Start to wind your training down during the last week for those doing 13.1 miles and 10-14 days beforehand for those doing the full marathon so you are well rested up and ready to make the very best use of all those miles and sessions which you have put in to training for your big day.

Do not worry about what others may or may not have done in training. Providing you have ticked the essential boxes in your training plan, just focus on what you have done and run your race to get the very best out of all your preparations.

If you do feel a little unsure about your ability to run the complete distance, do not try and cram extra-long miles in during the week leading up to race day. Just start the run at a very easy pace and be prepared to stick to a run/walk formula. However, start the walking sections early on and not when you are forced to walk. A ratio of 15-20 minutes jog to one minute walk is good. Please note that if you really do feel you haven't done enough training for the event, then perhaps best not take part and look to focus on making sure you get it right next time.

Eat foods that have a high carbohydrate content, especially during the last three days prior to the race. This will ensure that your glycogen levels are fully topped up so as to maintain your best effort throughout the race. Whole wheat pasta, brown rice, noodles, sweet and regular potatoes, oats and cereals are all good choices. However, do not eat foods which you are not used to and be very careful with any food which is extra high in fibre the day before the race.

Have a check list with everything you may require and tick each item off when packing your race day kit into your bag. There is nothing worse than running around worrying about something you may have left behind or having to pull all the contents out of your neatly packed bag so as to recheck.

Make sure you are hydrated going into the race and drink little and often throughout the run. Approximately 200mls every 20 minutes should suffice (a little more if the temperature is above normal). Water is key, but a good quality electrolyte/energy drink will also help further. If making your own, always keep the concentration/solution to about 7.5% ie 35gms of powder to every 500mls of water. Please note that it is dangerous to over-hydrate. The colour of your urine will dictate, ie clear or straw like is good. Do not experiment with gels on the day. If you have already been using them in training and got on okay with them, then stick to the ones which you know best and do not take any more than you need. For those on their feet more than four hours, consuming small pieces of cereal bar or fruit every hour may also help.

Stick to the pace you know you can maintain: if you go off too quickly, which is so easy to do on race day, you will pay for it later and be forced to slow down. If anything it is better to start just a little too slow so as to find an extra surge during the last few miles. There is nothing better than feeling strong and in full control whilst passing others en route to the finish line. Controlled pace, makes for the perfect race!

When you cross the finish line, it is perfectly natural to feel the high and ecstasy of having achieved a great feat. However, do not leave it too long before getting some warm clothing on, have a drink (a balanced carb/protein recovery drink is good) and try to eat something as soon as you can. Fruit and cereal bars are excellent, or indeed a sandwich which is easily digestible. Peanut butter and jam or honey and banana will help to get those refuelling processes going followed by a good meal when possible containing all the essential nutrients.

If you feel unwell on the day, then please do think seriously about the dangers and effects it could have if you do take part. You may well get round, but feel awful doing so and feel even worse for many days afterwards whilst trying to recover. As disappointing as this may be, it is always better to be sensible when it comes to health. There are plenty of other races ahead and even the big ones soon come round again.

Good luck to all those who are running in the races mentioned in this column and of course to all those taking part in any other events throughout April.

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