As a freelance magazine writer, including being a contributing editor for Runner’s World like Dimity, I make my living doling out fitness and running advice. Yet based on my performance at the recent Philly half-marathon—a comfortable 1:57 finish--I’m thinking maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Here are five nuggets of advice I’ve written for the masses…then flouted in Philly.
Get a good night’s sleep. Especially two nights before the race. In 2004 I wrote an article about the critical role sleep plays in running performance, citing a study that found it’s especially important to snooze well two night’s before a race. Well, the joke was on me: After a lively dinner with two of my best friends—during which I consumed nearly a bottle of white wine—I had an epically bad night’s sleep, complete with a vivid, horrifying nightmare. Every time I awoke during the night—I lost count after about the 34th time—it felt as if a baby bear was hibernating in my mouth. Turns out it was only my puffy, furry tongue.
Take an easy jog the day before a race to shake out your legs. All the training plans I’ve ever followed—or espoused in articles—include a 2- or 3-mile trot the day before a race. When BFF-Courtenay and I dropped into our (spinning) bed on Friday night, we had the alarm set for 8 a.m. so we could run together. Ah, the best laid plans…we got up at 8:00, but were back in bed by 8:15, after I’d hurled and Court had swallowed a handful of Advils for her splitting headache. Instead of running, we spent our one free hour sleeping off our raging hangovers.
Hydrate well in the week leading up to a race, particularly the day before. Okay, so I started off Saturday with the Sahara in my mouth…and I barely made a dent in that desert for most of the day. There was no water to be found at the expo (tsk-tsk), so all I had was a 24-ounce Nalgene bottle that I’d spiked with a nuun tablet. No shocker, then, when I didn’t pee from 9:30 in the a.m. until 4:35 p.m. I tried my best to make up my drink-deficit that evening.
Don’t skimp on calories, especially carbohydrate ones, in the days before a race. I was go-go-GO the two days before the half-marathon, and something had to give. It ended up being food during the day. On Friday, the only food I ate until dinner was a Greek yogurt. On Saturday, my daylight consumption was a hard-boiled egg and some grapes.
Familiarize yourself with the course. Other than knowing we ran near the Liberty Bell, I had no clue about the half-marathon route. I’d heard talk of a hill at mile 9, but I didn’t know if it was steep, long, or both.
Like all magazine articles, a blog post should have a take-away message. I’m not sure what mine is for this one…other than perhaps do as I write, not as I do.