5 steps for a successful fun run

Amy completing Puffing Billy 2014By Paul Clifford with Amy Jaya

Amy and I successfully completed the Puffing Billy Great Train Race fun run last weekend.  Amy scored a PB (personal best) at 1 hour 28 minutes.  Amy is pictured left completing the race.  I came in at 58 minutes, just beating the train (however the train was a bit slow this year).  It’s a tough race and seems to get tougher each year, a sure sign that age is catching up to us.   

We thought it might be useful to provide you with some suggestions on fun run preparation.  Here are 5 steps for a successful fun run.   

1. Water intake

According to ‘Clinical Sports Nutrition’ by Louise Bourke and Vicki Deakin, it is recommended that pre-race fluid intake should include at least 300-600mls of fluid with the pre-event meal with a further 300-450mls in the 15-20 minutes before the event.  Too much fluid before an event can impact performance and may lead to hyponatremia – abnormally low sodium levels in the blood that can cause nausea, vomiting and a loss of consciousness.   As such it is important to get hydration levels right.  Sports drinks prior to exercise can also be a good way to maintain appropriate hydration levels.  I tend to have a little less than recommended prior to a race because I have what’s known colloquially as a weak bladder (too much information?) and lining up for a toilet before a fun run can be very annoying and ruin your pre-race routine.            

2. Warm up

I remember doing quite an extensive warm up before an inter-school 1500 metre race and my teacher looked at me incredulous as to why I’d be running the race distance before the race itself.  However according to Runner’s World shorter races such as 5k and 10k runs require longer warm-ups than a half or full marathon because you need to hit a faster pace right from the start.  A combination of jogging at 75% pace plus doing some 100 metre sprints is recommended.  It is a good idea to get to the run, take care of all the logistics and then do the stretches plus warm up runs right up until race time. 

I’ve been in fun runs where the officials get you to line up at the start but then keep you there for 15 minutes before they fire the gun.  Where possible I try to time my line up as late as possible and if I want to get close to the front to avoid been slowed down by others I try to sneak in from the side of the line up rather than coming from the back.  

3. Stretching

Without question the roller (pictured below) is my body’s best friend these days. I have featured this before in a blog but I thought it would be worthwhile mentioning it again.  As a pre and post race routine this is gold.  I roll my ITBs, groin and hamstrings on it in particular and it works to release tension in the muscles in these areas.  This helps to work my muscles more effectively during my runs, reducing my times. The roller does take some getting used to as it can be painful at the start, so take it carefully. 

rumble roller

The following stretches target muscles that you’ll be using when running.   

 2014-04-27 10.08.56

The above is a glute and piriformis stretch

2014-04-27 10.09.11

Leg swings to help with hip mobility (imagine a pendulum as you swing your leg left to right and back again)

2014-04-27 10.10.32

Supine spine stretch

4. Visualisation  

When I played football I used visualisation quite a lot before games.  I would turn on my Def Leppard albums, close my eyes and imagine myself getting the ball time and time again and finding my teammates with precise passes.  When I went out on the ground it was if I had already written a script that I was destined to follow.  The visualisation amplified my confidence levels. 

Visualisation can also help with running.  The ideal scenario would be one where you know the course and can visualise yourself running the actual track or path that you’ll be taking.  I was able to do this for the Puffing Billy run just gone as I had run the course a number of times before.  I visualised myself running strongly up the tough hills and running at full pace over the last 3kms that is pretty much all downhill.

Visualisation allows you to store, ahead of time, a memory of a stage of your run in your head, such that when you get to that stage in the actual race, you access the memory and then live it out as you remembered it.  You are kind of tricking your brain and body into running exactly how you planned to do at each stage.                  

5. Pacing

This is particularly important for inexperienced runners and those that aren’t used to managing a crowd in a fun run.  It can get quite hectic in a fun run and with many others around you, all doing different paces at different times, it can be easy to latch on to someone near you as a way of ‘keeping up’.  This is a recipe for wearing yourself out too soon.  It is very important that you know your own pace and that you stick to that regardless of what is going on around you.

At the beginning of a fun run you will find many people charging out of the blocks and bolting like it’s a 100 metre race.  The excitement can be infectious.   However, it’s important that you firstly find your way out of the congestion so that you don’t get tripped up, and then having found a clear path ahead, stick to your pre-determined per km time you set for the early stages of the race.  I tend to run the early stages at a time that is slightly faster than my overall average.  You will be tempted to run even faster if you are feeling good.  Resist that urge.  Be disciplined to run at the per km pace you set for those early stages.

The challenge in the middle stages is to run at a pace that allows you to come home strong but not so strong that you finish with fuel in the tank.  Ideally you should eek every bit out of yourself in the race so that you have no regrets.  In a 12-15k run the last 3kms should be where you hit the accelerator.  The trick is to run at a good pace before that so that the last 3kms is your fastest three kms but run like you’re running nearly on empty with a flashing petrol gauge.       

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