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First Half Marathon Race Week Suggestions

Published on January 30, 2024

The final ten days of your running program is mostly tapering from the past three months of hard training. You can improve and maintain your fitness with race pace and speed workouts provided they are not too strenuous. Here is a list of last minute suggestions that can improve your race time.


1) Final Fitness Opportunity

Within the range of 10 days to 6 days before your race you have a final opportunity to boost your fitness. You can run faster pace intervals at your 10km pace to improve your VO2. A reverse ladder interval workout is excellent to improve speed. Try 6min, 5min, 4 min, 3 min, 2 min, 1 min at your 10km race pace with a 2 minute walk/jog recovery between each repeat. 

Also there you could try to run longer repeats of 10 minutes at your half marathon pace for event specific training and improved aerobic fitness. Try 3 x 10minutes at Half Marathon pace with 4 minutes easy jog recovery.


2) Reduce Level of Intensity and Distance.

During the final 5 days you can’t whip yourself into shape with a hard workout because you won’t have enough time to recover before the race. Run at a moderate effort level in your workouts including any final speed workout. Hard work + recovery = improved performance. No recovery = high fatigue = reduced performance. if you run speed work in the final week, then run it at an easy effort; 90% of usual pace. Your longest run should be 10km or less. Run an easy 5km to 8km during the final two days before the race.

3) Reduce Cross Training.

There is little benefit to cross training (spin, cycling, swimming, weights etc.) the final 5 days before the race; unless you are injured and it’s the only way to maintain fitness. If you do cross train keep the workouts under 30 minutes. At this point you should want to maintain your aerobic fitness and allow fatigue to diminish.

4) Other Sports.

Totally avoid other sports the week leading up to a marathon. There is no need to risk an impact injury or a twisted ankle.


5) Fueling to Run Faster.

For high performance you need to fuel up for the race two days in advance. If you are racing the half marathon, eat double your regular daily calories for two or three days before the race to store excess energy in your muscle tissue. If you don’t like to overeat, drink 600 to 1000 calories of a complex carbohydrate such as Maurten 320 to top up your stored fuel levels. Don’t gorge yourself the night before the race to avoid bloating on race morning, and pit stops. Lower fiber high carbohydrate foods such as white rice or pasta work well.

6) Shoes and Gear Race Ready.

Prepare your running gear well in advance to avoid scrambling the day of the race. Keep them in a sports bag or separate place in your home. Have your running clothes, shoes, gels, drinks, special foods, Xact nutrition bars, etc. ready a few days before to help you stay relaxed on race day.

Racing shoes – There is time to improve your race time; consider carbon plated racing shoes and run in them during final workouts to break them in. The New Balance RC Elite V4 (available now) is a step up from version 3. They are lightweight, with plenty of cushioning to soften the road and a carbon plate to help you race faster.”

7) Hydration is Essential.

You will race better if you are well hydrated. Stay hydrated by drinking sports loading beverages designed for pre-event fueling on race morning. I have found sports drinks such as Maurten 320 and Nuun electrolytes work well. Also, I drink them in combination with a protein drink to maintain a carb/protein balance.


8) Race Day Food and Hydration.

a. Breakfast – Have a light breakfast to top up your fuel levels. Eat what you are used to eating and avoid high fiber or heavy foods. I usually eat gluten free toast and a sports nutrition bar with coffee.

b. Water – I try to reduce the chance of a pit stop during the race by not drinking water until 15 minutes before the race. At that time I will drink up to a half liter of water. During the race I take water at each water stop even if it is a small amount. I don’t stop at the water stop but keep running or walking while drinking.

c. Carbs, Gels, Bars, or Chews – 1 hour before the race 400 to 1000 calories of Carbo-Pro depending on how much you can absorb. 10 to 15 minutes before the race starts I have half a bottle of water. During the half marathon have up to 2 Gels or equivalent of Bars or Chews. The best time to have them is as you approach a water stop so that you can wash them down with water. I usually have them at 10km, and 15km. 

If you are nauseous you may have taken too many gels which are concentrated in your stomach, and you can clear it by only taking water from that point onward. As the different forms of sugar mixed with water are absorbed in your stomach you will feel better.

d. Salt Tablets – If you have experienced muscle cramps during long training runs you should carry salt tablets during the event if you need them.

9) Plan your Route in Advance.

During the race cut the tangents as much as possible within the boundaries of the course. Courses are measured going the shortest way possible. If you run a half marathon in the center of the road you may be running an extra 200m.

10) Stay within your Planned Pace.

You’ve been training to race at a specific pace. Keep your pace relatively close to it, with a plus or minus 10 seconds per km. If you start to fast you could hit the wall much later in the race. If you start out far too slow; you can’t make up the time.

11) Focus on your Running Technique.

Continue to focus on your running technique. Think about relaxing arms and shoulders. Maintain quick and light foot placement with high cadence. You will find this works particularly well with carbon plated running shoes. If you focus on your running technique the faster you will go as the shoes are designed for mid-foot running.

The final week is about recovery, eating, preparing, smart racing, and pacing. Good luck, stay positive, stay focused and you will have a great race.


Carey Nelson
Co-Owner - Forerunners Main Street & Clinic Director (2007)


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