The final mile

Maintenance, rest and relaxation should be your focus less than two weeks from race day

Twelve days to the Delhi Half Marathon, and it’s time for the final part of the GO-YA (Get Off Your Arse) programme.

By now you should have done your longest run as training for this year’s Airtel Delhi Half Marathon on 30 September. This is not the time to build up your mileage. Unlike last-minute preparation for exams, which most of us were experts in, frantic eleventh hour training for marathons just doesn’t work. This kind of training will only backfire—leaving you exhausted for the main event at best, or injured at worst, wasting all the work you have put in so far.

Here are some tips that will come in handy from today.

Route

1. If you haven’t already become familiar with the route, I strongly suggest driving on the route of the race. Even better if you walk through it; just get a feel of the course, and note the landmarks that will help you gauge the distance you will cover. Visualizing your run can help you remain focused and motivated through the race, but keep your visualization realistic, even modest. If you are overambitious about where you think you should be at a certain point of the race, not reaching that target during the race can demotivate you. Remember, the most important thing is to finish the race.

The Weekly Plan

2. Wednesday: Don’t try anything new now. This is critical, since injuries have a habit of somehow occurring just a few days before the race. Instead, focus on strengthening your foundations and keeping yourself limber.

Four-minute running at a pace where you can converse only in three-four words at a time, not full sentences. Rest for 2 minutes to catch your breath. Repeat nine times. Stretch gently but thoroughly every day post workout. Remember to do back stretches, the calf stretch, Iliotibial band (ITB) stretch, piriformis stretch, hamstring stretch and quadratus lumborum stretch.

3. Thursday: Half an hour of easy-paced running. Repeat the old exercises, especially the side-to-side drill, grapevine drill, marching drill, high knee drill, squats, lunges, and push-ups.

A few sets of push-ups and squats. Do the butt-kick jump—keep your feet shoulder-width apart and jump up, bringing your heels towards your butt. Land softly. Repeat 20 times.

4. Friday: Rest day.

5. Saturday: Forty minutes running at the pace at which you think you can comfortably finish the marathon.

6. Sunday: Easy jog for 45-60 minutes. Don’t worry about mileage, just focus on feeling fresh and energized through the run, and stretch well after it. Don’t forget to maintain your hydration routine through all the workouts.

Final Week

7. Monday: Rest day. Rest and recovery are critical components of training to optimize the benefits of the workout. It’s the rest and recovery that allows your body to adapt to the training and grow stronger and faster.

8. Tuesday: Easy-paced, 30-minute run. Drink water in small sips at regular intervals, don’t gulp it all in one go. It’s more efficient to have water mixed with electrolyte or a sports drink. This is what you’ll need during the actual race.

9. Wednesday: Easy-paced, 30-minute run. Don’t feel tempted to do a longer run because you have the stamina, or sprints because you are feeling energized. We are building up to the big day, and you need to conserve that energy.

10. Thursday: Easy-paced running for 40 minutes. Don’t forget your pre- and post-training nutrition. You don’t want your body to get weaker. Make sure you’re getting a high-carb snack like a banana or toast with peanut butter 10-20 minutes before training, and a carb and protein meal like eggs and bread, chicken and rotis, or a protein shake within half an hour of finishing your workout.

11. Friday: Rest day. Listening to the right music can be beneficial for gym exercises or running. It elicits synchronized cardiovascular and respiratory responses. It also helps you calm down.

12. Saturday: Go for a gentle 20- to 30-minute jog today. Again, as throughout the programme, it’s time on feet that’s more important than distance or speed. It’s completely fine if you have to take some walk breaks at regular intervals. Do things that relax you and make you happy and calm. Don’t hold yourself back at lunch and dinner!

Pack for the race today. Nothing in your running kit should be new, especially your T-shirts, socks and shoes. If you are running for a charity and have to wear their T-shirt, try it on top of your regular running shirt. If you’ve already tried on the T-shirt a few times during training runs, then it’s fine to wear it on its own. Go to sleep early, you need as much sleep as you can get.

The big day

13. Wake up with plenty of time before you plan to leave for the race. You don’t want to rush things. Check your packing—racing bib with number, a change of clothes, some money, sunglasses and hat if you use them, water and sports drink or electrolyte for before the run starts, mobile phone, energy gels/bars if you have used them before.

Since the half marathon starts at 6.40am, plan to get to the venue by 6am. You should be aware of roadblocks and diversions, this can mess up things at the last minute. Car-pooling with your running buddies is a great idea. There will be designated parking spots as well for runners. Remember to pick up your car stickers when you pick up your running bib from the Delhi Half Marathon expo.

At the start line

14. You might have to stay in your waiting area for 20-30 minutes, so take a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated. But don’t overdo it; it can be tricky if you have to start looking for the loo.

 Runners tend to go to the front of the pack. Don’t. The people at the front are often those who want to be seen on camera. They may push and shove, and unsettle you—bringing down your energy and breaking your rhythm. Also, the front line often starts the race with a sprint, which might tempt you to run quickly and compromise your race plan.

During the race

15. Stick to your race plan. Don’t let the crowd decide your pace. Most folks who sprint in the beginning last less than 5 minutes. It’s a great feeling to cross most runners 15-20 minutes into the run. A simple but effective plan is to start at an easy pace for the first 5 minutes, which will help your body warm up and get into rhythm, and then hit your regular race pace.

Drink little sips of water at each water station, but don’t gulp down too much. Remember that if you’re drinking water only when you are feeling really thirsty, then it’s too late, your body is already dehydrated and functioning below par.

Pour water regularly over your head as well to keep yourself cool. It can get very hot by the time you have done half the race.

If you have trained with walk breaks, then take your walk breaks at water stations. During your walk break, drink water and recover as much as you can, and then run till the next water station. These extra 2-3 minutes of recovery might save you over 20-30 minutes overall.

If you know that you get cramps at a particular distance, stop and stretch a couple of kilometres before that point. Repeat if there is a need to.

At the finish line

16. Don’t gather at the finish line. Find yourself a place where you can either lie down or have enough space to move. Cool down for 3-5 minutes.

If you are catching up with friends, decide on an easy location to meet beforehand.

Pick up your bag and change into dry clothes. Removing your socks is probably the biggest relief. Keep drinking slowly in sips to replace lost fluids.

You’ve got to treat yourself to a great lunch/brunch with family and friends. Food never tastes as good as it does after you’ve finished an endurance event!

Reward

17. Congratulations, you should be very proud of yourself. Time to celebrate. Promise yourself that you’ll introduce more people to this amazing activity.

Rajat Chauhan is an ultra marathon runner and a doctor specializing in sports and exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine, and founder of Back 2 Fitness. This is the last in a three-part series on training for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon.

Write to Rajat at treadmill@livemint.com

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