Course Preview Runs and Race Simulation
Depending on your location, runners may be able to select “B” or “C” races that run along part of their ultimate “A” race. Some places, like Presque Isle in Erie, Pennsylvania, offer a half-marathon on the same route as the full marathon, but they schedule the events months apart.
Shorter races, like a 5K or 10K, might even be designed around an especially difficult segment of the course. These races can be used for more intense training sessions on the specific segment of the route you might see yourself struggling to conquer on race day.
Even simply having the opportunity to wake up early and practice race-day logistics—breakfast, transportation, navigating gear check and start line corrals—can have a huge effect on your stress levels when it really counts.
“Asking yourself to show up, toe the line and see what you’ve got is a big lesson in putting in the work regardless of where your fitness is at,” says Shannon-Verrengia. “The more we show up to toe the line, the more comfortable we become with doing so. In that, the more likely it becomes that we will reach our potential during any given training cycle.”
Using “B” or “C” races to practice the feels of your goal race can help prepare you for the struggles of a distance event well in advance.
Visualization is a proven sports technique, and it often helps athletes actualize success. In an article in The Science of Running, author and coach Steve Magness deconstructs the mental model of fatigue.
“When we race, the pain we feel is an emotional response that is intended to keep us from venturing outside of the safe walls of homeostasis and causing harm to ourselves,” Magness writes. “Whether we speed up or slow down during a race is simply a decision.
“Based on our prior experiences, our expectations, the metabolic feedback that our brain is receiving, and a dash of motivation thrown in, our brain essentially tells us whether we should make the decision to slow down and give in to the fatigue or to try just a little harder to keep going.”
So these smaller training races leading test both your body and your mind to get you ready for your ultimate goal.
“The (training) race pushes me to get comfortable being uncomfortable knowing my ego is going to push me through to the end,” says Beaty. “I’m self-aware enough to know at this point that I’ll probably hold back or quit early without the race surroundings.”
By Timothy Lyman. Timothy is the director of training programs at Fleet Feet Pittsburgh and an ACE certified personal trainer. With over a decade of experience in the field, his education ranges from sports psychology to exercise physiology. He has coached runners at all levels on every surface at any distance, with an emphasis on economy, injury-prevention and functional fitness.