With just days to go before I line up at the start of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon (OMTOM) to run my first half marathon, my subconscious sent me a not-so-subtle message – in the form of a pre-race bad dream – that I need a checklist to ensure things run smoothly on the big day.
In this dream, I was late to the start and when the gun went off, I was running in the wrong direction. I forgot to activate my timing watch when I started running – and I decided to turn back to get my phone which I had forgotten at home
While I’m not someone who spends too much time analysing the hidden meanings of dreams, I do believe that our subconscious can use our dreams to send us messages when our minds – and our bodies – are resting.
And resting is what we should be doing as we spend this week tapering our training in preparation for Saturday.
Of course, none of the things that happened in my dream could, in reality, stop me from actually completing the race. But let’s be honest, it’s often the small things that slip off our priority lists, and knock us psychologically.
With so much going on at the moment, I’m glad my mind is getting creative about reminding me of the things I must not forget to do – in this case, to give myself enough time to get to the start with minimal stress, to charge my watch and make sure the GPS is activated before the gun goes off, and to have my phone with me.
While there’s no way you can anticipate every eventuality, there are some things you can do the night before to ensure that the morning of your race is not too stressful.
Things you can do the night before
Set out your tried and tested race kit. Avoid wearing new socks or underwear and definitely don’t wear new shoes.
Charge your phone and watch the night before.
Don’t forget your cap or visor, and sunblock – particularly if you’re starting late and will be out on the road for a long time.
Set out whatever snacks you plan to take with you.
Pack a bag with a warm top and comfortable shoes or sandals that your supporters can have ready for you at the finish.
Set two alarms, particularly if you’re someone who doesn’t wake up easily or if you are used to hitting the snooze button.
Get to bed early. Even if you don’t fall asleep immediately, it’s good to be able to relax both your body and mind.
Of great importance on race day, will be getting off to a good start and pacing yourself so that you enjoy the race and finish strong.
“No matter what distance you’re running, the first bit of advice is to hold yourself back in the early stages of the road race,” says Kathy Mc Quaide, who heads up the OptiFit programme which runs in association with the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA).
This is the programme I’ve been doing for the past nine weeks to get me race-ready.
“After all your training, you are strong, and probably aching to push yourself. You’ll get your chance, but save it for the end of the race when you’ll need it.
“At the beginning, just concentrate on settling into a pace no faster than what you plan to be the average pace for the race overall.”
Even though the starting times have been staggered, with 16 000 people entered into the half marathon event, the start is going to be pretty crowded. Therefore, says Kathy: “You will probably spend the first few minutes caught in the masses. Don’t fight them. Zigzagging wildly through the throng will wear you out. Try to use a shuffling gait to keep your feet low and avoid tripping in the close conditions.”
Added to this, Associate Professor Andrew Bosch, of UCT’s Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine at SSISA, says: “There is an old rule of thumb that still holds true, and is scientifically correct: For every minute gained in the first half of a distance race by running too fast, double that will be lost in the second half.
“If you are feeling good in the first few kilometres and think you should speed up, hold back. If you are still feeling good at half way, you can think about speeding up when you have done 70% of the distance, and if you are still feeling good at that distance, only then increase your speed.”
And don’t forget there’s a three-day race expo at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) that runs until the Friday night before the race. The expo, which attracts 50 000 visitors and more than 100 exhibitors, was started in 1994, in a marquee on Brookside rugby field, with just 12 exhibitors. Apart from going to the expo to register, you can also stock up on race day essentials and get last minute tips at the Theatre of Advice (TOA).
If you’re keen to hear more about my journey to OMTOM, I’ll be on the TOA stage with three of my OptiFit team mates at 5.30pm on Thursday, or you can follow @editedeating on social media.
Chantel Erfort is the editor of Cape Community Newspapers which publishes this paper and its 14 sister titles.