Your training for your marathon is going well. You’re religiously following your plan, you eat nutritional meals throughout the day while keeping yourself hydrated and you even bought those Asics with the cool “gel thingy”; you are ready to go! Or are you…
Training for the marathon is only half the battle. There are a lot of influences race day brings that creates anxiety, nervousness and put pressure on you. Tune up races provide an experience that you just can’t get out of your regular training. A tune up race is used to create the same environment as race day to challenge you mentally as well as physically.
photo credit: miguel77
Pre-race anxiety is a big obstacle that prevents runners to run their best race. There is a level of uncertainty and the unknown prior to the race which creates a level of discomfort. By using a tune up race as practice, you can get a better idea of what kind of routine you need for race preparation to reduce as much of as that anxiety as possible. Learning what helps you during the tune up race will reflect what will help you on race day. Some things that you want to be aware of during the tune up race are how many hours you slept, stress levels, what you ate the night before, etc.
Three Reasons To Run A Tune Up Race
Pete Pfitzinger, exercise physiologist and a senior writer for Running Times, explains three benefits of tune up races. Tune up races:
“1) make you experience the nervous preparation for racing which helps reduce your anxiety before your goal race; 2) toughen you mentally and physically by taking you to your limit; and 3) provide feedback on your current fitness level.”
Tune up races illustrate how well a runner is conditioned based on their current fitness level. This type of race is not used as an “end-all-be-all” in terms of the results from the tune up. Instead, the tune up helps communicate how close you are relative to your own race day goals. For example, if a runner runs a tune up race that she is off her pace/mile by 2 minutes, she can make the proper adjustments such as reassessing her training goals as well as her race day goals to make them more realistic.
When To Do Your Tune Up Race
Pfitzinger recommends that you before you run a tune up race that you build a solid base through the first half of your training. An example:
“If you are devoting 16 weeks to preparing for a goal ½ marathon, for example, you might do an 8 week base training phase, and have your first tune-up race with 8 weeks to go.”
After the first tune up during week 8, running every other week is the best scenario that will keep your training fresh. A tune up race will challenge you mentally so when you arrive at the course with your head held high, the many influences on the course will have no effect to shake your confidence.
With at least two tune ups before your marathon, you will be prepared to brush off the pre-race anxiety and remain focused on your goal.
Don’t Be Mistaken By This Number!
The time you finish the tune up race isn’t going to be as fast as your race day time will. The reason is simply because you are in the midst of your training in the week of the tune up whereas you will be well rested through a taper on race day.
Don’t be discouraged by your tune up race result. The last thing you want to do is look at the race time and start to train harder than your schedule recommends. If you fall into this trap, you will begin to damage your joints and likely be stricken with an overuse injury.