November 20, 2018

A Guide To Kicking Ass In The Singapore Marathon

Here’s what you can do between now and race day to freshen up and maximise your fitness in the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon.

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In around 3 weeks, 50,000+ runners will be lacing up their shoes for Singapore’s premier running event, Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon.

As the Official Coach of this fantastic event, we spent the last few months teaching runners how to optimise their training so that they can enjoy the experience and achieve a great result.

We wrote an eBook, gave away free training plans, conducted training clinics and hosted Facebook live sessions.
In short, we’ve done everything we could think of to help you run at your best.

Hopefully, you’ve acted on our advice and find yourself in good shape.
Regardless, the majority of the ‘work’ should now be done and for the next few weeks, your focus should switch from training to freshening up and maximising your fitness on race day.

Between Now And Race Day

I once read that you’re better to go into a race 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained.

I totally agree.

With such a short time until race day, it’s too late now to build any meaningful fitness so you shouldn’t be trying to ‘cram’. Instead, let’s look at some things within your control that will help you to freshen up and race to your potential.

How To Freshen Up

Lower The Volume, Keep The Intensity

As you get closer to race day, it’s important that you keep training. You definitely shouldn’t be training as hard as you have been, but you need to keep moving in order to maintain and sharpen your fitness.

As time passes and race day draws closer, you should ease off the volume, shortening each of your runs. While you do that, the intensity of your sessions should remain in order to simulate what will happen on race day.

The body remembers endurance much better than it does speed.

Carbo-load? Maybe!

You’re probably already a carbo-loaded athlete if you’re eating a standard Singaporean, Western or Indian diet.

If that’s the case, I don’t believe there are any major changes you need to make other than being mindful of how much food you are consuming as you drop the training load down. You want to be careful not to put on any additional weight in these last few weeks through poor dietary choices.
For the most part, keep doing what you’re doing.

If you’re eating a lower carb diet like we are proponents of at Coached, the next few weeks is a good time to eat a little more of the higher quality carbs like fruits and veg, quinoa, dark chocolate and sweet potato. You want to make sure your glycogen stores are topped up but you don’t want to eat so much that you negatively affect your ability to generate energy from fat.

It’s a fine line.

Stay Hydrated

Leading into race day, it’s also very important to hydrate. Don’t just drink water as you may dilute the sodium in your blood and do yourself a disservice. Instead, drink a sugar-free electrolyte drink that is high in sodium.

I like Precision Hydration drinks for this reason.

If you haven’t already done their online sweat test, do it now. If you’d like a more advanced sweat test, book an appointment at our lab.
Once you know the sodium concentration in your sweat, you can customise a hydration strategy that will help ensure you’re always in an optimally hydrated state and ready to perform.

Get Plenty Of Sleep

With the training load down, it’s a great time to make use of those extra hours and get some more sleep. Try for an extra hour each night or if that’s not possible, sneak in a short nap during the day.

Sleep is the ultimate tool when it comes to recovery. It improves hormone regulation, strengthens your immune system, improves fat burning and can affect thermoregulation.

In short, it significantly drives recovery and helps you to freshen up.

Cut Race Times, Not Corners.

Racing at your potential and enjoying training is easy when you’re following the right programme.

Maximise Your Fitness On Race Day

On race day, your job is to get the best result you can. To do that, you need to execute a controlled race that maximises your fitness. When it comes to race execution, there are five specific areas where you need to put your focus.

1. Mindset

When you race, it is important to stay positive. That can be a challenge as you begin to fatigue and the race throws unexpected setbacks at you like cramps, chafing or any other unpredicted situations.

Your brain can only think about one thing at a time so it is important you focus your mind on process related thoughts like your running form, pacing and fuelling. The more you think about those things, the less you think about the pain or setbacks and the less likely you are to slow down.
I used to use body checks to help keep my mind in the right place and I encourage you to try them if things get tough.

2. Gear

Runners who use new gear on race day are making a big mistake. While you may think that using some fast looking new gear will give you a mental advantage, it often causes more harm than good.

Blisters, chafing and bloody nipples (ouch) are often the result of using gear you’re not familiar with. Stick to your tried and tested kit and you’ll run in more comfort and limit your chances of these annoying (and painful) ailments.

3. Running Form

As you run and you become tired, your form is going to begin to break down.

Your goal is to delay the rate at which this happens. While this is primarily addressed in training (with a running specific strength training programme), you need to be constantly mindful of your form and do your best to correct yourself when you catch yourself slipping.

Ask yourself:
Are you running tall with a subtle forward lean from the ankles? Is your head up? Are your shoulders back and relaxed?

Think about these things often and aim to correct them when you start to get sloppy. The longer you maintain good running form, the less you’ll slow down and the faster your finishing time will be.

4. Fuel

When you run long distances, taking in enough fuel to sustain your effort over the distance is very important.
Think of race fuelling in two parts.

  1. Hydration.
  2. Energy.

I personally advocate splitting these two elements so you have more control over your fuelling strategy.

Hydration is addressed by taking in water and electrolytes. Energy is addressed by taking in calories (usually through gels). You need to be doing both throughout the duration of your race.

As with gear, the number one rule when it comes to fuelling is to never try anything new on race day. Stick to what you have practised in training and be consistent.

5. Pacing

Pacing is the single most important thing to get right on race day. Get it wrong and you will suffer in the later stages of the race. Get it right and you’ll maximise your fitness and achieve a great result.

Pushing too hard, too early in the race sets off a chain reaction of events that work together to slow you down. High levels of lactate accumulate and glycogen depletion and muscle breakdown occur at a faster rate.

While it’s tempting to start quickly, I encourage you to be conservative. Your goal is to run the second half as fast or slightly faster than the first half. To do that, you need to be patient.

Race Smart, Race Well

As you have learned there are many things that you can do in the next 3-weeks to freshen up and be ready to race.

On race day though, execution is everything.

Execute with patience and control and you will achieve the best possible result given your starting fitness and the length of time you had to prepare.

If for some reason, the race doesn’t go to plan, consider getting Coached for your next race. We’d love to work with you.

I wish you all the best.

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Ben Pulham

Ben Pulham is the founder of Coached, a personalised training programme that helps runners & triathletes optimise, track and enjoy their training.