Running Your Own Race

The Fargo Marathon weekend is so close, you can start counting the days on one hand.

And that means nearly every runner finds her or himself in the middle of a taper, that dreaded time when one can do very little to make a race, but all kinds of things to ruin one.

Race week also conjures up discussion about the best advice for running a distance race. Here are some reminders of “truisms” for race week:

  • Don’t overeat. As runners dial back mileage, it’s easy to still want to eat like their in the middle of training.
  • Get more sleep. As the week progresses, go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night. The most important sleep is 2 nights before a race. Don’t suddenly take on a bunch of home projects or other physical activity to offset the lack of mileage. You’ll need the energy on race day.
  • Trust your training. If you’ve put in the work, trust that it is enough to finish on race day. For me, standing at the finish line is the reward for all of the hard work it took to get there. Running the race is a chance to celebrate the dedication and sacrifice it took to get there.
  • Keep the same routine. Run the same number of days as your training block leading up the race, but dial back the mileage. Similarly, research shows that it takes 10 days to realize the benefits from a given workout. Trying to squeeze in a longer run or hard interval session too soon to the race will only hurt you.

Up until a few days ago, I didn’t recall having learned much about the 1972 Olympic 800 meter final, won by Dave Wottle of the U.S. Somehow, though, this video ended up in my Facebook feed:

Dave Wottle’s race was spectacular and the video’s inspirational message — never give up — is moving. I watched the video a second and third time.

Even Wottle’s memory of the race plays into the inspiring message.

But there’s another important lesson, one that the video doesn’t reflect. Dave Wottle ran even splits for each 200 meters of the race, despite other runners shotgunning the start and leaving him far behind. It’s my final piece of advice: Run your own race.

Here’s a longer version featuring the race commentators: