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Why You Should Run a Pre-Race Before Your Big Race

Marnie Soman Schwartz

The half-marathon training plan I’m following suggests you do two shorter races before the big day—a 5K in week six and a 10K in week nine. I skipped the 5K, but did the 10K last weekend, and it was awesome.

Sunday morning, I woke up super-early, had breakfast, and headed to Southern Brooklyn for the Verrazano Festival of Races, a weekend of road races put on by NYCRUNS. The 5K had already started when I arrived, and the 10K was up next. As I jumped around to keep warm, I watched the 5K runners finish to a cheering crowd and an awesome view of the Statue of Liberty and southern Manhattan.

Before I knew it, I was gathering behind the start line with several hundred other runners for the 10K. There were tons of running clubs and groups of friends around me, and their chatter and excitement pumped me up. When the starting horn blew, I felt a surge of energy.

After the crowd thinned out, I found my stride. And when I looked down at my Nike app, I saw that I was moving significantly faster than during my long training runs. It felt like a sustainable pace, though, so I pressed on.

We ran five kilometers along the edge of southern Brooklyn and another five back. Just after the two mile marker, the winners started passing me on their way back to the start/finish line. A little defeated, I took a quick turn around and saw that there were still tons of runners behind me.

Before I knew it, I had only a mile left to go. That’s when I really picked up my speed, pushing myself to run faster—especially once I could see the finish line. I crossed it going as fast as I possibly could, and was greeted by a cheering crowd, my proud, photo-snapping husband, water, and a second breakfast (score!).

In his notes for the novice 1 half marathon plan, Hal Higdon writes that the 5K and 10K races are optional. But I’m so glad that I did the 10K—and if you’re a new runner training for a half, I’d really recommend you do one too. Here’s why:

1. You can nail down your pre-race routine. I packed my bag, laid out my clothes, and took a shower the night before so I’d have less to worry about in the morning. I’ll definitely do that again on half-marathon day. (Laying out clothes the night before is one of the 5 Quirky Pre-Race Rituals Runners Swear By.) Before leaving for the race, I ate two slices of toast with peanut butter, which worked okay. I felt good during most of the race, but, towards the end, I wished I’d eaten a little bit less. Now I know to play around with different breakfast options before my last few training runs, so I have something figured out by race day.

2. It gives you a (literal) trial run. I don’t usually bring water on my runs, but I know that I’ll have to hydrate during the half. So I made sure to stop at both water stations during this race, to practice slowing down and drinking enough but not too much. A practice race also gives you the experience of running in a crowd.

3. The confidence boost. I’ve been nervous about this race since the day I signed up. What if I couldn’t finish? Would I get hurt? What if I came in last place? More experienced runners told me to trust my training plan, and that everyone runs faster on race day, but I didn’t 100 percent believe them. Now I do: My pace was almost a full minute faster per mile than I’ve been averaging in training runs, which makes me much more confident that I’ll not only finish the half, but that I’ll be happy with my time. (Get more of the The Best Running Tips of All Time.)

Also, it was really fun! It was a gorgeous spring day, the atmosphere was so festive, and I felt really proud of myself afterwards. The successful race makes me even more excited for the half. Just three more weeks!

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