Recently on the route with friends and running mates Mercia and Naomi at the Johnson Crane Hire Marathon I thought about this topic, a lot. I was reminded about words Lindsey Parry said at the Comrades road show – about having a plan B, and even a plan C on race day.
I think most people are going into a race, especially the longer ones, having some idea of how they want race day to play out and with this the finishing time they wish to achieve. Nothing wrong with that. We enter into these races with a good idea of how our training runs have been, we have a general good idea how our bodies responded to certain things and what we are capable of on race day, but this can all change in a split second.
Friends, you need a plan B, and sometimes a plan C. Often I see that runners have a really almost undoable plan A, a plan that is almost doomed from the start, maybe a too fast finish time compared to your training averages, maybe an idea to race someone else to the end, maybe to set up a PB knowing you’re not really there yet, but believe me, and I have said this over and over again, “Race day is your day”, and especially when it comes to the big brother races, Two Oceans, Om die Dam, Loskop and of course, Comrades.
I think most people going into a run have an idea of a finishing time they’d like to achieve. They know what their training runs have been like, they have a general idea of what their body is capable of and a great run is a great acknowledgement of that training. Sometimes you want a nice achievable goal and sometimes you want an aggressive one.
I think plan be should be the most reasonable and doable plan – the one you are most comfortable about achieving. That should be your target plan for the day. Going into a race with an injury, with a possible viral infection, a simple flu or an almost sure possibility to cramp ( if you tend to cramp ) then you are almost guaranteed to end up settling for plan B or even C in a worst case scenario. Most of the times it is the things you have very little control over that force you to lower gear and settle for the alternatives.
Remember, if you start ticking off your race plans, A, B and get to C, this is where you are getting into trouble because after this there is nothing to fall back on and that is why plan A must always be the most doable one, so the ones you fall back onto don’t increase the stress levels too much allowing your goals and targets to slip away from you too far. I have heard many runners say things like, “I will take race day as it comes…” or “I will see what happens on race day” or “I am just going to run”. That is maybe so, but you need some idea of time, average pace, what to do in order for you to get to that finish time, on time, I mean, that is the main goal of race day, right, to finish.
Let me use Comrades as example. Believe me, when you hit that runners wall, wether it is at 40, 50 60 or even later, you are so tired and it feels like you running through quicksand. It is hot, your legs are tired, they are heavy, it is really hot and you are really doubting yourself and wonder why the heck you are doing this, asking yourself all those questions Lindsey referred to. Well, that is where you will have to regroup, rethink and this is where you race plan will change and believe me, there is at this time no time to figure out a plan, you needed one already.
My A plan went to C plan in no time – “Do your best and see how it goes” soon changed to “slow down and walk the hills” and again changed to “now I just have to run an average of 8 minutes per kilometre to finish.” And it was not plan A or B that got me to the finish line, it was plan C. I finished my comrades with a nerve-racking 3 minutes to go to the 12 hour cut-off time, but the point is, I made it and the back to back medal is in the bag. I cannot express enough the importance of a Plan B or Plan C. It is so important. If I hadn’t had that I could have never reached the finish line or maybe by grace gotten to the finish line and been disappointed. And how awful would that have been? Reaching the finish line disappointed is never a pleasant experience, believe me, I was there before. My plan C was great. Under the conditions, Plan C was something I could be very happy of and I could be proud of what I’d done crossing the finish line.
Friends, learn the ABC of running and increase your chances of having a better experience at the end.
Happy running everyone.
This week I launched The Marathon Club where marathon runners can give a R50 donation to The Bible Society of South Africa and then get a plaque the virtual wall of honour and some great bragging rights that goes with that. This is currently only available to South Africans and more specifically only for marathon runners ( who have successfully ran and competed a 42.2km race ) ; this is because of internet payment issues
BUT, we have a great feature where we invite marathon runners from all over the world to share with us their first marathon stories and these might feature on the web page.
You will find details on the web page at www.themarathonclub.co.za