Q&A: How to Prepare For Two Races In One Weekend
I'm signed up for a 5K and a half-marathon on the same weekend. How should I approach multi-day racing from an effort standpoint, as well as fueling and rest?
Your multi-day racing approach should depend on the order of the races and your goal for each race.
For example, if you were planning to run a 5K first and your goal was to break a personal record, then you would put forth your best effort and could potentially treat your half-marathon as an easy, steady long endurance training run. You could even use the Run Walk Run (Galloway) method, which is a type of interval training that allows you to break up a long run into more manageable units.
On the other hand, if you were scheduled to run a 5K first but wanted to save your energy for the half-marathon, you could treat the 5K as your “shakeout run,” an easy jog that gets your body warm and prepared before a race. A shakeout run helps to flush out your legs, stimulate blood flow to your muscles to improve flexibility, and calm the nerves for better mental preparation before a big race.
If your plan was to run the half-marathon first, put in maximal effort first and then run the 5K as an easy “active” recovery run to warm up and loosen sore muscles from the long race you had the day before—but make sure you run the 5K super easy and try not to get caught up with the energy of others racing.
In terms of fueling for the race, it’s usually recommended to not eat anything new on race day. Stick with your usual diet routine you’ve been training with. While you don’t necessarily need to carb load before shorter races, make sure you are well fed the day before and the morning of the race with familiar foods including carbs, moderate protein, some electrolytes (i.e. salt) and fluid. In this situation of a multi-race weekend, immediate post-exercise consumption of carbohydrates or a well-balanced meal helps to assist with adequate recovery for the runner who does not have much time between races, especially if you are trying to PR in both.
You generally want to avoid excessive weight loss throughout your race, so staying hydrated is important. An easy way to monitor this is by weighing yourself before and after your race. It’s generally recommended that you replace each pound lost with at least one pint of fluid to ensure adequate hydration. Sports drinks are usually a good way to stay hydrated and replenish carbs and electrolytes while you’re out on the race course. If you are having a more condensed form of fuel, like an energy gel or a banana, then make sure you’re getting some fluid, such as water, in as well to minimize risk of an upset stomach. Refueling, sleep, and hydration are all important factors for recovery.
About This Contributor
Michelle Yang PT, DPT is an advanced clinician at Hospital for Special Surgery Rehabilitation with a special interest in working with young athletes and injury prevention. She is certified in kinesiotape, selective functional movement assessment and a C1/C2 certified Schroth provider. In her spare time she enjoys training for marathons.