Race your best
Your legs are bound to feel wobbly in the early going, but it won’t last – you’ll settle into your stride after a kilometre or so. In the meantime, keep a slightly short stride, look forwards and check yourself to make sure you aren’t holding unnecessary tension in your face, neck, arms or shoulders – you should be able to hold a gel in your hand without squeezing it. If it helps, smile: studies suggest it helps some athletes reduce their perception of effort.
BREAK IT UP
Multiple Ironman world champ Chrissie Wellington breaks her run into four 10km segments; your mileage may vary. “You might want to concentrate on landmarks, aid stations or just whoever’s in front of you,” says Rooke. “Focus on people in your age group – and as you pass an athlete during a race, open up the gap and aim to catch the next person in front. Stay in the moment and don’t think too far ahead.”
You should give it everything before you go over the line, so don’t leave it too late. “Avoid sprinting the last 100m,” says Rooke. “Spread your energy more evenly within the last 400-800m of the race. This will keep a reserve if you need to kick on for a three-hour finish time.” Have an attainable time in mind. If you’re likely to achieve it with a slightly increased effort, you’ll be able to push harder than you would otherwise.