If you haven't trained for a race, if you have pain, haven't run the distance, can't run the race distance non-stop, get breathless too soon, problems with eating while running, but you still want to still run it, then you need to keep these basic tips in mind.

First published in Mint newspaper on 17th Nov 2014 just before ADHM

The Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) is now only five days away. If you plan to take part but are not sure how to tackle these last few days, some of the points mentioned here can help you make sensible decisions, so that you not only run this Sunday but continue to do so happily for a long time.

Walk-run-walk

If you have registered for the Great Delhi Run (6km) but haven’t trained enough for it, please don’t sweat too much. Most of you can cover that distance in around 1 hour. The ADHM is like a big running festival. Go out there to have fun and pick up this good habit for life.

For those of you who have run a bit but not the whole 6km during practice, and are not sure if you can run that distance, relax! Your plan should be to walk-run-walk the whole distance from the word go. Start off with a 3- to 5-minute brisk walk as this will help you warm up well and prepare your body better for running. Now run at a comfortable pace that you are used to for 2-3 minutes. Start walking again before you begin to feel breathless. Use your walking to recover from the previous running interval and be prepared for the next running interval.

Going all the way

If you haven’t trained for two-three months and this is your first half marathon (21.097km), you need to be aware that you are low on training. This is not to discourage you. But please don’t do your long runs any more. You should be tapering down and concentrating on staying injury-free.

I have pain but this run is too important for me

If you have practised a lot, or for some other reason you desperately need to run, there is a very simple logic. You can run this year’s ADHM, and never again. Or you can be smart about it and rest for now, recover from injury and then get back to running when you are fitter. This way you can run forever.

I haven’t run the race distance

It’s too late now to cover distances that you should have done over the last few weeks, if not months. Usually, two-three months are needed to train for a half marathon. Doing excess distance is the major cause of injuries in the last couple of weeks. If you have decided to run, just go in with a strategy rather than making a stupid mistake that leaves you with a permanent injury.

I can’t run non-stop for 21km

Even though you should have practised this earlier, it’s still not too late to adopt a walk-run-walk strategy, as suggested for the 6km participants. You start this from early on in the run, when you are fresh. Run for 15 minutes and then take a walking break for 2 minutes. This way you will stay fresh for longer. Your times will be better than if you try to run till you can’t run any more. Practise this a couple of times over the next few days.

I’m getting out of breath too soon into the run

From the word go, you need to start focusing on your breathing. If you wait till you feel tired or breathless, it’s already too late to fix anything. Focus on taking long breaths in, hold for 1-2 seconds, and breathe out slowly. This will help you stay fresh for longer.

I have pain

Knee pain is the commonest pain that runners complain of in the last couple of weeks before a race. Both too much and too little training play a major role in these injuries. Sometimes, trying to do too much to cover for too little training earlier can also lead to last-minute injuries.

If the pain has been getting worse over the last few days, you definitely need to consult a sports medicine doctor.

Eating while running

If you expect the run to take under 2 hours, it’s not very important, but if you are expecting to take more than 3 hours, you will definitely need to plan for it. Energy bars, jelly bars and sweets work well. But never try anything in the actual race if you haven’t done it during practice. If you haven’t ever eaten while running, please practise over the next few days, even if it’s only for short runs. Take a bite of the energy bar every 4-5km. It will help you last longer than you normally would.

My nipples hurt and bleed during long runs

This is a problem faced by runners of both sexes, but is not spoken about enough. It happens because the T-shirt rubs against the skin. Before long runs, generously apply lubricants like a moisturizer or cream over nipples, armpits, the groin area and toes.

Wearing a new T-shirt on race day

Never a good idea. The shoes, socks, T-shirts, shorts, etc., that you will use for race day should be ones that you have been using during your practice runs. Even if you have a team or company T-shirt that has just come in the nick of time, and you must wear it, it should only be worn on top of another T-shirt that you are used to.