Racing into the Evening

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 | By Hal Higdon
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Got a question about running? You're in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon's Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I have been running for a few years, but officially got into the sport after reading your book: Marathon. It was such an inspiration! I have been following your Novice 2 plan (religiously) for my first half in November, having fun along the way! This weekend is my 5-K race. And I plan to run the Marine Corps 10-K at the end of the month. I have become borderline obsessed about the science behind the run sport, mostly fueling. I always try to give my body what it needs before and after a long run, which brings me to my question: Have you ever started a race in the evening? If so, what did you eat and do during the day? I, for some reason, am a little worried about tackling 13.1 miles at 4:30 pm Pacific Time. (I am an East Coaster.) My weekly runs are at night, but my long run Saturdays are an early morning thing. I agonize over having too much time waiting around for the race to begin. What do I eat? Drink? Do? Maybe it's just nervous jitters?


Shouldn't be a problem. In high school and college, I ran track meets in the afternoon. As an athlete in open competition, I sometimes ran in major track races in the evening. One track meet in a small Swedish town didn't even have overhead lights when I ran my 3000 race. They had ground flashlights inside the curb, failing to illuminate much of the inside lane, which made me nervous enough so that I ran most of the race in the second lane. I won anyway, so as an athlete, you adjust. Some years ago I was involved in a study at the University of Georgia, where they measured the circadian rhythms of runners by forcing us to stay awake in a box-like room for more than 24 hours with no hints as to how much time was passing. Among what the scientists learned from that and related time-based studies was that at least elite-level athletes were so focused that we adjusted no matter what the time zone or time we ran. As for fueling, eat on your normal schedule, but with an eye toward high-carb. You probably also need to run a few workouts at the same time you will be running your race to test your reactions, both physical (nutrition) and psychological (yikes, it’s dark!).

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