The 2014 Spar Great Ireland Run is less than a month away so it’s the ideal time for a few tips for anyone running the race for the first time. The Great Ireland Run is, as far as I know, Ireland’s biggest 10km race. There were over 6,000 finishers in 2013. The entire race takes place in the beautiful surroundings of the Phoenix Park which adds to its appeal.
10 – Relax the Day Before
Obviously a 10km race isn’t a marathon but it’s still important not to go too crazy the night before. Personally I’ll keep my alcohol intake to a minimum the night before and I won’t run for at least a couple of days beforehand (although some people might like a very light jog the day before).
9 – Food
Stay off the fast food and slices of cake the day before! There is no need to load up on carbohydrates before a 10km race as you would for a marathon. The various waves start at 13:30 so you should plan to have a normal breakfast and maybe a snack before the start time. Everybody is different so you will need to work out how long it takes you to digest your food and plan accordingly. At 9am I’ll probably have a bowl of museli, a banana, and a couple of slices of toast. Then around midday I’ll probably have a small ham sandwich.
8 – Know the Course
If you live in Dublin then it might be worth doing a little training in the Phoenix Park to get a look at the course. For me the second half is the most important as it is hillier than the first half. At about 4km you drop down the steep Khyber Hill and then the course undulates up and down until about the 9km mark. If you are to do any training in the park I’d recommend this hilly section. Just be sure to run it during the day as there is almost no lighting on this section at night and that the Furry Glen area (you drop down into it at 8km and pass a pond on your right) is known for nocturnal activities of a non-running nature! The most important thing to remember is not to set off too fast as the last half is harder than the first. If you set off too quickly you will struggle on the hills. See the videos at the end of this post if you want to watch the professionals run the course!
7 – Lubricate!
If you are in any way prone to blisters or chafing then it’s vital to lubricate. I find simple Vaseline is perfect. I will lube the balls of my feet and the tips of my toes. I’ll also lube my groin area and my nipples. This isn’t glamorous but the sight of a man bleeding from his nipples while wearing a white singlet is even less so! A good pair of running socks can also prevent blisters. I like the ones without cotton. However never try anything radically new such as socks, runners, shorts, or singlets on a race day. You want to try them out in training a few times before to see that they work fine.
6 – Arrive Early
This is perhaps the most important piece of information. For the sake of 30 minutes there is no need to risk wasting your weeks and months of training. The Spar Great Ireland Run is very well organised with plenty of toilets. Nonetheless, as always, there will be queues for the toilets. Give plenty of time in case you need to use one (also bring some of your own toilet paper as this has been known to run out!). You’ll also need time to drop your bag and walk to the couple of hundred metres to the start.
5 – Warm Up
It’s important not to neglect your warm up although it can be difficult to stay warm while waiting at the start. Hopefully it won’t be too cold but wearing a cheap pair of gloves you can throw away when you get moving might be an idea (Penneys sell pairs for a couple of euro). At the start line I try and stay warmed up by jumping on the spot and doing the traditional quad stretch.
4 – Pace Yourself
The great thing about running is that you should have a reasonable idea of what your finish time will be based on previous runs. However you won’t magically dramatically improve your time just because your in a race. If you normally run 5km in 30 minutes you’re not going to run 10km in 45 minutes. If this is your first race it’s vitally important that you don’t start too fast. The adrenaline and excitement might carry you through the first mile faster than you’ve run before but the end result will be a dramatically slower second half of the race. Try to run at an even pace. If you are feeling good after 8km or 9km that is the time to up your pace if you want to. If you’ve never run 10km then a race time calculator will give you a very rough idea of the kind of time you might finish at. Personally, if this is your first 10km run, I wouldn’t worry about the time, the main thing is to finish the race. Having said that having a rough idea of your finish time can be useful if you have some supporters who plan to see you cross the finish line. Here is the Runner’s World finish time calculator.
3 – Take Some Water
There is one water station just before the 5km mark. It’s at the flat section at the bottom of Khyber Hill. I’d advise taking a little water on board especially if it’s a warm day. If this is your first race it will be good practice for any future races you enter too. When running the best advice is to sip the water, don’t gulp it down. You probably won’t need to drink the whole bottle but feel free to carry it with you if you think you might want some later on. Some people will carry energy gels with them but personally I don’t think they provide any real benefits for a 10km race. 10km is too short to use up your body’s normal energy stores. Also never try anything radically different (such as taking gels) on a race day without trying it in training first. A few mouthfuls of water should be sufficient for most people once the weather isn’t too hot.
2 – You Will Make it to the Finish!
If you begin to feel yourself slowing down and feel that everybody is passing you out try not to become disheartened. There is no harm in walking for a bit or in slowing down. It’s possible that you set off too quickly and just need to adjust your pace. If you’ve never run 10km before then it’s natural to feel a bit more tired than you usually would. Also the great thing about running is that fellow runners want you to succeed too. And success for most people is just crossing the finish line. Obviously if you think you’ve injured yourself the best thing is to stop as there’s no point in risking a more serious injury by trying to keep running (especially if you think you’ve pulled a muscle or hurt your knee or ankle). The vast majority of starters will finish and part of the joy of finishing is knowing that you got through the tough patches that are inevitable in any race. Some of my most satisfying races haven’t been especially quick but getting the finish line is a sense of achievement after a tough race.
1 – Enjoy the Race!
Take time to enjoy the race. Whatever your time you’re aiming for the fact that you’ve made it to the start line is an achievement in itself. The Phoenix Park is a beautiful park and a pleasure to run along its roads without any traffic to slow you down. There will be quite a few spectators for a 10km race too who will cheer you around the course. You also have the pleasure of running in a race featuring some of the top Irish and international athletes. The race will be shown live on RTÉ 2 and the full race results will be printed in the Irish Independent.