Arriving on the Sunday morning at Parc Cinquantenaire surrounded by thousands of runners, 40 000 to be exact, can be itself an overwhelming experience.
But you have been committed. You have prepared well. Your mind is ready.
You are going to proudly stand at the start line of one of the most popular 20km races in Europe.
Our New Europe office has a couple of returning runners who will also stand with you at the start line of the 40th edition of the 20km of Brussels and we have some tips to share with you in the run up to the race:
The most important rule, ask any experienced runner and he will tell you: try nothing new on race day. Either that means new athletic clothing, pacing, training, most importantly try nothing new in your diet.
Experimenting with new foods days before your race can cost you the good preparation you have done so far, as your body always needs some time to adjust to new dietary changes.
Many of us, we love these race expos – they are the places we usually find out about new products and it is great- but try not to get tempted.
You have adjusted your work and family life to train well and prepare for your 20km race. It is very important to get some quality sleep in, so that your body get the rest needed for your challenge this coming Sunday. Your body works when it sleeps, it rebuilds and restores muscles so avoid late nights the week before your race.
Begin to increase your carbohydrate intake a couple of days before race day but do not go overboard. Some people tend to eat much more than actually needed and they end up feeling bloated or lethargic. The biggest meal before, a race day is usually two nights before as this will give you plenty of time to digest anything you eat before the morning of the race.
Make sure you drink plenty of liquids all day long before race day, especially electrolytes. It helps if you carry a water bottle along with you throughout the day to remind yourself to drink. Hydrating your body will help prevent cramps and other related issues on race day. But don’t overdo it… 2 liters per day will do the trick.
Prepare in advance
Pick up your bib number and race material ahead of time. Read the instructions of the race carefully. Familiarize yourself with the water, food, first aid and toilet stations. One of my favorite things to do is to personalize your bib. You can add color and messages that matter to you. So why not ask your spouse, child or friend to write a message for you this year on your bib number? These messages carry a hidden power that will lead you successfully to the finish line. Eliud Kipchoge is known to have written the name of his family members inside his shoes, and maybe that helped him become the world’s fastest marathoner.
Prepare your race clothing, and race shoes the night before. Go over the route mentally and think about the strategy you will follow.
Race day: Up and at’em
Get up early the day of the race, have a light breakfast and give yourself enough time for digestion. Being well prepared will help you face any unexpected surprises! Don’t eat more than you have on other weeks that you’ve gone out on longer runs, don’t eat anything knew. And of course, don’t forget to go the bathroom – because that’s the last thing you want to be doing during the race itself.
The start line
The last thing you need to do is to stand with pride at the start line, to smile and to take one step at the time. You’ve trained, you’ve stressed, you’ve made sacrifices, but you’re ready to go. This is your 20 kilometer victory lap. You are already a winner.
The first seven kilometers
Don’t let the initial downhill fool you, and don’t start with a sprint. The first 7km are going to be mostly uphill, but it will not always be noticeable. Settle in to your pace, and don’t get carried away by the crowd.
The ups and downs at the Louise tunnels can feel challenging, but the happy runners chanting and clapping will get you through it. Don’t ignore the water stations!
The next ten kilometers
More pleasant than the first seven for sure. Your body has settled into the desired pace, and you need to stick with it. You’re going to have more downhill than uphill, and you’re going to feel like putting your foot on the gas. If you feel comfortable, you can slowly adjust your pace towards the last few kilometers of this segment – but don’t overdo it – the next 1.5km will test you. As always, don’t forget to fuel and hydrate.
The climb to the medal
The toughest part of the course comes just before the end. As soon as you turn onto Avenue de Tervueren, you will have three kilometers to go. The hill ahead starts gradually with a smooth incline. Drink the water they give you!
If you feel like you are ready to conquer the hill – give it your all – but remember you’re still going to have just under two kilometers to run after that.
You’ll run with the lakes on your left side, and the road will then curve right. Once you no longer have the lakes on your left, you’ll soon see the obelisk at the top of the hill is coming nearer with every step. That obelisk is where the course flattens out. Hang in there! Just a few more steps, and you’re there. If you feel like you need to walk, don’t hesitate to.
Onto the finish line
You are going to cruise past the Montgomery roundabout, and head towards the finish line. If you feel like smashing your personal best, go for it.
If you want to wave to the crowds and high-five the children lining avenue de Tervueren, do it! This is your time where it is going to sink in that you’ve made it! You will never be happier to see the imposing arches of the Cinquantenaire than the moment you cross the finish line.
Remember there are cameras filming you coming across the finish line – so put on your biggest smile, finish strong, and wear your medal proudly.