Training Tips: Race Day Strategies

Training Tips: Race Day Strategies

Your race day preparation occurs over several months. It occurs every time you go out for a run, every cross training workout you complete, and with every meal you eat. Race day strategy should be no different. Strategy for how you will warm up, when you will eat GU or other fuels, how much you will hydrate, and much more are things that need to be planned and practiced. This article will give you race day strategies to start implementing into your long trail runs now so that come the day of the race you can perform at your most optimal.

Below are some suggestions for race day strategy that might be useful to you. Keep in mind that if you plan to act on one of these suggestions come race day, it would be beneficial to practice the strategy you want to use in your workouts leading up to the race so that implementing them on race day is easy and efficient. If you have already planned out a strategy remember that there are going to be rough spots that you can’t always plan for and will have to work through. Do not be afraid to deviate from your plan if necessary.

Warm Up

  • Your warm up should be individual to you and should incorporate dynamic movements that use the major muscle groups in your body. Form work drills, a jog, and dynamic stretching can all work to get your body ready for the race. Keep in mind that your warm up should be something you do before all of your runs throughout training for the marathon and be individualized to you.
  • 13-14 minutes before the race starts, do a 200 meter build up that is going to be a lot faster than race pace. By the end of this build you should be breathing heavily. By substantially increasing your heart rate higher than it will be in the race, your heart won’t be shocked when you are racing.

Break Up The Race

Plan to break up the race into segments and focus on what you will do in each segment. For example, a suggested first segment would be from the start to mile 3; for these first three miles think about:

  • Try not to focus on your pace for the first 3 miles. Run comfortably; once you leave the tunnel the 3 mile marker is a couple hundred yards down the trail. At this point you can get your pace (if you aren’t running with a pacer) and plan accordingly. Your GPS will not be accurate until after mile 3.
  • This year’s race will be run in two waves to decrease congestion in the tunnel. You can plan on having about 300 people in each wave. 200 yards after the start of the race you make a right hand hairpin turn around a cone onto the trail that takes you to the tunnel. The hairpin turn can become congested, so stay relaxed and watch out for others.
  • Once you enter the 2.2 mile long tunnel try to stay in the middle of the trail, because the sides slope and running on a sloped trail can cause you to compensate your form and lead to injury. For the most part the surface in the middle of the trail is smooth.
  • The first aid station is immediately after you exit the tunnel. We recommend not taking any fluid at this aid station. You can dump your light here and exit the aid station quickly because there will be a lot of people here. Consider waiting until aid station 2, to hydrate and fuel.
  • Continue to break up the race into segments and plan ahead for what you will want to do in each.

Where GU Is

GU is not provided at every aid station, so plan accordingly. Below is a list of which aid stations provide GU;

  • Bandera mile 8
  • Garcia mile 13.4
  • Twin Falls mile 15.9
  • Cedar Falls mile 21
  • Edgewick 1 mile 23
  • Edgewick 2 mile 24.5


  • You’re a highly trained athlete and you want to run as efficiently as possible. Think NASCAR! If you are with another runner and you are running the same pace tuck in behind them and look between their shoulder blades. This allows you to relax, get your breathing under control, and use less energy.
  • Plateau Racing Coach, Kevin Myers, used this strategy in the 1980s during a half marathon he was running. He ended up running a 2 minute PR and finished in 1:07:38. He felt that by drafting off a group of runners in front of him he was able to conserve energy and improve his overall time.

Find a Pacer

  • Each Tunnel Marathon pacer will have a sign with the time they are pacing for. Finding a pacer and sticking with them is a great way to stay on track if you are aiming for a BQ.

Changing Stride

  • This is a downhill race course. It is easy to keep the same stride pattern throughout the race because it is a consistent downhill. However, by shortening your stride every so often for even as short as 200-300 meters you utilize slightly different muscles. This allows for the muscle group you are using the majority of the time to have a short break.

If you plan to incorporate one or more of these strategies start practicing them in all of your workouts. Pick one or two to focus on during your next run and then add another strategy to the following workout. This method allows you to add in your strategies a couple at a time so you do not feel overwhelmed and can really focus on each one.

Learn more: Tips about how to best prepare for race day hydration

~Sierra, The Tunnel Marathons Trainer