First off, don’t forget to pick up your race packet! And, make sure you’ve studied the available information.
The night before, check the weather, decide what you’re going to wear. If it’s going to be over 50 degrees at the start, don’t wear long sleeves and long pants. You want to dress for 10-15 degrees warmer than the temperature, because you will heat up. Most people are going to be out there for around an hour or more, and being overheated will not only hurt your performance and make you miserable, but it’ll increase the risk of getting dehydrated. Shorts and a short sleeved shirt will be a good idea. If you want, wear a long sleeve shirt that you can take off and discard at the start.
The night before, pin your bib number on, attach your chip to your shoe, make sure you have what you want to eat in the morning, and get everything together. You don’t want to be rushing around when you get up in the morning, or at the race.
Plan where you’re going to park, and have a back-up plan. The race starts at 8:00am.
You’ll want to be on-site by 7:15 am, and get in a ten-minute warmup and drills. You need time to park and get there, so plan to be at your parking spot by 7:00 or so. Work backwards from there – how long will it take you to get there? You should get up a good hour before you need to leave your home. Get up, eat and drink first, check the weather, and relax. Why an hour? Because you can’t run well if you gotta “go”, and you’d rather do what you gotta do at home, not in a porta-potty.
About 15 minutes before the start, start plowing into the crowd. You’ll probably have a colored bib that will assign you to a time-segregated starting area. Use it. It’ll make things easier on you, and it’s just rude to clog up the works for any faster runners.
Most of mile one is just slightly uphill, running up Congress. It’s not too bad, and besides, you’re going to be packed in by people. Keep in mind – this is the largest 10K in Texas, and the fifth largest in the nation, which means a lot of people who have not run races before, many of whom have not been taught race courtesy, and many who have not been taught common courtesy. It is, however, a race for everyone, more than just for the gunners trying to turn their best time. Do not try to dodge around people too much – that burns a lot more energy than you might think. Plan ahead, pick a path, and make gradual course adjustments. If you need to pass someone or squeeze between people, don’t be rude, but don’t be shy. It’s still a freakin’ race. Politely say “on your left”, or lightly “accidentally” touch someone’s elbow slightly before you pass them so they know you’re coming through.
If they’re oblivious because they’re wearing headphones… well, that’s their problem.
Just past mile 1, you turn right on 11th street, up a short, steep hill. People that got too excited and took off too fast are going to suffer here. Remember your form – hips up under you. When you feel that release at the top, relax. Work from the top down, relaxing your face, your neck, your shoulders, all the way through your legs. Shake out your arms.
Left on San Jacinto takes you into a long downhill to 15th Street, the first part of which is steep. Do not fly down San Jac – this is where many of you will first see and learn from others around you that will make this common mistake. They’ll blow by you, then, if you’ve been smart, you’ll pass them going up 15th.
Keep your form under control. Find a balance between descending too fast and putting the brakes on too much. If you go too fast down this hill, you’re going to hurt going up, and be tired for the long uphill on the other side of Lamar. If you put on the brakes too much, and you haven’t been running a lot of long mileage, you’ll wear out your quads.
Left on 15th takes you into a lengthy uphill climb to Congress. The course then rolls slightly up to just past mile two, when you hit a steep uphill to West Avenue. When you get to the top, you have a steep downhill. Relax, shake out your arms, and let the downhill give you a recovery. Once again, find a balance.
Same thing past mile three, when you start going down a steep hill under Mopac. On the other side of Mopac, you turn left for a mile-long stretch of mostly gradual uphills on the Mopac access road, also known as Winsted. Thing is, it’s broken up enough by some short flats to recover. Just focus on holding a comfortable pace here. About 1/2 to 2/3 of the way down Winsted, you get a downhill and a flat to the RunTex Pawn Shop at Lake Austin Blvd.
When you start on the downhill, shake out your arms, relax your body, and try to focus on making your stride smooth and easy. At around mile four, you need to assess how you feel, how much you have left in the tank. Can you pick up the pace? If so, do it gradually, because the last mile of the course is a bear.
But first, just past mile four, you get the steep downhill to Veteran’s Blvd. If you’re feeling good, let it carry you just slightly, but still keep your form under control. You turn left on Veterans, and it’s pretty flat all the way out past Austin High to Cesar Chavez. Get into your revised, faster pace.
You hit Cesar Chavez at almost mile five, and it’s a long, slow uphill grind. You only have 1.2 miles left. You’ve trained hard, and you can gut this out. This might be a good time to start picking people off. Find someone a little ways ahead of you, and gradually catch them. Then pick another. Be smart about this – don’t go sprinting to catch people, but you can use this to get you through the last mile, and the hill.
You turn right on the South First Street Bridge, and you’re less than half a mile out. Roll into the turn, and think about increasing your footspeed again. Halfway across the bridge, the slope turns downward a little, and that’s another good point to pick up the pace at again.
Finally, when you turn right onto Riverside, you’ll have less than 200 meters left. Go. Keep your eyes on the next person you want to catch, or on the finish line. Again, increase your speed by increasing your footspeed, just like we do with strides – don’t be stretching and pushing your legs, that’s a good way to get injured.
Run all the way through the finish.
If you’re coming off the half marathon or marathon, you still have to be smart out there. You have to be smart about your choices, taking into consideration your limitations, the course, and even the conditions on any given day. Sometimes, slowing down or even, in the case of injury, stopping, are the intellectually and strategically soundest choices.