The 3M Half marathon boasts one of the fastest 13.1-mile courses in the country, and runners from all over race it to set PRs. Michael Morris, the head track and cross-country coach at San Marcos High School, did pretty well at last year’s 3M. In fact, he won it in 1:07:19. While Morris won’t be running this year (he’s entered in the Chevron Houston Marathon), he wants you to run your best race, and tells Ready to Run how.
RTR: Do you have an overall race plan the night before the race?
MM: My mindset and race plan was to get out with the lead group early on and use the downhill course to my advantage. I wanted to stay as relaxed as possible and not let my adrenaline get the best of me and to keep my breathing in a good rhythm. The best race plan to stick with is the one you have been using while training. If you have a goal time and pace in mind, try and stick to it!
RTR: If so, do you adjust it at all for weather or competition?
MM: I really only adjust for the weather. I may add or remove layers of clothing, wear a hat or sunglasses, make sure that I have an extra energy gel or have more water ready for the race. Remember this is January, we live in Texas…. It may feel very cold standing around on the start line, but once you get moving and running, your body temperature will rise, and all those layers may get a little hot. It’s not a bad idea to wear an old long sleeve shirt or a pair of gloves that you don’t really like and be okay taking them off after a mile or two of running (plus all the clothes discarded on the course is picked up and given to the homeless shelter!) I try not to adjust as much for the competition; You have been training with a set goal in mind and have goal race pace to keep up with. So when you run a race, try to stay within yourself and focus on that goal time and pace as much as possible. A lot can go right or wrong in a race, and a lot can change over 13.1 miles. But when you stay focused on my race goals, it almost always works out in the best way possible.
RTR: Lined up at the start, it’s a big exciting race. What do you keep in mind for that first mile leaving Gateway shopping center?
MM: TO STAY IN CONTROL! Try to keep reminding yourself that it is a long race, to find a comfortable rhythm, and breathe! It is a beautiful race, there will be a lot of people cheering you on and giving you a burst of energy, save that for later, it will come in handy. The first mile might go out and you will run a little fast, that is okay, a 2 seconds to 5 seconds faster first mile will not destroy your race plan, but running 30-45 seconds faster surely can. Keep the first mile in check!
RTR: Miles 2-5 have some twists and turns, and some strategic downhills. Talk about that section.
MM: Miles 2-5: Try to put yourself into a “cruise control”. If you have established a good pace and are with group of people, this 5k will go by quickly and you will barely notice the turns. Keep yourself in check on the downhills, it is easy to get tricked on the downhill sections to run faster, stick to your goal pace and try to not to go crazy down the hills; (Some of them are pretty steep!). These early downhill sections can be dangerous for a runner, you are feeling good, the pace feels easier and running down a hill just makes you want to push it. But a lot of people have ruined a great race plan by running to fast down an early downhill section of a course. So hold back just a little, keep focused on that goal time and pace you are working towards.
A big thing to remember HYDRATE!!!! Every 3-4 miles of running you should be trying to add a little to the tank. You are burning through a lot of calories and water. There are aid stations at mile 2, 3.5ish and right after 5; don’t be afraid to fuel up at them, your body will pay you back for it later in the race.
RTR: Miles 6-8, the mid-section of the race (Great Northern; Shoal Creek, etc.) continue to have some nice downhills, but 9-10 has some uphill. It’s easy to lose focus here. How important is “focus” for achieving your race goal?
MM: I have always focused on the third quarter of the race the most. It is always the hardest part of the race, fatigue starts to set in, you start getting distracted, and it gets harder to breathe. But, if you stay focused on the race and on the pace, you will get through this section. I have always considered myself a strong hill runner, the key is to be efficient up the hills. Keep the effort level the same, don’t try and “push” up the hill at a faster pace, for every uphill, there is a downhill. Shorten your strides just a little on the uphill, remember your arms helping you run too so use them, and just work your way to the top. To help me maintain focus, try work towards smaller goals, like getting to the next mile, or making it to the next Austin mural!
Remind yourself to stay in good form; a big part of endurance running is to be able keep yourself in good spirits and be confident. Sing a song in your head, let the crowds give you a little boost, and don’t forget to get some water, Nuun, or energy gels at the aid stations. Keep trying to give yourself positive reminders of why you are in the race, what your goal is and what you are there to accomplish.
RTR: Miles 10-13 is the final 5K, but runners are likely experiencing some fatigue here. What mind-set do you get into for this “bring-it-home” part of the race?
MM: This is showtime! All the work and training have you put in will get you through this final 5K! With good training all the fatigue and exhaustion you feel in the final miles you have felt before in your training. This section of the race you really have to rely on your training and really go for it. I have never run a race that I was happy with that didn’t hurt at least a little in the final mile. Embrace those feelings and know that you are not the only one and keep soldiering on. Between miles 9 and 11, I try to grab a water cup, Nuun and an energy gel (even with caffeine in it) to help give me that final push and surge to the finish line. It will take a little bit for the carbs and caffeine to kick in and be used by your system, but it will be just what your body needs when you turn towards the long, downhill straight shot finish line. The finish line will come sooner than you think and once you cross it you will have a wave of happiness rush over you and you will completely forget the fatigue and soreness.
Upcoming Races: Saturday, January 18 at 8:00 a.m., the Taylor Garden Club Run for the Roses 5K/10K at Murphy Park, 12th and Vance St in Taylor. Sunday, January 19 at 7:30 a.m., the 3M Half Marathon at Gateway Shopping Center.