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The half marathon has become a popular race distance, with five times as many people finishing the 13.1-mile race in 2011 than in 1990, reported the "San Francisco Chronicle" in 2012. The vast majority of these races begin in the morning, before many people roll out of bed. Morning starts usually bring cooler temperatures and less traffic for road races. Prepare for a morning race throughout your training and have a strategy for race day for the greatest success.
You may not be at your best in the morning, so you are tempted to push your training runs to later in the afternoon or evening. Your core body temperature is higher in the afternoon, so you may have more energy and quickness in these training runs - but come race day, you might be in for a rude awakening. Try to train around the time of your race at least once per week to get your body accustomed to running in the morning hours.
Morning half marathon race times vary from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., depending on the location, season and whims of the race director. Those run at the pre-dawn hours require a wake-up as early as 3:30 a.m. to board buses or drive to the race start. Pre-race jitters can make sleep the night before your half marathon challenging, but try to get to bed early. Even if you are resting and reading or watching television, you are relaxing your body, which will help you feel better in the morning. If you are not a morning person, set several alarms in case one fails. You can always invite a friend who is an early riser to send you a morning text to make sure you haven't hit snooze.
Lay out everything you need the night before to avoid early morning scrambling. This includes your bib, timing chip, shoes, race fuel and clothing. Some races have same-day race packet pickup or registration. In these cases, you want to arrive at the race early to make sure you get your bib and timing chip squared away before the race starts. Even if you have picked up your race information in advance, arriving at the race early gives you time to use the portable toilets as many times as you need. Early arrival also ensures you navigate through any traffic or parking snafus that could make you late for the start.
Throughout your training, you should take in adequate hydration for your runs. The day prior to your race, hydrate with water as you would for any training. The morning of the run, drink about 16 ounces of water two or three hours prior to the start. This gives you time to empty your bladder and to absorb the water. Just before you begin the race, drink another 8 ounces, recommends "Runner's World."
Eating before your race is essential, no matter how early it begins. You may feel too nervous to eat or find food unpalatable at an early hour, but find a way to get some nutrition anyway. Wake up extra early so you can eat a small meal slowly. Try a bagel with a little peanut butter and a banana or oatmeal with raisins and a splash of milk. A fruit smoothie is another easily digested option. Skipping breakfast will likely lead to a drop in your blood sugar, which will impede your performance. Beth Jauquet, R.D., a nutritionist for Cherry Creek Nutrition in Denver, told "Runner's World" in 2008 that you cannot make up for a lack of breakfast with midrace fueling. If you normally drink coffee, don't skip it on race day. Be wary of drinking too much, however, as it can wreak havoc on digestion.
An early race warm-up helps get your body ready to move. Walking for five to 10 minutes before the race begins helps get your blood circulating and your muscles ready to go. Often, you have to walk from the car, hotel or bus drop-off for longer -- serving as a built-in warm-up. Elite athletes might do a pre-race jog of 10 to 20 minutes about an hour before start time. In the 15 to 30 minutes before the race, these athletes might also do forward and side lunges and a few short 50-meter speed drills. A very early start time could make these pre-race warm-ups impractical.