So, you’ve selected your race – now it’s time to think about getting some more details on the route to see what you’ve let yourself in for! The best way of doing this is to physically run sections of the route as a “recce”.
Both mentally and physically, course recces are great preparation but it isn’t always possible to dedicate the time or expense to recce the whole course. How should you approach the time you do have to spend on the course so it is most productive and helps you most on race day?
Lots of people think the main reason to recce a course is so that you “know the way” in a hope that navigation will be easier if you’ve seen the course before. Whilst this is partially true, my experience is that it’s very hard to remember any details about a route especially when you’re sleep deprived and tired from running for hours (this is where your navigation strategy really counts!). For me the main benefits of course recces are the ultimate specificity of training (there’s nothing more specific training wise than actually being on the course you’ll be running on) and the massive mental benefits you experience from understanding the course, the key sections and how it all fits together.
If you are lucky enough to be able to spend time on the course before your event make sure you know exactly what you’re trying to get out of the recce. Here are a few things to think about.
What are you trying to get from the recce?
Not able to recce the whole route? Which bits should you focus on?
What if you just aren’t able to get out on the course at all before the race or aren’t able to recce the whole course? Not being able to see any (or all) of course before race day is honestly not a barrier to achieving your goals – in lots of ways it makes the adventure even more exciting if you’re seeing everything for the first time.
Tips to help you prepare mentally and physically for a route without even setting foot on it:
Ultimately, for me, getting out on the course and getting to know a new area is part of the fun of racing and challenges in beautiful places. I therefore try to plan recces at almost the same time as entering the race itself. Getting at least one recce in can also really remind you why you’re doing a race and provide renewed enthusiasm for training so you can enjoy your journey through the epic scenery as much as possible!