« WDW Marathon Weekend 2011: Reflections | Main | Running...It's All In the Family »

To Preview or Not To Preview a Race Course

In about a week I will be running a local 10K race on a brand new course and so I decided this past weekend to do a dry run and worked out on the course. During this training run I thought about whether or not doing so would actually help me for the race.

I know it made me feel better to run the course before the race than to wait until race day to do it for the first time but I could not really say why this was important to me.

I decided to ask if any of my Team AllEars® members felt strongly about previewing a course and why it was important to them.

Team AllEars® member Amanda Gonzalez seems to fall in my category of one who likes to preview a course.

Amanda says, “…I like to drive or run the course before race day. I am a big believer in visualizing myself running the course before race day. It helps me on the tough parts of the course to imagine myself running up the hills, into the headwinds with no problems.”

She also adds that by going over the course before race day she can “…know how to shuffle my music in the ipod the go along with the tougher parts of the course.”

One thing I never considered regarding previewing a course is the nutrition factor. Amanda says by trying out the course before race day she can determine when she might need some energy gel or how often she would need to hydrate during the race.
I know when I might need a GU for extra energy and when I might want to hydrate

Lastly, Amanda says, “I also like to know the mile markers so I can mentally prepare to count down, one down only five more to go for example.”

Team AllEars® member Jamison Reynolds sings a familiar song when he talks about previewing a course.

Jamison says, “I am concerned with elevation changes. Especially for inclines…” and Jamison make a good point when he says that for those who use the Galloway method of walking and running that, “…it is important for folks to see if those inclines will work with their walk breaks or runners will want to modify those breaks to work with the course. For example, you don't want to waste a walk on a downhill when an uphill is just around the corner.”

I think that is a great point for anyone who uses the Galloway method…but you have to preview the course to understand how best to approach the race.

Team AllEars® member Helen Norlund scoped out the Walt Disney World Half Marathon Course before running it in last January, because as Helen says, “I thought it would help me to understand the course and see where I was going and what I was up against.”

Unfortunately for Helen, there were some things that prevented this plan from working the way she had hoped.

As she explains it, “I got disoriented with the people and trying to place in my mind where things were. It was nice however to realize that I had a hill to climb and also that some would be off the beaten path.”

Helen makes an interesting point too when she points out something that I had remembered. On World Drive the runners came across a huge hot air balloon that looked like Spaceship Earth. It was confusing at first and Helen remembers, “…I got turned around when I saw the balloon for Epcot. I was panicking thinking I had done something wrong...but then realized that so did everyone else since I followed the pack but it did give me a good reality check there.”

The point here is that sometimes previewing a race does not always give you the identical conditions you will encounter during the actual race so you try to take away from that preview as much as you can but also realizing that the time of day, crowd, and unexpected things, may throw you off a bit.

For me, my concern is always the need to pace myself. Pacing is important during a race because for some people, the start of a race gets their juices flowing so much tat they tend to start off faster than they would if they were just going out for a training run. I know that there have been races in the past where I had run too fast too soon and did not have the reserves left to negotiate some hills later in the race.

When I preview a race I take into consideration the various twists and turns and where along the course I could use an interval running technique to help me put in a decent time.

One of my friends, who is also into interval running says he likes to preview a race because he then can pinpoint that point in the course where he know he can go into his interval training mode and have enough energy to not only do that but also give a final kick on that last mile.

For me, I guess it comes down to a number of reasons why I prefer to preview a race.

First, I want to be comfortable and familiar with the course and that means knowing if there are any odd areas to watch out for.

Also, as stated above, as someone who likes to throw in some interval training in a race, I need to know where the “difficult” parts of the course are to plan accordingly.

Running a race is more than just a physical chore…it also involves strategy that you need to use to do your best…hence, why some prefer to preview races.

* * * * *

If you're planning on running a Walt Disney World race in January 2012 and you'd like to join Team AllEars® in the fight against breast cancer, please email Michelle at Michelle@teamallears.com.

The previous post in this blog was WDW Marathon Weekend 2011: Reflections.

The next post in this blog is Running...It's All In the Family.

Comments (2)


I actually prefer NOT to preview a race. I won't so much as even look at a map of the course beforehand. I like the surprise, and that way I'm just thinking about the now instead of constantly thinking of how much more I have to go. And nothing is better during a race than coming up on mile marker 10 when you had expected it to be 9.

helen D:

I have a strange comment because my initial reaction is that I agree with the commenter, Theresa: I don't like to preview the course. I check out maps just to get a vague overview of where it's going but I don't want to know about the details. I think if I don't know too much before race day, I can't worry too much.

But here's the strange thing: I've done several races that involved multiple loops to complete the distance. In both cases, one a half-marathon and one full-marathon, I had to run 4 loops of an identical course to complete the full distance. Because I like surprises, I should hate this type of course, but really, I loved them! I find that it's assuring to know what's coming and how to deal with it.

I suppose this means that it's a good idea to know what's coming even if you don't think you want to know!

Post a comment

(All comments must be approved before they appear on the entry.)

Return to Blog Central


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 10, 2011 5:00 AM.

The previous post in this blog was WDW Marathon Weekend 2011: Reflections.

The next post in this blog is Running...It's All In the Family.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.