Lesson 1: Follow Your Training Plan
How I Met Your Mother - Lucky Penny (Season 2, Ep. 15)
When Barney decides to run the NYC Marathon by taking Marshall's place, he brags that you don't need to train for a marathon, saying, "Here's how you run a marathon. Step one: You start running...there is no step two." While Barney does end up finishing the marathon with a smile on his face, he gets a rude awakening later that day when he finds his muscles are so tired that he physically can't stand up to get off of the subway.
Training plans are the backbone of preparing your body for a race. By following a schedule that gradually and safely increases your distance throughout the time leading to a big race, you'll arrive at the starting line feeling prepared to run your best. (And get back home in one piece!)
If race day is rapidly approaching and you haven't committed well to your training plan, it might be a good idea to reassess your running goals. You might have to walk part of the race, but it's worth it to avoid being injured.
Lesson 2: Plan Your Meals
The Office - Fun Run (Season 4, Ep. 1)
Michael's first mistake: eating a big bowl of fettuccine alfredo (to carb-o-load) before Dunder Mifflin's 5K Fun Run. His second mistake: not drinking any water during the race on a very warm day. Directly after crossing the finish line, he predictably gets sick and that pre-race pasta comes right back up. Don't be Michael.
While it's important to eat more carbohydrates in the days leading up to a marathon to ensure you'll have plenty of energy to get you through to the end, loading up on carbs isn't necessary for a shorter race like a 5K, and can actually make you feel bloated. Plan your pre-race dinner, as well as your breakfast on the morning of, and stick to what has worked for you during training. (See: Running Fuel: What to Eat Before a Race.) During the race, make sure you're drinking plenty of fluids, especially on a hot day. If you'll be running for more than 90 minutes, you'll likely want to take some energy gels or other fuel to replenish your glycogen stores. Many races provide these type of snacks, but it's always a good idea to bring your own just in case whatever you have available isn't something new to your body—you don't want to throw it off on such an important day.
Lesson 3: Prepare the Night Before
Seinfeld - The Hot Tub (Season 7, Ep. 5)
Elaine hosts a runner from Trinidad & Tobago the weekend of the NYC Marathon, who had missed the Olympic Marathon the year before because his alarm didn't go off. Jerry ends up taking the runner in instead because he doesn't trust Elaine to get him to the starting line on time. But when Kramer's electric generator for a new hot tub causes the power in the building to go out, the runner still ends up nearly missing the race when his alarm doesn't go off yet again.
In addition to setting an alarm (or three!), laying out everything you need the night before the race can help you sleep better and avoid a stressful situation in the morning. Setting out your clothes, shoes, bib, fuel, watch, and any other essential items will ensure that you don't forget anything in a nervous frenzy. And, yes, make sure to triple-check those alarms!
Lesson 4: Remember It's a (Half) Marathon, Not a Sprint
The Mindy Project - Triathlon (Season 1, Ep. 22)
When the doctors in Mindy's gynecology practice set out to run a triathlon relay, Mindy is allocated the running portion of the race. Although she isn't in great shape, she sets a goal to run a 12-minute mile to help her team beat their opponents, a group of male midwives. Unfortunately, she doesn't leave early enough and ends up dashing to the starting line at a 9-minute-per-mile pace. After that faster-than-expected pre-race pace, she vomits and isn't able to compete.
Pacing yourself is crucial if you want to make it through the entire course (or make it through without potentially hurting yourself). When you start running, you'll feel great, especially if you've trained properly. But then, the second half of the race will undoubtedly be more difficult, and you'll be glad that you've saved some stamina for one final push. Running conservatively in the first half will help you run a faster during the second, meaning you're much more likely to finish with energy and a smile on your face—hello finish-line photos!
Lesson 5: Run Your Own Race
New Girl - Secrets (Season 1, Ep. 19)
Jess and best friend Cece run a 10K together, but Jess is not well-trained, (BTW, are you sensing a trend in these lessons?!) and although she tries to catch up with Cece, she hits a wall and crosses the finish line last, hours after everyone else. While it's extremely unlikely that you'll come in dead last, it's easy to compare yourself to others and worry about running too slow. But a big part of racing is learning to tackle the negative thoughts and doubts that might creep in. Remember that the only person you're competing against is yourself, and as long as you finish feeling happy and accomplished, that's all you can really hope for!
Lesson#6: Have Fun!
Friends - The One Where Phoebe Runs (Season 6, Ep. 7)
Rachel is embarrassed when she and Phoebe go for a run and Phoebe's running form is...well, unconventional. Rachel avoids Phoebe and makes excuses to not run together. When Phoebe discovers that Rachel went running without her, Phoebe explains that she runs the way she did when she was a kid because it's more fun, instead of taking running (or herself) too seriously.
While preparing and planning both your body and the logistics of race-day are obviously important elements for a successful run, none of that hard work you put in will matter if you don't remember to just have fun! Think back to why you started running in the first place and take some time to savor the amazing experience!