Race coming up? Heavy lifting twice a week can improve your VO2 max. Runners in an Italian study saw a 6% VO2 max boost using this tactic. That strength, plus better mechanics, can enhance your running economy and cut injury risk, says PJ Newton, founder of Strategic Athlete. Enroll in a functional training programme, like CrossFit Endurance or HIIT. Then use the tips below for your half-marathon.

Before the Race

14 Days Start at race time and eat and drink as planned. You don’t have to do the full 21km, says Newton.

7 Days Give your innards a thorough soaking: down 30ml of water per 450g of your bodyweight every day.

2 Hours Eat 1⁄2g of carbs per 450g of your body weight. In a University of Minnesota study, this helped novices finish faster.

During the Race

1 to 6km Women pace better, research shows. Chase a gal going at your goal speed to avoid bonking later, says Newton.

6+km Old rule: If you wait until you’re thirsty to drink, then it’s too late. New rule: drinking just when you’re thirsty is fine.

14km Exhaustion starts in your head. Set a small goal, such as passing one person in front of you; then set another.

And Don’t Forget

… to listen to music during the race. You’ll tend to match your cadence to the beat, say Belgian scientists. (Try the 8tracks app, which has playlists for everything, including running, created by other people. You can even create your own.) Music also releases natural pain blockers and lowers perceived effort.

Picture courtesy Ray Demski/Red Bull Content Pool