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By the Squannacook Runner

Can you believe we’ve reached the final week of training for the Groton Road race 5K? Are you getting butterflies, wondering how you’re going to do when the starter’s gun goes off on April 29? Relax! Your competition won’t be with the runners assembled around you. Your biggest opponent will be you.

It’s the same voice you heard throughout your training, urging you to give up running altogether and return to the comfort of your favorite sofa or easy chair. So far, you’ve ignored this gremlin, and you’ll do it again on race day.

As you await the starter’s gun, think of those thousands of runners who ran the Boston Marathon this week. As each crossed the finish line, he or she was a winner. For many, the time on the finish line clock and the number of runners already there didn’t matter. Even if you finish dead last in a road race, whether it be the Boston Marathon or the Groton Road Race 5K, you’ve outdistanced the legion of couch potatoes who stayed home and sat in front of their TVs.

Lest I forget, there’s one last runner’s malady I’d like to help you prepare for: wind. Wind is the invisible demon that blows in your face and pushes against your tired body as you run. Stop running, the wind seems to die down. Resume running, the wind returns. Reverse direction, and the wind does a one-eighty and blows in your face again. Or so it seems. A steady headwind will certainly hamper your progress, much as a long uphill would. Treat a headwind as you would an uphill run. Lean slightly forward, shorten your stride, and pump the arms vigorously. During a race, remind yourself that everyone else has to contend with the same problem.

What if you encounter a stiff tailwind? Beats me. In all my years of running and racing, which encompasses several thousand miles on the roads and trails, I cannot recall an instant when I’ve run with the wind at my back. Should the Wind God ever smile down on you, simply run as you normally would and enjoy the boost from behind. And let me know what it was like.

This final week of training begins with several fine-tuning sessions, after which you’ll taper off to be fully rested on race day. Do not push yourself during the last day or two prior to the 5K!

Goal for the week: Finish the Groton Road Race 5K!

Sunday: 5K at race pace. This is a major tune-up for the Groton Road Race. We recommend that you run the actual course, if possible. If not, run a course that is at least 5K (3.1 miles) in length.

Monday: 20-minute run at relaxed pace.

Tuesday: 30-minute run over hilly terrain. This is your last chance to strengthen your legs with hillwork. If you feel up to it, throw in a few 30-second bursts of speed during the run. Between hills and speed bursts, run at a relaxed pace.

Wednesday: Rest day.

Thursday: Relaxed 5K run. Try the Groton 5K course, if possible, and visualize success! Your next 5K run will be the real deal!

Friday: 10-minute run, slow and easy!

Saturday: Rest day. Don’t forget to pick up your race packet at the Groton-Dunstable Middle School between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. today. Total weekly mileage: about 12. If you’ve faithfully followed this program from the beginning, you’ve run a grand total of about 70 miles!

Sunday: Groton 5K Road Race. Good luck, or should I say good success, since your dedicated training has diminished any need for luck. Regardless of how you finish in the final standings, you’re a winner. You’ve defeated the gremlin within that tried to get you to quit, and you’ve bested those who found excuses not to run. Congratulations!

Next week: Final pointers for race day.