Race Day Tips
Race day can be a nerve-racking time. Whether you're brand new to the game or an old hand, it's important to make sure everything is just right. Our tips will help make sure you've got everything covered for the big day.
Make sure all your kit is ready and laid out the night before your race. Make a checklist and double check everything is there for peace of mind. Some suggestions of things to include on your checklist:
- Race number + safety pins
- Timing chip
- Shorts, t-shirt, bra, vest, socks, shoes and anything else you might be wearing for the actual race
- Clothes for before and after the race
- Spare gear, for peace of mind
- Running watch, fully charged
- Heart rate monitor
- Running belt (with pockets for gels, smartphone, etc.)
- Printed map/directions to location of race
- Race pack with any information you might need
- Money for things such as parking, post-run snacks, memorabilia
- Water and any fuel for before, during and after the race
- Tissues, wet wipes
- Any medication
The Night Before
Common sense probably tells you that you shouldn't be partying or drinking alcohol the day before a race. Also remember to eat sensible, bland foods that you know agree with you. Limiting protein and fat intake somewhat and sticking to simple, easily-digestible carbs can help prevent stomach issues and ensure maximum energy stores. Hydrate well and rest as much as is possible. If you're a worrier then get absolutely everything ready early on and then try and do something distracting in the evening such as watching a fun movie. Tell yourself you're going to set aside some time to think specifically about the race later on so there's no need having it constantly nagging at the back of your mind.
And don't forget to set your alarm clock. In fact, set two alarm clocks.
Leave in plenty of time and allow longer for travel than you think you need. Having to rush around, sitting in traffic, finding a parking spot at the last minute, or dealing with the panic that sets in when your train is cancelled or your bus is late are all things you don't need. They'll put you in completely the wrong frame of mind.
Remember to also allow time for warming up, any pre-race registration, getting changed and getting over to the start line.
It's very common to set off too fast during a race. Adrenaline is flowing, you're surrounded by lots of people - several of them probably running faster than you are - and you're feeling nice and fresh after resting up in preparation for the race. This is when pace judgement can suffer. What felt hard in training a week ago suddenly feels like a stroll in the park. Stick to your plan. That pace might feel easy now, but it'll feel tougher later on and blowing up is never fun.
Don't try anything new on race day. Don't try a new breakfast. Don't try a new warm-up routine. Don't try out new running shoes. If you've not tested it before then don't do it.
Chances are you have some sort of race plan. It might be running at a certain pace or sticking with another athlete. Do be prepared to adjust your plan based on conditions on the day. If it's extremely hot or windy for example you may have to accept that you're just not going to run as fast as you might on a more pleasant day.
Remember that everybody will be affected by the conditions. You can actually use bad conditions to your advantage and feel a little smug in the knowledge that there are lots of runners out there who won't be making the necessary adjustments, and it's gonna feel pretty good when you pass them in the second half of the race.
Of course, it's easy to say. Maybe you've not had a great sleep? Not many people do the day before a race. Maybe the last few weeks of training haven't been perfect? They rarely are. Most runners stand on the start line wishing they had just a little bit longer to get completely ready. Whatever your concerns are there's nothing you can do about it now, and it's very likely that whatever's bothering you won't impact your performance anywhere near as much as you might think. Take a deep breath, do your best and just enjoy yourself.
It's all too easy to get upset when things don't go perfectly. If you find yourself in such a position then do your best not to let it get you down. There will always be another opportunity to get out there and give it a shot.
Remember that every race, be it good or bad, is an experience that you can learn from and you will end up a better runner as a result of these experiences.