Follow these easy steps for a great race experience.
1. Don’t eat, drink or wear anything new on race day. Stick with what has worked—shoes, socks, clothes, food, gels, drinks—while you were training. Reward yourself with new shoes or try new gel brands after your race, not before it.
2. Start hydrating with water or a sports drink as soon as you wake up on race morning. Continuing sipping periodically from a bottle until you get to the starting line.
3. Eat something light and simple for breakfast 2-3 hours before your race. If you normally drink coffee to start your day, do the same on race day. If you normally don’t, don’t start in the hours before your race.
4. Be prepared to adjust your race plan on the fly and go with the flow. Circumstances such as weather and how your stomach feels on race morning are beyond your control.
5. Warm up and do a variety of drills before you get to your starting corral. You probably won’t have time or space to do anything but stationary drills, like running in place or jumping jacks, once you’ve entered the corral.
6. If it’s cool and you’ll be waiting for a long time, consider wearing an old long-sleeve T-shirt or sweatshirt you can throw to the side after you start. Or cut three holes in a plastic garbage bag and wear it until the starting gun sounds.
7. Have realistic expectations and seed yourself honestly in your starting corral. While it’s exhausting to have to jockey past lots of runners in front of you, it’s even more disheartening to by passed by an entire wave. If you start at the front, you’re more likely to go out too fast.
8. Familiarize yourself with the race venue and route well before race day. Know where to park, drop gear, use the bathroom and enter your specific starting corral. Err on the side of arriving too early than too late.
9. Try to find your own space on the road, but expect to be cut off or sideswiped by runners early on and throughout the race. It happens in every race, often when you least expect it.
10. When drinking from an aid station cup on the run, pinch the cup at the rim to avoid taking too big of a gulp or soaking yourself. For half marathons and all longer races, drink something at every aid station, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
11. In a half or full marathon, take sports gels early and often. Start by taking one 20 minutes before the start of the race to top off your glycogen stores and continue taking them every 3-5 miles. It’s hard to stave off a bonk once you’ve already hit the wall. Make sure to practice drinking water and taking gels in your training so your gut is accustomed to it come race day.
12. Try to run a consistent pace throughout the race, but err on the side of running slightly slower in the first half of the race. Your pace may slow a bit as you shorten your stride running up hills, but use your arms to help you to the top of the hill and expect your pace to increase slightly as you take advantage of the “free speed” you get from lengthening your stride while running downhill.