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Routine rules on race day. The last thing you want the morning of your big day is an unexpected surprise. While things such as traffic or weather could throw you a curveball, do your best to replicate the “dress rehearsals” you’ve performed throughout the training cycle. Aim to rise at least 3 hours before the race start. This allows time to wake up your body, eat a small breakfast, ensure that you’ve got all your gear ready to go, use the bathroom, and take care of any other last-minute issues before you head to the starting-line area. You can even wake up 4 hours before the race, eat a small meal, and then go back to sleep for 30–60 minutes—just don’t forget to reset your alarm!
The pre-race breakfast is very individual, but as with dinner the night before, there is no need to go all out. At most, you’ll need no more than 500 or so calories 3–4 hours before the race starts to top off your glycogen stores. Eat a meal that’s easily digestible (experiment with this in training), low in fiber, and made up mostly of carbohydrates. One or two slices of toast with peanut butter and jelly or honey along with a banana and glass of juice, water, and/or a cup of coffee are plenty. Continue to sip water or a sports drink in the 2 hours before the race, and take an energy gel or nibble on a bar in the 30–60 minutes before the gun fires.
Get to the starting-line area no later than 60 minutes before the race begins. For bigger events, get there closer to 90 minutes prior to avoid congestion. Give yourself plenty of time to warm up, drop off your gear-check bag, use the bathroom one last time (the lines will be long), and get settled in to your corral.
You should be in your corral no later than 15 minutes before the race start. Triple-check that you’ve got your race bib securely pinned to the front of your shorts or shirt and that your chip is on your shoe. If the weather is cool, wear a pair of throwaway sweats to the starting line to keep warm and an old jacket or garbage bag if it’s raining. You can shed these about 3–5 minutes before the race gets under way or somewhere along the course after you’ve gotten going. Remain active while waiting for the race to start by jogging or hopping in place or performing light stretches.
Waiting in the corral with hundreds of other runners who are just as excited as you are can be nerve-racking. Take a few deep breaths, and visualize taking off from the starting line. Stay loose and relax as much as possible while reminding yourself that you are fit and ready to go. Be confident in your preparation and your race plan. Run through the list of positive mantras that you will repeat throughout the race, such as “I am powerful” or “I will finish strong.”
You are ready to do this!