You've done it. You've finally signed up for the BIG race. You followed a training plan. Your nutrition and hydration have been in check. You're injury free. You're excited.
As you start to lay out you gear and flat outfit you start to fret about the race. So many what ifs enter your mind.
Take a deep breath. I'm about to share some of the ins & outs of race day. Every race and person is different, but these tips have helped me successfully navigate several race events.
- Start watching the weather approximately a week out from your race. If you are racing away from home be aware of the altitude, humidity, dryness of the region you will be racing. You don't want to be surprised when you arrive at your destination. If you are racing in cold or cooler temperatures take note of the predicted temperature while you wait for the race to start and how the temperature is predicted to change through the time you will be running. Remember that your body will warm up within the first mile and dress appropriately for the weather.
- Give yourself plenty of time to use the bathroom before the race begins. Expect long lines at the port-o-johns and plan accordingly.
- Line up in the appropriate starting corral based on your expected finish time. Slower runners can be tempted to submit faster times or line up with a faster group hoping that it will give them a reprieve from the cut off time. Please resist the temptation. Lining up with a group that is significantly faster than you will 1) cause you to stress because you will feel like you're not going fast enough and 2) annoy the faster runners that you lined up with.
- If you plan to take walk breaks during the race, be respectful to the other runners. Do not abruptly stop. Look behind you to make sure you won't cut off another runner, then move to the side to take your walk break.
- Aid stations can be tricky to navigate. Runners tend to come to an abrupt stop as they hastily grab cups that are being thrust towards them. If you plan to carry your own fuel or don't plan to use every aid station move out of the way of runners who are using the aid station. It will save both you and them a lot of hassle and frustration.
- Understand your gadgets before the race. There's nothing worse than being stuck next to a runner whose watch or heart rate monitor won't stop going off. Wow, is it frustrating and annoying.
- Know your body and its fueling needs. Do you need to eat a special meal the day before? Do you need your nuun hydration? Or maybe your body doesn't process Gu's or Shot Blocks well and you need real food like blueberries or dried figs. It is crucial to understanding what, when, and how much your body needs during race day.
- Thank the volunteers. Encourage the runner next to you. High-five the kids. Even accept free hugs that are given out. Racing is tough. These things will give you a nice, and probably much needed, boost.
Each time you race you'll find something to tweek. It's an evolving process. My first half marathon was vastly different from my 10th half marathon. At my first half marathon I was that annoying person who stopped in front of other runners to walk. At my latest half marathon I learned a few new lessons in running in extreme heat and humidity.
The scariest thing about racing for the first time is not knowing what to expect. Even as an experienced runner I still do my research before every race. I look up race recaps and read reviews. I study the map and try to memorize how far apart the aid stations are. I want to know where the challenges await so I can adequately prepare myself for success.
I'd love to hear your tips on the ins and outs of race day! What is the biggest thing you've learned from the first time you race to your most recent race?
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