On the Day of the Race Tips!

Arrive Early Getting to the race start early is always advisable.  You don’t want to leave this up to chance – a bad traffic accident or a problem on public transport could screw up your chances of getting to the start before the gun goes off and the last thing you want is for all these weeks of training to be for naught just because you were late to the start of the race. Get there early, check in if you need to, drop your kit bag and use any extra time that you have to warm up and get in the right mind-frame for your race.

Wear a Bag It may not make the front pages of any fashion magazine but wearing a bin bag over your running clothes before the race starts will help to keep you warm and dry.  Cut out a space for your head and spaces for your arms and you’re away.  It’s particularly handy to use an (unused) garbage bag rather than a sweatshirt as you can discard the former at the start of the race in the nearest bin.  You want to maintain your body temperature for as long as possible as your muscles will not thank you if they get cold and seize up just before the race.

Stop Eating! Although it’s tempting to keep re-fueling on the morning of the race, you don’t want to be eating within one hour or ideally 90 minutes, of the start of the race as doing so can put you at risk of stitches or of experiencing runner’s trots.

Take Your Own TP At most races there will be loads of port-a-loos, although you will probably still have to queue for a while to use one, especially being a lady.  But what you will find is that, generally speaking, the toilet paper runs out faster than you can say, well, toilet paper!  So it’s a good idea to take some of your own with you; stuffing it into one of the pockets of your shorts/tights, to make sure you’re not caught without!

Dress Appropriately This may sound obvious but it’s worth mentioning.  When deciding on what you’re going to wear for race day it’s a good idea to have a couple of options – one for cooler weather and one for warmer weather.  A couple of days before the race itself check the forecast and choose whichever outfit is most appropriate.  If there’s going to be a heat-wave then you don’t want to be running around the course in clothes that will make you sweat even more than you’re already going to. 

Break In Your Gear As with food, race day isn’t the time to try something new with your clothes.  The kit that you want to wear for the race should be broken-in before the day itself.  Wear everything a few times before the date of the race to make sure that it’s all comfortable and that chafing is minimal.

Bring Your Own Cheer-leaders With your first race, or to be honest any race, it’s so helpful to have friends and family dotted around the course to support you.  As you’ll know the route well prior to the run, it’s a good idea to organize your ‘team members’ so they’re separated along the length of the course rather than all at the start or all at the finish.  Seeing a friendly face cheer you on will do wonders for your motivation and it will really spur you on when the fatigue is starting to set in.

Warm Up Just because this is the real thing and not a training run doesn’t mean that you should skimp on your warm-up.  You may already feel like you’re ready to go with all the adrenaline and excitement pumping around your system but a good warm-up will not only give you the best possible start to the race, but it will also help to distract you from the nerves that will most definitely be building by this point.

Line Up Most races will have runners in pens according to estimated finishing times, but some smaller races will not.  As a beginner, it’s best not to start at the front of the starting line as this is usually the place reserved for faster runners.  These runners won’t appreciate having to weave around you from the beginning and you may find yourself getting caught up in the excitement of the race and trying to run faster than you actually should.  This will only exhaust you early on in the run and could cause you potential problems later in the race as a result of not having kept to the pace that you’ve been training at.

Start Your Watch If you’re running with a technical watch or even just a normal stop-watch then resist the temptation to start it when the gun goes off.  The likelihood is that it’ll take you a few minutes to reach the actual start line when your chip will become activated by going over the starting mat.  Wait until you’ve gone over this before you start your watch to ensure that your chip and your watch are in sync.  You don’t want to start your watch too early or too late as it won’t give you a fair representation of how you’re doing in the race, a few seconds can make all the difference, especially if you’re aiming for a specific time.

Look Around You Once the race has started you will be running amongst hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of other participants.  It’s important to be aware of those around you when you’re heading to water stations for example – you don’t want to trip yourself or anyone else up when you’re grabbing that much-needed cup of water because you haven’t seen them.  If you need to slow down or if you start experiencing muscle cramps or fatigue then look around you before you move to the side of the route to stretch in order to allow other runners to pass you rather than going around you.

Save It When you’re only a couple of kilometers from the end of the race it can be tempting to start talking to people, blowing kisses and generally expending energy as you reach the euphoric stage of the race.  But try to save your energy; you will need it to push through the final stage of the race.

Smile! With many races you will find that there is a photo finish so make sure to save up your smile for crossing that finishing line, it’s always nicer to have a photo of yourself smiling as you cross the line rather than grimacing!

Relax and Enjoy it! You’ve trained hard for this moment; you’ve made sacrifices and done things that you probably didn’t think that you were capable of.  Now is the time to trust in your training and trust in your ability to complete the race as you had imagined.  Most races have a great atmosphere from the crowd, the other runners and also the organizers; make the most of it and don’t let your nerves stop you from having a great time.  Look at this as the culmination of all your hard work and take some time to smell the roses!