Pre-race Tips

So you’ve bought the best running shoes for your gait, you’ve invested in a sports bra, you’ve followed the training plan and you’ve managed to keep yourself injury free.  Now what?  Preparing for the race itself is about more than just the physical side of the training, there are a number of other factors that will contribute towards you having a great race.

Collect your Race Pack Early For most organized runs you will have a race pack including your bib number, a kit bag, your chip timer and some other goodies.  Some people leave it until the very last minute to collect their pack, but this will just cause you additional stress at a time when you could probably do without it.  Be organized, in the same way you have been with your training and collect your pack early, making sure you have all the information you need in good time for the race.

Plan Your Race Day Breakfast This is the time when you don’t want to do anything different.  If you normally run after having oatmeal and fruit then race day is not the time to change your breakfast to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Make sure that you’re getting an added boost of carbohydrates and sugar for your race, but don’t include new elements that you haven’t tried and tested before.  I would also suggest running without having drunk tea or coffee as these are both diuretics and so will dehydrate you and you don’t want to be stopping at every port-a-potty between the start and the finish line.

Know the Course Every race is different.  If you’re running a road or trail race the challenges that you will face along the way will be very different.   Your race will most likely be well sign-posted and unless you’re the leader of the pack you’ll also be able to follow other runners, but it’s helpful to look at the route beforehand and know if it’s hilly, where the hills come, when the water stations are.  All this information will help you to prepare better mentally for your race.

Drink Up! The day before the race it’s advisable to drink more water than normal.  But don’t go over-board!  The name of the game is to ensure that you’re not dehydrated when you reach the start line.  The best way to check your hydration status is to look at your urine, if it’s dark yellow then you’re not getting enough water, if it’s light yellow or clear then you’re well-hydrated.  Make sure to drink in the morning before the race – just leave time for a pit-stop to the port-a-potty before the race actually starts.

Prepare Your Clothes The night before the race it’s helpful to lay out all the clothes and kit that you will be wearing the next day so that you’re not scrabbling around to find everything the following morning.  Having all your clothes, your running watch, earphones etc. handy and the chip already attached to your shoe will give you less reason to panic in the morning when you can’t find the socks you were planning to wear or you realize your running t-shirt is in the laundry!

Write Your Name on Your Vest If you’re running a 5km or 10km race for charity then you will usually be given a vest with that particularly charity’s logo on it to wear during the race.  Writing your first name on the front and the back of the vest may seem a little strange, but it means that supporters will be able to shout your name out as you go around the course.  You’ll be surprised what a boost it gives you to hear people you don’t even know calling your name and encouraging you around the course.

Trust in your Training The day before the race you will want to rest as much as you can.  Trying to rack up any additional mileage the day before your run will not improve your stamina or your projected race time, if anything it may even make you feel more fatigued on the day of the race.  It’s important to trust in your training and to know that you’ve done all that you can to prepare properly for your race.

Carb Up The day before the race it’s a good idea to keep your intake of carbohydrates such as pasta, rice or potatoes high and include a good portion of protein.  The carbohydrates will be stored in your muscles and the body will metabolize them for energy in order to get you round the course.  There’s no need to over-do it though, for a 10km race you don’t need to gorge yourself on pasta but just try to make around 70% of your calorie intake on the pre-race day come from carbohydrates.

Catch some Zzzs Try and get to bed early on the two nights prior to the race.  It’s likely that the night before the race it’s going to be hard for you to sleep, you’ll be nervous and excited and worried that you’ll sleep through your alarm.  So if you can get a good night’s rest the penultimate night before the race then at least you won’t be batting zero on the sleep front when you reach the starting line.

Set your Alarm Give yourself plenty of time the morning of the race to wake up, have a relaxed breakfast, dress in your race wear and get to the start line.  You don’t want to try to do everything in record time, stay organized and give yourself enough time to prepare yourself properly for the race.

Visualize It may sound a little crazy, but visualization is a technique that’s used in business as well as in sport.  You will find that many professional athletes use visualization to imagine themselves winning the race, throwing the javelin the furthest, performing the best gymnastics routine.  Whatever it may be, this technique involves getting your mind in a place where you can focus on achieving your goals.  Think about your strategy – i.e. the pace that you are running at, where the hills come and how you’re going to tackle them, if you’ve decided on a negative split then you can remind yourself of when you need to start accelerating your pace.  Go over the race in your head, running it in your mind and imagining crossing the finishing line at the end.  You will probably be surprised how much this motivates you and also the calming effect that it has on your nerves, making you feel more confident and in control of the run.