You have spent $25 – $100+ entering your race…be it a 5K or marathon. You have put in the miles of training to build your foundation. You feel ready. These 5 simple tips will help you on race day:
- Research the course – Does the course have crazy hills or is it flat? I did not research a marathon course once. This was a rookie mistake as it was my third marathon. It was the Cincinnati Flying Pig. The Flying Pig has a 450 ft ascent (40+ floor building) from miles 3 – 8 1/2. I had not trained on hills. None. My wife notified me the night before the race that I was running up Mt. Adams. I did not sleep well that night. Plan. Review the course map from the event website. Train accordingly. Or, you will have an interesting day.
- Plan Plan and Plan: Transportation, weather, starting line and start time – Know the weather conditions and dress accordingly. If you wear too much, be prepared to toss it along the route. Know what time the race starts. Nothing is worse than being stuck in traffic and missing the race you have trained weeks or months to finish. Find the actual starting line before race day. Have a parking plan or drop-off plan. Know there will be route/traffic changes by the police the morning of the run. Take public transportation or a shuttle, if possible…and follow the flow of runners. Or, have someone take you and have a designated meeting place afterward. Arrive early. I typically arrive 90 minutes early to stretch, make sure I am in the right spot, to people watch, and to try to settle my nerves a bit. Know that for most of the larger marathons, you will be corralled for a half mile to a mile beyond the finish line and will not be able to immediately see your loved ones. They do this so there is not a large log-jam at the finish. Most of us are going to be very tired and sore after the race. I did not have an escape plan after the Marine Corps Washington DC Marathon. Public transportation was a nightmare getting out and I traveled alone. There were lines around the block to get into the subway and it was impossible to grab a taxi. I probably walked 3-5 miles after running a marathon to try to figure out how to get back to my hotel. I did not want to do this. Have a plan.
- Nutrition – Do not try a new breakfast combo the morning of the race. You may have an unpleasant outcome…not good on the race course. Try different food choices as you train and try eating 2-3 hours before your run. My personal choice is a bagel and peanut butter. Also practice carb loading the night before a long run during training…beware of carb loading the night before a race if you have not done this while training. Again, you do not want surprises the day of your race. Practice taking in nutrition (such as “Gu”, etc.) while training. Consuming a paste-like substance while running at pace takes practice.
- Be consistent – Know when the race time starts. If it starts early morning, make sure you train at least some (if not often) with early morning runs. Your body reacts differently to time of day. Do not try new electronics, gear, belts, shoes, insoles, socks, compression gear, or a new outfit the morning of the race. Run your race in what you have trained in to avoid blisters, chaffing, etc. Race day is not the day to try new things. Try new things while training.
- Have fun! – People sometimes take running way too seriously. If you are not an elite runner, you are not going to win the race in all probability. Try not to be last either. Enjoy the experience, signs, camaraderie, spirit of the race, etc…Try talking to new people…everyone has a story. Try helping someone you see struggling along the way. Do not lose focus of your goal and do not be discouraged if you are passed by someone you think should not be passing you. Set a realistic goal and go for it…if you feel really good, try to crush your PR.