8 Race Day Running Tips
Tips for a better running race day experience.
It’s race day morning and you are ready to go. You slept like crap and you have trained for weeks, if not months and now the race you have worked so hard for is right around the corner. You think that all you have to do is show up in time for the race and everything will go just as planned. Prior to running a few big races (Chicago Marathon, Boston Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, and Philadelphia Marathon), I envisioned simple logistics, short port-a-pot lines, and minimal race day stress.
When I first ran the Chicago Marathon in 2008, I quickly realized how important it was to plan ahead of time and follow a few simple steps to ensure that race day is everything you want it to be. When you are running with 45,000 people, transportation and logistics can be a nightmare. There are many things you can’t control, like weather, but for the things you can control, you need to make sure you prepare yourself so you can enjoy race day.
Enjoying the race experience should be a fun and enjoyable day. Things can easily become stressful and chaotic if you don’t follow a few simple steps.
Below are a few tips that I follow for each and every race. The bigger the race, the more important it is to follow.
1. Relax and enjoy
You have worked your butt off to get to race day. Now that you have finally made it, soak it all in, prepare, and relax so you can actually enjoy the race. Looking back at some of my races, I often was so anxious for the race, that I almost forgot to enjoy the weekend and entire experience of some of the biggest and best marathons on the US. With that all said, remember to relax and enjoy each every minute of your race experience by relaxing and soaking it all in.
2. Verify directions and parking options
Race day stress isn’t cool. One of the things I suggest is to figure out where to park and how to get to the starting line. To make this simple, I suggest mapping out primary and backup routes to the race in the event there is excessive traffic. I always recommend having a few dollars with you just in case you have to pay for parking. Having to sit in traffic on race day can not only be stressful, but it reduces the overall joy of race weekend. If you plan and make sure you know where to go, things will be more enjoyable. If you have questions about parking, ask the experts at the expo.
3. Stick to what works
Race day is not the day to try out a new shirt or new energy gels that you bought at the race expo. When I say stick to what works, I literally mean follow the same nutritional plan you have followed during your long runs. Make sure you wear similar socks, shirts, and shorts that you wore on long runs so you know how your body will react to this gear. The other thing I recommend is to bring a sample of Aquaphor or Bodyglide so that if you start to chafe during a race, you can quickly reduce the damage. You can often pick up free samples at expos.
4. Lay everything out the night before
Similar to every night at home, I always try to get things ready the night before so that the start of my day is relaxing and stress-free. Prior to any morning race, I suggest putting your bib on your shirt (I use BibBoards) and layout your shorts, socks and make sure your shoes are ready to go. If you are unsure about what to wear, plan on dressing for 15-20 degrees warmer than the feel like temperature. I actually created a list that I use before every race to make sure that I have everything I need on race day. It’s easy to forget things when you are traveling or have other things going on.
5. Hydrate properly and carb load
Similar to the night before long runs, I always eat make sure to drink plenty of fluids and make sure that I consume pasta or other carbohydrates. If you are traveling for a race, make sure you find a restaurant that will be near your hotel or wherever you are staying. The last thing you want to ruin a race is the food you eat the night before.
6. Get off your feet and SLEEP
Race weekends can be hectic, busy, and exhausting. If you are traveling to another city for a race, make sure you hydrate while traveling. After traveling, walking around the expo, and exploring a new city, you need to make sure you get off your feet and get plenty of rest. Even though you may be anxious and nervous for the race, you still need to get off your feet and try to get some rest. I would also suggest you get plenty of extra sleep the week of the race. Being well rested will improve your performance on race day.
7. Bring the right gear to the starting line
Showing up to the starting line with the right gear and products is way more important than you would think. A simple thing like a garbage bag will not only keep you warm but can keep you dry and give you a place to dispose of all your trash. Another thing I recommend taking to the starting line is toilet paper. All you need is a few sheets in a zip lock bag. There is nothing worse than heading into a port o pot and sitting down with no toilet paper. Having a few sheets could potentially be a game changer. I wouldn’t recommend drinking too much closer than 30 minutes to the race. If your mouth is dry, a splash will suffice. If you are going to have a chilly start, I highly recommend bringing hand warmers. These cheap and simple products can really keep you warm and definitely more comfortable.
8. Run on how you feel
I have participated in a number of marathons, half marathons, and other races and so often I see people running based on their watch and making sure they hit each mile split early on the race. Those are the same people that I see struggling later in the race. People are addicted to their watches and are so concerned with hitting each split. One thing I have learned from running over 50 races, is that you will go through good times and bad times during races. When I feel good, I try to pick it up a little and when I’m struggling I put my optimistic cap on and do my best to keep moving forward. You should have a ballpark of race pace based on your training. As long as you run on how you feel and use your watch as a guideline, you will run better and hopefully faster.
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