Running a race is always an experience, whether you are excited, scared, or both (exscareded?). Whatever you do, don’t let your feelings get the best of you, causing you to deviate from your tried and true routines. Follow the tips below to ensure you start off your race day with a strong foundation.
DO fuel properly
Most runners look forward to the pre-race carboloading, but if not done properly you’ll feel like a bloated Oompa Loompa. Carboloading is really only beneficial for half-marathon and marathon distances, so don’t eat TOO much pasta before your next 5K. Your body will burn glycogen (converted carbs) and fat during your race, but carbs are the most efficient forms of energy. Monique Ryan, RD, a dietitian featured in Runner’s World magazine, suggests beginning to carboload a few days before your race and gradually increasing your glycogen stores so that they are full by race day. Pasta is always a good choice, but don’t limit yourself to just dinner carbs. Bagels, fruits, and granola bars are great options – just watch out for anything with too much fiber…don’t want an emergencies!
DON’T try anything new
Race days aren’t the time to try out your new shoes or buy a new pair of shorts to run in. Your race day outfit should be a tried and true staple of your training. This will prevent blisters, chafing, missing toenails and any other pitfalls of being a runner.
Not trying anything new also applies to food. The days before a race isn’t the time to get Indian food for the first time. Stick with what you know won’t affect your stomach, whether that be the Mexican joint down the street or a PB&J on white bread. Whatever you do, don’t eat a new-to-you fiber and protein bar before your run and then be shocked that you have to stop at every Porta Potty for the next 10 miles…not that it happened to me or anything…
DO make a good playlist (if you run with music).
I like to make a special playlist on Spotify for each race. I add some new music and change the order so I don’t know what’s coming next, but it always features some staples like “Shut Up & Dance” and the Rocky theme (#Phillyyo). If you prefer to be totally surprised, have a friend craft one for you or use Spotify’s pre-made running playlists. They offer songs with BPMs that correspond with your pace so it will help you hit your goal time.
DON’T forget anything
Lay out what you need the night before. Races start at the crack of dawn, or at least feel like it. Don’t waste time the day of searching by the light of your iPhone for the socks you absolutely need. Create a flat runner with everything you need from head to toe, including headphones, fuel and sunscreen. It cuts out morning surprises.
I also put together my breakfast ingredients (my go-to is a piece of toast with a little PB and some honey, two pieces if it’s a longer race) so I know where everything is in the morning. Anything to get a few more minutes of sleep, am I right?
DO remember this isn’t life or death
RELAX. Seriously. It’s just running. You have trained for this. You are ready. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and breathing. Best part? If it’s your first race or first time racing that distance: automatic PR and the bragging rights that come with it.
As you become more accustomed to racing you will create your own list of dos and don’ts. Remember that what works for you isn’t going to work for someone else, so much like you should run your own race you should also prepare for your own race. While there are many factors of race day you won’t be able to control, focusing on the ones you can will alleviate stress and increase confidence, leaving you to run your best!