My high school coach, Jim McCoach (Yes that was his name, Coach McCoach. No doubt he was born to be a coach) would always say right before a big race, “the work is in the bank guys. You can only hurt your chances now so don’t do anything stupid.”
Coach McCoach was spot on. There’s no last minute cramming in running. Either you’ve put in the work or you haven’t. It’s time to assess your fitness level and set a realistic goal. If training has gone accordingly, its time to enjoy the benefits of all the months, weeks and hours of hard work you’ve put in preparing for the big day.
Your best chances to ensure success on race day is continue with what has worked, resist the desire to do more and follow these tips:
1) Don’t Experiment on Race Day. Race day is never the day to experiment with anything new; food, shoes, warm-up, etc.
Pre-Race Meal – Over the days/weeks leading up to the race you want to dial in your pre-race meal. Two things you should look to nail down; what to eat and when to eat it. For example, Broad Street 10 Miler starts at 8:30am. Look to start a run at or close to 8:30am. Make note of what and when you eat before you run. If you have no issues during your run then mimic that exact routine race day.
Shoes – Never wear brand new shoes for the first time in a race. If you want new shoes for race day buy them at least a week out and log some miles in them.
Warm-up – As with food, look to mimic your normal warm-up routine for race day.
2) Reduce Race Day Stress with Proper Preparation. Race day is stressful enough so anything you can do to lower stress the morning before the race is best. Most large races provide a booklet with important information about the race. If you’re new to the race be sure to read through this booklet. A few things you want take note of:
Logistics – Look to answers these questions: How are you going to get to the start? Where will you park? How long will it take to get to the starting line? Is there a bag check? Where is it and when does it close? What starting corral am I in and what time will it start? Always allow for extra time. You will encounter unexpected delays.
Pre-Pack – Just as you would for a vacation, layout and pack everything you need the night before the race. Layout your race day outfit and shoes including pinning your bib on your shirt and securing your timing chip. If you’re planning on checking a bag, put everything you need in it…extra clothes, bottle of water, food, etc.
3) Have a Race Plan. Whatever your goal maybe: to finish, run the entire race or run a personal record you must have a plan to get you there. Look at the course map. Where are key mile markers? Depending on your goal memorize these markers, such as the half waypoint. What is goal pace? Break the course into smaller sections (see blog for more info on this).
4) Additional Tips.
Take note of the weather and plan accordingly. Be sure to look at the weather of race morning. If it’s cold, wear clothing you are willing to throw away at the starting line. This is huge. There’s nothing-worst then standing around for hours freezing cold. Wear a long sleeve shirt and pants you can take off right before the race starts. On the flip side, if it’s going to be hot or humid adjust your goal. This is especially true for spring races because your body hasn’t had time to acclimate to running in the heat.
Have a meeting spot after the race for family and friends. In the larger races it can be near impossible to find someone amidst the spectators and participants.
Do Brunch. There’s nothing better then eating a huge brunch after a race. Eat as much and whatever you want. No guilt. You earned it.