After 14 weeks of 25k training, today is finally RACE DAY! My excitement is high as I eagerly await the start. The past few weeks of training were spent completing all my race preparation in order for race day to go as smoothly as possible. This race is extra special since it falls on my birthday, so I certainly do not want to wake up late or fall apart on the course today. In order to ensure everything goes smoothly, I always remember the race day running advice that has never failed me.
Related: Taper Tips and Race Week Tricks
After running over 25 races, I usually have an idea of what to expect on race morning and throughout the race. But even so, each race is very different. Each race varies in timing, location, bib pickup, parking, course, etc., but even so, quite a few similarities remain. The atmosphere at most races is quite similar, and I bet the excitement and camaraderie alone will inspire you to return.
Not knowing what to expect on race day can be very nerve wracking, so here are some race day tips for runners to ease your nerves. These guidelines will help ensure you are doing everything you can the day before a running race, and provide you with some of the best race tips for the course. These guidelines are applicable to runners on every race day – whether it’s a 5k, 10k, half marathon, full marathon or anything in between.
If you’re getting ready for your first race or your fiftieth, take into consideration some of these race day tips and race etiquette suggestions for your best race ever.
8 Race Day Tips for Running Your Best Race
Don’t try anything new on race day!
This is the #1 most important race day tip for runners. While it may be tempting to save your new shoes for race day or try out the fuel you received in your expo good bag – don’t. Your body has spent weeks adjusting during training, and now responds in ways with which you are familiar. If you try new fuel during your race, you might wind up causing GI distress or upsetting your stomach. If you save those brand new shoes for the race, you mind wind up with blisters after just a mile. Test out everything you plan you use and incorporate on race day during training, and stick to it. This includes your pre-race meals, running fuel, gadgets and gear.
Related: Fueling Tips for Your Best Long Run
Plan to arrive 30 minutes prior to your goal arrival time.
Parking and race morning logistics can often wind up taking more time than you expect, so avoid any added stress by planning to arrive early. Worst case scenario – you’re at the start 30 minutes earlier than you planned and are a little bored while you wait. This is much better than leaving right on time, only to find out that the parking lot is full or traffic is backed up. Expect delays on the morning of any running race day, no matter how big or small.
Bring your breakfast with you to eat while you wait.
If you will be arriving an hour or more before the race starts (which you should!), bring your breakfast with you to eat while you wait. Runners so often have to leave their houses 2 or more hours before the race actually begins – if you eat breakfast before you leave your house, you might find yourself hungry again by the time the race starts. Pack your usual breakfast (don’t eat anything new) and eat it while you wait to line up.
In cold weather: wear extra clothes to the start that you can toss before or during the race.
This is a new race tip I learned before the NYC Marathon, and boy was I glad I did. Getting to the starting line early is miserable for cold weather races. Ease some of the pain by finding some throw away gear – maybe some really old clothes you were wanting to donate, or clothes purchased from a thrift shop. Wear these extra layers while you wait for the race to start, and then toss them off as you begin. Oftentimes races have donation bins where runners are able to toss their clothes. The clothes that wind up in these bins get donated to charity after the race.
Related: Essential Winter Running Gear
Start off slower than you think you should.
One way guaranteed to lower your confidence and cause struggle throughout the race is to start off too fast. Start off slower than you think you should – this means intentionally holding yourself back as the race gets going. Don’t get caught up in the excitement and take off when the gun goes off. Start a little further back in the corrals than your goal pace. In my experience, most runners standing by the pace markers wind up running even faster once they cross the starting line. There is nothing worse than getting passed by a huge group of people because you started too far up in the corrals. Play it safe and start a little further back; this way you can be the one doing the passing as you get going.
Walk through the aid stations and take advantage of their supplies.
Whether or not you trained with any walk breaks, don’t be afraid to walk while you pass through the aid stations. Take advantage of the water and sports drinks provided to you at each aid station, whether or not you feel thirsty. Drinking too much water is so much easier to fix that taking in too little. Walk for a brief period while you finish your drink to avoid spilling it all.
Move over to the sides when you are going to walk.
My favorite race etiquette tip! There is nothing more frustrating than running into someone during a crowded race because they suddenly stopped to walk. If you are planning to walk during the race (which is totally fine) be aware of your surroundings. Check to make sure there is no one right behind you before you stop running, and if the course is crowded, try to get over to the side before you walk. Your fellow runners will thank you!
Set out your clothes and gear the night before (including your safety pins!)
Race preparation is key to a low stress race morning! Set out all of your clothes and gear the day before the race to ensure the next morning starts out as smoothly as possible. Gather your clothes, shoes, bib, safety pins, throwaway clothes, running fuel, hydration, breakfast, music, and any other gadgets. Having everything in one place helps ease the early morning struggle and lets you sleep in a few minutes longer on race morning. Make sure you don’t forget a thing with this free race day packing checklist!
Race day brings a bundle of emotions all at once, but don’t let them get the best of you. Planning ahead of time helps eliminate surprises on race morning and will help you feel comfortable out there on the course. Remember your race etiquette and hopefully others will do the same. I have found runners to be some of the most encouraging, supportive, and uplifting people out there. Enjoy the exciting moments and prepare for the stressful ones. You are about to have your best race day yet!
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