It’s race day, you’ve done the training, but gosh what do you need to know when you’re running your first race?
Here are a few race day hacks to help you put your best foot forward, and again, and again etc and then whoop you’re crossing the finish line happy and smiling!
1. Don’t wear new running shoes
You’ve probably heard this a hundred times already, but just don’t! Your feet haven’t adapted to your new kicks yet and it’s likely you’ll end up with race day blisters and tears. And no-one wants that when you’re trying to get a PB!
2. Drinking from plastic cups
When I first started running races, I always used to think ‘how on earth do people drink from these silly plastic cups?’. Seriously though, is it meant to spill all over your face or what?! I then found out that you’re supposed to pinch the plastic cup at the top on both sides to make a sort of spout-type-arrangement and drink from it that way. Who knew! You’ll thank me later.
3. Don’t stop at portable toilets
Obviously, if you absolutely have to go then please do. But if you’re going for a PB and it’s a relatively short race, don’t waste your time going to the loo until the finish line. You’ll lose so much time waiting in line and you’ll kick yourself if you miss your PB because of a porta potty stop. Plan to arrive at race HQ early enough to be able to use the toilets in relative peace before everyone arrives and if you can make another trip, do so just before the race starts.
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
With the above also in mind, your best bet for hydrating before and during your race is to take sips of water instead of glugging it down because you’re dehydrated.
5. Have your essentials to hand
When you’re in the full throws of the race, you don’t want to be scrabbling around trying to find your race gels, your immodium, your headphones or anything else that you’ve determined is essential. During my first half marathon, I’d stuffed two sports gels into the tops of my running pants as I thought they’d be easily accessible to me should I need them mid race. What I didn’t bank on was them constantly slipping down and me trying to save them from shooting out the bottom of my trouser leg! Needless to say I abandoned them just over the half way point, never to be seen again.
These days, I use a running belt and it’s a lifesaver. I usually only carry my phone and a couple of other small bits with me as I don’t enjoy it bouncing around while I’m running.
6. Don’t set off too early
It’s so easy to get swept away with the crowds at the beginning of a race. Everyone is feeling energy fuelled and they’re excited to get going but make sure you keep to your own planned pace. You don’t want to crash and burn trying to keep up with the mass of people and regret it towards the latter part of the race.
This is much easier said than done though, you’re also feeling great, pumped up and you know you’re going to crush your PB. Just make sure you’re holding enough in reserve to get you feeling fresh over the finish line too.
7. Stick to your planned pacing
To help keep you on track, try and stick to your planned pacing times throughout the race. I’m sure you’ve done plenty of race preparation up until now so you know what pace times you’re aiming for. Don’t forget to take into account any hills as you’ll need to adjust your pacing accordingly.
If you’ve got a GPS watch, you’ll usually have a feature for alerts when you’re going under your race pace and above it. I’ll have my slowest race pace set to the absolute minimum for me to complete at a time that I am happy with (for example, I’m always aiming for a 10k time under an hour so I’ll set my watch at a 9.31 pace). This ensures that I’m constantly on track and know that I can’t drop below this pace otherwise my under an hour dream will be less likely.
The same goes for my fastest pace. Say my 10k PB is 52 minutes, which will mean an 8.23 pace. If I’m mid race and I’m going over this, and it’s likely I’m going to burn out, I’ll ease the pace off slightly unless I feel that I can maintain this for a longer period (for example going down hill I know I can gain a bit of speed here).
8. Make a timings wrist band
So you’ve got your timings set, you’re in broken in shoes and you’ve got a stylish running belt to hold all of your things. It can sometimes be overwhelming on race day and you’ve suddenly forgotten are you doing positive splits, negative splits, or just what on earth are you doing?
It can be useful to work out your mile split times for the entire race. This is especially useful if you’re doing a longer race and you don’t want to lose track of where you’re at. Make a timing wrist band so you know what timings you should be at for the entire race. For example, you know you want to run 9 minute miles so it would look like this (9:00, 18:00, 27:00, 36:00 etc). Put these timings onto a thin piece of paper with the numbers in a column, laminate this and make a wristband that you can quickly glance at while you’re running. Or, you know, write them on your hand!
I hope you’ll find some of the above useful. I’d love to hear any of your race day hacks, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my race days.
If you liked this post, check out my 31 tips for running beginners here