Running & Fitness Tips

8 Race Day Hacks

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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

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Running & Fitness Tips

31 Tips for Running Beginners

If you’re new to running, here’s 31 tips to help get you started

1. Get the right running shoes
Having the right running shoes can make all the difference to your running. Get your gait analysed in a running shop (trust me it’s not as scary as you imagine) and they will recommend the best support shoe for you based on your running style which will help keep injuries at bay.

2. Find a running buddy
Running with another person can be rewarding, you have someone else that you’re accountable to and you can both push each other to go further than you might if you were running alone. Don’t fall into the trap of doing more gossiping than running though!

3. Be safe
If you’re out running on your own, your safety must be paramount. If you have a Garmin, you can add an email address into Livetrack which will send an link to the receiver when you press start and they will be able to track your location. If you’re running in the dark or dim light, make sure you’ve either got reflective gear on or if you really want to play it safe you can use a head torch which will also help you see where you’re going.

4. Don’t do too much too soon
A sure fire way to pick up an injury is to attempt to push yourself too hard too soon. It’s recommended that you increase your distance by a maximum of 10% each week to avoid injury and, if you’re a real beginner, keep your distance the same for around a month while your body adjusts.

5. Warm up & cool down
This is definitely something that runners of all abilities neglect but it really does help you avoid injury and recover quicker. To warm up I’ll usually dance around my living room to an upbeat tune, walk with the dog or add a short walk before my run. Once I’m done with my run I’ll spend time doing some lower body stretches and foam rolling.

6. Track / log your runs
How do you know how far you’ve come if you don’t know where you’ve been? Sometimes it’s difficult to see how much you’ve improved but looking back at your fastest times from 2-3 months ago, you’ll be surprised how much progress you’ve actually made. Keep a running log or journal and refer back to it frequently.

7. Multi train
While it’s easy to go out and pound the pavement to get those miles in, if you’re looking to improve your run times you’ll need to incorporate different styles of running such as tempo runs, speed work and fartlek which will help make you a stronger and faster runner.

8. Don’t underestimate rest days
It may seem tempting to go out running every day but you’ll quickly find that your enthusiasm waivers and you’ll lose interest a lot quicker (you’re also more likely to pick up an injury). If you really don’t want to have a complete rest, go for a walk, swim or gym class to vary up your routine.

9. Sign up for a race
While this may seem daunting if you’ve never run a race before, it will give you the motivation to keep training even on the days that you don’t feel like it. Put up a sign somewhere prominent that will remind you why you’re doing this and how you want to feel on race day. There’s nothing worse than standing at the start line of a race feeling like you should have tried harder in training.

10. Joining a running club
This may seem really scary if you’re a beginner but if you want to be part of your own little running community, learn tons and make friends then this is the place to go! There are so many different running abilities at running clubs, you don’t have to be an elite runner to join one.

11. Try all different types of running terrains
Just because it may be easier to run on the pavement, don’t be afraid to mix it up and try different terrains. There’s a whole world of trail runners out there and they get to run in the most scenic parts of the country. So head out to some trails and give it a go, you never know, you might like it and it will give you another dimension to your road running.

12. Take your dog
If your 4 legged best friend is up to it, take your dog with you (please make sure that you don’t overtrain your pup and stop immediately if you think they’re in any discomfort). Dogs can be a great addition to your runs, they keep you company, they keep you motivated (you have to take them out anyway) and they are just awesome. While you may have to stop for a few sniff and bathroom breaks, that’s not a bad thing, just think of it as interval training.

13. Get new running gear
So you’ve got your running shoes sorted, it’s time to overhaul your workout wardrobe. Nothing screams ‘take me out for a run’ more than getting new workout clothes that you really want to wear. There’s no time like the present, put them on, go out for a run and smash it looking fabulous.

14. Listen to some music
Studies have shown that listening to music helps you work harder. So create an amazing playlist especially for your runs of upbeat and motivational tunes (think Rocky here).

15. Dress for the weather
While it may be chilly outside, make sure you’re not dressed like the abominable snowman. You’ll soon warm up so have a couple of layers that you can take off as you go. If you suffer from painful ears or sinuses in the wind, invest in a head band which protects your ears from the elements.

16. Be social on social media
If joining a running club is just too daunting for you, you can always join the online running community by signing up for either a Twitter or Instagram account. These social media platforms are not for narcissistic runners who love posting about themselves it’s about making friends with other runners, sharing tips and new races with an endless amount of people.

17. You can’t out train a bad diet
You are what you eat. Clean up your eating habits and you’ll reap the rewards in your running. There are so many resources on Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube that will help give you some new food ideas, which will not only be better for your health but will also give you tons of energy (think of fuelling for those long Sunday runs).

18. A bad run doesn’t mean you’re a bad runner
Just to put things into perspective, every runner has a ‘bad run’. Bad runs make you grateful for all of your easy runs so try not to dwell on them too much. Sometimes it’s worth abandoning your run, doing a shorter route than first planned, trying later on the same day or perhaps do some cross training instead. Some days you just don’t feel it but don’t give up.

19. Try out a couch to 5k training plan
If you’re really not sure where to start there are lots of Couch to 5k training plans out there to help you get started and give you an idea of how often and how far you should be running.

20. Don’t compare yourself to other runners
Theodore Roosevelt was right when he said “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Always remember, the only person you are in competition with is yourself. Look back to your running log frequently and remind yourself how hard you’ve worked, how far you’ve come and how far you’re going to go! Try and follow other social media accounts that are around the same level as you are (while following people who are running 6 minute miles are inspirational, you need to find your ‘tribe’).

21. Fun runs
Fun runs can be a nice way to break up your training and add more spark to your routine. These races are less about the PBs and more about the experiences (look out for Pretty Muddy, Race for Life, Survival Run and Obstacle Courses to name a few). Not only are you getting fit, expanding your running repertoire and having a laugh with your friends you’re putting the fun back into running.

22. Running technique
There are lots of running resources out there to help you work on your running technique, it’s not always a ‘train hard or go home’ mentality. The more you can improve your running technique, the less likely you’ll get injuries and you’ll be an overall more efficient runner (and who doesn’t want that).

23. Don’t forget to have fun
Running shouldn’t be a punishment it should be enjoyable. Running has taken me to some amazing places, I’ve met some amazing friends and it’s made me realise that I’m much more capable than I ever thought I was.

24. Foam rolling is your new best friend
While it might look (and at times feel) like some kind of torture device, foam rolling is going to help you work out all of the kinks from sore muscles. If you’re not sure where to start, check out some YouTube videos that will help you get the basic moves down.

25. Get to know the difference between physically exerting yourself and pain
Running sometimes hurts… fact! At times your legs will feel like lead and you can’t take one more step and you have to learn to suck it up and power through. But if you’re feeling sharp pain or any pain that doesn’t ‘feel right’ you must stop.

26. Don’t neglect core work
Having a strong core helps runners with posture, speed and endurance. Don’t neglect those abs and planks and say hello to that rock hard stomach!

27. Keep your toenails short
There’s nothing worse than the feeling of your toenails poking into the insides of your shoes while running. I especially make sure I trim them before a race but always make sure you cut straight across the nail to avoid getting an ingrown toenail.

28. Keep hydrated
Being dehydrated kills your energy levels like nothing else. Keep a water bottle on you during the day and drink from it regularly. If you’re not that great at remembering to drink water, you can now buy water bottles that have a countdown to the times of day you need to have drank up to and you can even get apps that will send you reminders.

29. Slow progress is still progress
So you only shaved a couple of seconds off of your PB? Add all of those seconds up and eventually it will be a minute, then two and then who knows! Just keep at it.

30. Cross Training
It’s not all about the running… try and incorporate yoga, other forms of cardio like swimming or spinning, strength work and sports into your routine. This will help condition your whole body by using different muscles from running.

31. Train hills
Most beginner runners consider running up any sort of incline pure torture but don’t neglect running up hills, they’re great for building stamina and strength in your legs and there’s less impact on your lower body. You know what they say ‘it’s just a hill, get over it’!

I hope you’ve found some of these running tips helpful and I’d love to hear any more tips that you may have so please leave any comments below.

Running & Fitness Tips

My Race Day Essentials

Congratulations! You’ve signed up for a race (in my case yet another race, groan), you’ve been training hard and you’re well on your way to smashing your PB. But what in the heck do you need to make sure you’re fully prepared for the big day?

Here are my personal race essentials whether I’m running a 10k or a half marathon.

1. Snacks
If you’re anything like me, I’m constantly thinking about food, snacks, post meal snacks, in between snack snacks and so on! But I’m also not great at eating much of a meal before a race, sometimes I’m way too nervous and just can’t stomach anything (which isn’t ideal), so I make sure that I’ve got a couple of bananas, I also enjoy the Bounce Energy Balls and I’ll take a gel or two with me for during the race if it’s a half marathon. Try out in training different snacks and take any that you feel have worked best for you.

2. Running Belt
This was a game changer for me, I don’t know what I’d do without my running belt for all of my essentials. I usually only keep my iPhone, headphones, gels and some tissues in there so it’s not too heavy. When I ran the Cardiff 10k a few months ago I had to take money and car keys with me and it was bouncing around the whole 6 miles which drove me insane, so try and pack light if you can.

3. Safety Pins & Bib
I have somehow acquired quite an extensive collection of safety pins that I never had before! They’re in my car, every drawer, pockets and cupboards but sometimes you aren’t provided with them so just make sure you’ve got some on you. And obviously, you will need to take your race bib with you, if it’s been posted. You don’t want to get all that way and forget it.

4. Headphones
More and more races don’t allow headphones these days and often race instructions will say if they have banned them and you’re caught using them you’ll be disqualified so make sure you double check before using them. If they are permitted, don’t forget to add these to your race kit the night before, you never know how handy your power song might be.

5. Set Paces on Garmin
This is one thing that I always make sure I’ve done the night before a race. When I’m inputting these into my Garmin, I take the absolute slowest pace time that I need to consistently stay above to stay on track and then my ‘I’m amazing and I’m like a gazelle and I’m going to win this race’ pace. When I go over or under these paces, my Garmin will beep to let me know I’m going too slow or too fast (let’s face it, it’s rarely too fast).

6. Charge any Gadgets
It would be awfully disappointing if your Garmin ran out half way through a race, and equally if your mp3 (my phone) player ran out of battery at the crucial moment. I put these on charge before I go to bed on race eve.

7. Imodium
Ok so let’s get real here, sometimes you don’t feel great before, during or after a race. I used to get this a lot when I first started out running. My stomach used to do somersaults after I’d finished a race and it’s not always ideal when you’re at a race to find somewhere to nip to the bathroom. Even now, I will always keep an Imodium in my car or sometimes in my running belt just in case.

8. Race Gear
I always lay out my running clothes the night before just to make sure I’ve chosen the right socks (if you’ve ever worn the wrong socks, trust me you don’t ever make the same mistake again), race top and bottoms. That way I can put them straight on when I wake up and I’m ready to go.

9. Spotify Playlist
If you are permitted to listen to music I’d highly recommend creating a running playlist. Put all of those awesome songs which just give you the confidence and drive to really push yourself. Make sure that you make it long enough though, there’s nothing worse than your playlist coming to an end a few minutes before the finish line and you were counting on that last song to get you through the pain!

10. Garmin Livetrack
Back to my Garmin again, what did I do before I had one!? If you don’t know what this is, you can input an email address into the Garmin Connect app and as soon as you press start and have a GPS signal, it will ping an email to your designated email address and they can track you in real time as to your whereabouts from this link. I use this mostly in the winter so that someone knows I got home safe but I also use it for my races for any spectators that have come with me. It means that they know roughly when I’m going to finish and don’t have to wait by the finish line for too long.

11. Hair Ties & Clips
There’s nothing worse than starting out running and realising you haven’t got anything to tie your hair back with… and it’s boiling… and you have to race x amount of miles feeling like a sweaty long haired afghan hound. I always regret not bringing one even on the colder days.

12. Foot Maintenance
There’s not many things I hate as much as looking at feet and I’m baulking at the thought of even talking about them (don’t get me wrong, I also love them). I can’t even tell you how many times I’m at the start line of a race and it is apparent to me that my toenails are wayyyyyyy tooooo long and then it’s all I can think about if they’re niggling me. I’d recommend doing a little maintenance on those tootsies before you hop into bed the night before just to make sure. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

13. Sports Tape
Sometimes this is on my list of race essentials if I have an injury flare up. In particular I have had issues in the past with the back of my knee and taping it up has helped immensely (my physio showed me the best places to put it).

14. Race Instructions
I’m the type of person that can’t plan too far ahead. There’s too much going on in my head and I can’t fill it with more information than I absolutely have to (it’s full of Friends quotes mostly). The night before a race, I will check the race information that I’ve got, I’ll plan my journey and usually give myself around an hour to be at race HQ before it starts and account for traffic and getting lost (which only happens to me every time).

So go out and enjoy yourself and know that you’ve worked hard and the rest will pretty much take care of itself.

I hope you’ve found some of these useful. If you have any other race essentials that you can’t live without, leave a comment below I’d love to hear them.