Road race: Tips for race day

Salomon Run Barcelona 2017

More than 6,000 runners (including me) ran in the Salomon Run. Running your own pace can be challenging with so many other runners.

You’ve signed up for a road race. You’ve been training – for weeks and maybe months. Now race day is approaching.

Here are some tips for success on race day.

I’m sharing tips from the more than 200 road races I’ve completed, including the San Francisco Half Marathon, the Naples (Florida) Half Marathon, the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon, and a dozen times running the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta on July 4th

Tip #1 – Taper your training runs prior to race day

Leading up to race day, reduce the distance of your training runs. Especially if you are running a long race (15K, half marathon or marathon), you don’t want to overdo your training in the last week. Do your long training run two weeks before race day and then taper. You don’t want to arrive at the big race being fatigued from over training.

Tip #2 – Recognize importance of what you eat and drink prior to race

What you eat and drink the day before the race is going to impact you on race day. Drink water to be hydrated and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Eat easy-to-digest meals, such as pasta. Most of us need to eat before running longer race. Use your long training runs to try out eating before you run and see what works for you. You want to determine what you can eat that will help fuel you for the run and when to eat.

Tip #3 – Check in for the race before race day (if possible)

If possible, check in for the race before race day. That way you won’t have to stand in line to check in – when you may need to be standing in line for the porta potty. If you check in on race day, you may have to hurry back to your car to drop off your race packet with race T-shirt. If you have a support team with you at the race, you can give your race packet to them.

Tip #4 – Plan your race-day running attire

Wear clothes and shoes that you’ve worn before. Avoid purchasing new attire to wear for the race. Clothing and shoes that feel fine when you try them on may have seams that can cause rubbing and blisters – not what you want to discover during the race.

If you are going out of town for a race, take different running outfits with you in case the weather there is colder/hotter/wetter than where live. And the forecast for race day can be different from the actual weather on race day.

Be sure to double-knot your running shoes so you won’t need to stop during the race to re-tie your shoes.

Tip #5 – Plan how to get to the start of the race

Be sure to figure out your plan for getting to the start of the race on race day.

Will you be driving? Allow time for finding a parking spot and for the extra traffic of other runners driving to the race. I so appreciated friends dropping me and my running partner off for the start of the Gasparilla 15K in Tampa so that we could walk to the start of the race and not have to look for parking.

Will you be using public transportation? That eliminates the issue of parking, but other runners will have the same idea. Sometimes a bus will pass you by because it’s already filled with other runners. The Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta has grown to 50,000 runners. Running friends and I have stayed at a hotel near the starting line so we can walk to the start of the race. We’ve seen thousands of runners arriving on Marta, the public transportation.

Tip #6 – Run your own pace

Runners are expected to line up for the start of the race based on their pace-per-mile time, with the faster runners at the starting line. Some races post signs of the pace to help you determine where you line up. At the Peachtree Road Race, your race number corresponds with your race pace, and you step into a fenced-in area based on your race number and start the race with runners of your same pace.

With pre-race music blaring, everyone is psyched up by the time the race starts. It’s easy to get caught up in the crowd and take off at a much faster pace than you can maintain. The crowd can help you improve your time as you strive to pass other runners, but the crowd also can cause you to not run your best time or to cramp because you’ve tried to run too fast. Running/fitness watches or an app on your phone can help you set your pace.

Tip #7 – Drink during the race to stay hydrated

Peachtree Road Race water stop

Water stations along the Peachtree Road Race course had the challenge of providing water for 50,000 runners.

Staying hydrated during the race is important.

Most races distribute water in paper cups handed out by volunteers or placed on tables for you to grab as you run past. Grabbing a cup and drinking can take some practice.

Typically food, like bananas or energy bars, isn’t distributed on the race course except for some marathons. If you think you need an energy supplement during the race, tuck an energy bar or gel package into a pocket.

Be sure to practice eating during your training runs to see what works best for you.

Tip #8 – Show your support team you appreciate them

Even if you are running the race solo (along with the other hundreds or thousands of runners), you probably have had support from your friends, family, partner/spouse. They’ve adjusted their schedules around your running. Maybe they came with you to the race to cheer for you.

You want to be sure to let them know you appreciate their support. Some half-marathons and marathons include shorter races to let those coming with the long-distance runner have the opportunity to run a race, too. You can pay for their race registration.

After your race, you can treat for a post-race meal. Throughout the training process, you can let them know you appreciate their support – perhaps recogonizing goals they have and supporting them on their quest to a different finish line.

Tip #9 – Enjoy the race

Because of road races, I’ve run across the Golden Gate Bridge, around a thoroughbred race track, through state and national parks, around the Olympic track in Barcelona, and through the streets of major cities and small neighborhoods. What a great way to experience the location.

You can enjoy the support along the course of peppy music (sometimes live bands) and cheering fans.

Some races include the special fun of costumes. When I ran Run to the Far Side in the Golden Gate Park, many runners dressed as characters from Gary Larson’s cartoon, “The Far Side.” I ran with runners dressed as amoeba, as cows, as scientists, and as pythons.

When you cross the finish line, you can enjoy the success of completing the race and having the race T-shirt (and maybe a finisher medal) to  remind you of your accomplishment.

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