With the race season just around the corner, here are a number of before, during and after tips you should consider in order to improve your chances for race-day success.
- Rest and recover. Regardless of distance, you want to go into a race feeling rested and recovered. Take a day or two completely off before the race, decrease your mileage and run mostly easy the week of the race.
- Be well fueled. For a half marathon or anything longer, you’ll want to consider carb-loading. For shorter races, it’s still important to eat on the morning of the race. In all cases, being properly hydrated is essential.
- Allow yourself lots of time. Get up early, have everything ready—running shoes, clothes/apparel (with race bib attached), GPS/watch, fuel, etc.—and have a plan for getting to the start.
- Warm-up. Even if very briefly, make sure you do some dynamic stretches and a few strides to get the body primed to run. Don’t start the race cold or stiff.
- Line up according to your ability. Be realistic and don’t go right to the front if you don’t belong there. Talk to other runners and find those who have similar time goals as you do.
- Have a race strategy. Most people have a pretty good sense of what they hope to do in terms of finish time and pacing. Plan this in advance and run your own race.
- Although sometimes inevitable, try not to go out too fast at the start. Gaining a few seconds at the start or “banking time” in the first half of the race will only come back to hurt you later on. Stick as closely to your planned pace as you can and try to run an even split.
- Find a rhythm or flow. Don’t obsess over your pace every minute. Some Ks will naturally be faster or slower than others.
- Execute your fueling plan by taking energy–sports drink, bars, gels, chews, etc.–and hydrating as necessary.
- When you’re feeling good, harness that feeling and hold on to it. When things start to feel tough, try distracting yourself by focusing on the environment around you.
- Develop a mantra to get you through the toughest parts of the race. Look back to your training and remember that you’ve trained and are well-prepared to do this.
- Refuel immediately. The same goes for hydration. Be sure to get some carbs and protein within an hour or so of racing to kick start the recovery process. Drink water and electrolytes to replace lost fluids.
- Rest. Racing is a stressful stimulus that requires time to recover. The general rule is one day off (or easy) for every 3K raced.
- Reflect. Perhaps you did exactly what you set out to do. Or maybe you just fell short. Either way, take some time to look back on the race and try to take away a few positives while also noting what you can do better the next time.
- Celebrate your accomplishment. Reward yourself for your effort in whatever way you prefer.
- Plan for your next one. There’s no better motivation to keep running and training than to sign up for another race.