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5 ways to hit a PB at your next race

You'll give yourself every opportunity to perform well if you follow these tips

ottawa 10k Photo by: Victah Sailer/PhotoRun

Everyone wants to run a personal best (PB) in any race they enter, but it obviously takes some work to do it. You’re not going to walk up to the start line with next to no training under your belt and cruise to the finish faster than you ever have before. There’s more you can do to increase your odds of hitting a PB than just training, though, and it’s all pretty simple. Here are five things you can do in the build to your next race to put yourself in the best position to run a PB. 

Nail your nutrition  

You need to make sure that what you’re eating and drinking works well for you. If you’re running a shorter race that doesn’t require mid-run nutrition, you’ll just have to focus on your pre-race calories, but if you’re running anything longer than a 10K, you’ll want to at least consider carrying something to eat along the way.

Photo: Blair Shier

The key with race-day nutrition is to practise. When you’re getting up for an early training run, set your alarm a bit earlier so you can make breakfast and figure out what foods work for you. It’s the same with mid-race nutrition in endurance races (e.g., the half-marathon or marathon)—test different options out during training runs to figure out what works best for you. For example, do you prefer gels, chews, beans or sports drinks, and which flavours? 

Find the right gear 

Just as with nutrition, you need to go through some trial and error with your running gear to determine which shoes, shorts, shirt and shoes you plan to wear on race day. If you don’t test anything out and decide to throw together a random race outfit the morning of the run, you could set yourself up for blistering or chafing, which is never fun. Train in the gear you want to wear on race day, because it’s way better to chafe now, when you can turn around and run home to change, than when you’re in the middle of a race.

Runner tying shoes on track
Photo: Unsplash/malik skydsgaard

Get loads of sleep 

As a runner, you’re hopefully getting solid, regular sleep already, but as your race gets closer, sleep becomes more and more important. Showing up to your race tired will not end well, and the best way to prevent that is to make sleep your priority (and that means habitually going to bed early enough that you wake up spontaneously by the time you need to be up to go to work, or out for your training run). It can be tempting to sacrifice sleep to fit in training sessions, and everyone is occasionally guilty of watching a little too much TV instead of heading to bed at a reasonable hour, but try your hardest to stick to your bedtime. If you get enough sleep, you’ll set yourself up for a great day of racing. (And if you’re too nervous to sleep much the night before the race, at least you won’t be compounding a pre-existing problem.)

Take rest days 

We know it can be difficult to sit around and do nothing on rest days. You feel like you’re wasting a perfectly good opportunity to train, right? Well, even if it’s a beautiful day and your brain is screaming at you to lace up your shoes and head out for a run, you need to take it easy. Observing rest days is completely necessary, as it gives your body the chance to recover from your training. If you don’t recover well, you could get hurt, and that will ruin any hopes you have of running a PB in your next race.  

Nothing new on race day

Just like the nutrition and gear points, you need to stick with what you know when race day comes around. Your friend may offer you a gel they swear by, but if you’ve never tried it before, don’t test it out on race day. Someone gave you a new pair of shorts the night before the race? That’s great, but you’re going to have to wait to wear them. Even your warmup should be the same one that you always do. Never do anything new on race day, because the risk that it could ruin your run far outweighs any potential benefits it could offer.