Race season is upon us. Whether you are a seasoned runner or about to take on your very first race, the lead up and the day itself can be quite stressful. You’ve trained hard for this and made sacrifices. You want to ensure that when you are stood on the race line you are calm, healthy and able to do your best. Here are a few tips and remainders that will help you be as prepared as possible for when that starting gun goes off.
The Week Before
Don’t try anything new – stick to the tried and tested. The last thing you want to do is buy a new pair of trainers. Don’t try new foods, gels or drinks. Avoid the temptation to try new gear.
Eat what works for you – hopefully you have found by now what works for you and what doesn’t upset your stomach but provides you with the required energy. Do not fall into the trap of carb-loading if you don’t know how to do it properly. There is no point loading up on white pasta: 1) it doesn’t provide as much long lasting energy as whole wheat 2) for short races up to half-marathon, you can get by on the energy stores you already have without overloading it.
Cover route beforehand – if possible do a recce run/walk or even drive of the route. Get familiar with the terrain, any inclines and where to position your family support for that extra bit of motivation.
Taper down the mileage – reduce the mileage but keep your legs ticking over. Go for short slow runs to keep your legs energetic and not lethargic come race day.
The Day/Night Before
Go for a walk – keep your legs fresh. Get the blood flow going, help to remove any last-minute toxins. Avoid sitting down all day, this will cause legs to be lethargic, stiff and cramp come race day.
Drink plenty of water – a common mistake runners make is that they drink too much on race morning. It is far better to keep yourself topped up the day before which will avoid dehydration before you even start.
Get your kit ready – lay everything out the night before. If you have your number, pin it on your top ready. Wear something you know is comfortable and have worn before. Avoid getting something new just for race day.
Check you know how to get to the race and give plenty of time – roads around the event will no doubt be chaos. So, get there before everyone else and relax. Another benefit of this is that you can use the horrible portaloo before everyone else! Take a book with you and read it in the car until race time.
Get up extra early – give your body chance to digest breakfast and get any waste out before the long lines at a portaloo.
Don’t over drink – take little sips, constant intake of water is more beneficial than glugging down 2 litres of water before the race.
Don’t over dress – you may get cold at the start but you will soon get too hot meaning you have to carry clothes with you – an unnecessary burden. Either, brave the cold or wear clothes that you don’t mind chucking away at the start. Usually, races will collect up all items and donate to charity.
Set at least two goals – the one you ultimately want to achieve, the one you have been working towards in training. Have a second goal. It’s more of a backup goal, one that comes into account if something goes wrong or the weather is affecting your performance. Setting two goals will keep you motivated to cross that finish line no matter what happens.
Start slow – avoid the temptation to run off with everyone else. You are running against yourself not everyone else. Follow the cliché, ‘run your own race’ and you will soon overtake those that have burned out. Always better to finish strong than crawl over that line.
After the race
Keep moving – no matter how tired you are, avoid the temptation to sit or lie down. Keep moving, keep on walking for 15/20 mins after. Your legs will thank you for it later and the day after.
Refuel – get some food in you within 20mins. Try to make sure that it is some proper food and not a gel or sugary drink. Your muscles need protein not sugar. Anything natural and unprocessed is always best. Prepare this in advanced and have it ready.
Stay warm – you may be hot when you finish but you will soon crash back down. Layer up straight away and trap all that heat in.
The Day After
Go for a walk – you may not feel like it but one of the best ways to get your legs back to normal is an active recovery. At the very least go for a short walk, even better would be a very short and slow run. This will flush out all the bad stuff stuck in your legs from all your amazing hard work in the race!
Lastly and the most important thing – Enjoy it! Race days are an amazing experience. There is no better feeling crossing that finish line knowing that all your hard work and dedication has got you there.
Do get in touch and let me know how you get on, send me photos, tell me your achievements. I like to hear from you. Have any questions? Just let me know.