Many a long distance runner has fallen over their own metaphorical shoelaces because they’ve made a silly mistake in the hours before the big race. So read on for some useful advice on how to avoid some of the potential pitfalls that still lie in wait.
1 Plan The Day
There is no point training for weeks and getting fitter than you have ever been in your life and then turning up on race day without your running shoes or your race number. Make sure that isn’t you. Write a checklist of everything you will need on the day and then lay out your gear two or three days before the race. Make sure you have everything; running kit, shoes, race number, snacks, drinks, gels etc.
2 Know Your Route
It is normal to feel a little nervous before your race, so calm the jitters by knowing exactly how you’re going to get to the start and leave plenty of time. You will want to go to the toilet before the race, but potentially so will thousands of other people and a queue for the facilities can take half an hour or more. If you’re on site in plenty of time, there’ll be plenty of time to do what you want and need to do.
3 Eat Well
The right kind of food and drink in the hours before a race can make all the difference. Eat plenty of carbohydrate the night before and get an early night. Don’t try a new dish that might give you an upset stomach. Stick to the kind of things you’ve been eating regularly. Then, in the morning, have a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast with toast, bagels or porridge.
Make sure you are properly hydrated. Keep drinking regularly the day before and on the day of the race and of course, make sure you have your race snacks and drink with you.
4 Don’t Make A Fashion Faux Pas
A lot of mass participation races start early in the morning when it can be a little chilly. So you might need to wear a sweatshirt or an extra top to the start. Arrange either to give your top to a friend just before the race, or wear a bin liner. It isn’t the most attractive looking garment, but it will keep you warm until the race gets underway and you can then pop it in a bin.
5 No New Kit
Whatever you do, do not try out some new running kit or even worse new shoes on race day. Many runners can tell a sad tale of how they thought it would be a great idea to wear something new to celebrate the day… which promptly ended in blood and tears. Blisters, rubbing and pain invariably lie in wait for anyone who feels the need to bust out a new outfit. So please, save yourself the misery and stick to your tried and trusted training kit.
If you do suffer from runner's nipple, or chafing in other areas, then make sure the Vaseline is handy and applied in advance. The aim is to enjoy the race, not cry through most of it.
6 Think Pace Not Race
It's understandable to have a rush of adrenaline when the gun sounds for the start of your half marathon, but don't fall into the trap of going off like Usain Bolt. You have to stick to your race plan and run the pace you‘ve been practising in training. If you go off too quickly and try to out sprint everyone around you, there will be a price to pay in the distance to come.
7 Avoid High Fives
A big crowd will be keen to engage with runners and it is easy to fall into the trap of high-fiving everyone. But it can become exhausting after a while, so don’t. By all means choose your moments for a bit of spectator interactivity, but remember you are there to run, not entertain.
8 Do The Splits
If it helps, write down the split times you’re aiming for at relevant parts of the race, either on your arm or on a piece of paper. That time target can be every mile or kilometre or 5k or 10k. It will give you an idea of how well you’re running and whether you need to up the pace at a certain point or slow down because you’re running too fast.
9 Stay Focused
Break down the race into manageable bite-sized chunks. Rather than thinking of it as 13.1 miles (21km), try to divide it into sections. That can be every mile, or kilometre, or whatever you choose. It helps to remember that anything that makes it seem less daunting will be less daunting.
It is possible that you may experience a bad patch during the race. If it happens, remain positive, don’t panic and try to focus on even shorter-term goals. Just aim to get to the next obvious landmark, talk to other runners, draw inspiration from the crowd and walk if you want to, but try to do something that will keep you on the move. Running for a charity or a cause that is special to you will also help give you inspiration if the going gets tough.
10 Enjoy It
This should be the culmination of weeks of training, so try to remember to have fun. You have worked hard to get here, so enjoy it and good luck.