Oh I do love a good race day. After my stretch of doing a race each month in 2017, I like to think that I’ve got my race day prep nailed down.
I’m a planner anyway, so I like to write down and plan exactly what I’m doing and what needs to be done. That helps a lot. I think it just helps you to feel a lot more in control and that is always a good thing. Here’s what helps me to feel fully prepared come race day.
In The Weeks Leading Up
I mean this is pretty obvious really, but you know, the only person you’re hurting by not sticking to training is yourself. I can’t say that my training has been spot on for every race I’ve done, because it hasn’t. Sometimes life just gets in the way. But you know, training is definitely key to being prepared on race day. And I think that includes much more than just running if you want to be hitting PB’s. And if you are training for a PB, find out the pace that you’ll need to stick to, to hit that goal.
Test Your Kit
Something important, especially for longer races, is the kit you’ll be wearing. It makes no sense to train in one thing, and then wear an outfit completely different on race day. What if it is uncomfortable? What if you discover it’s too warm or sticky, or even worse – itchy? Now I’m not saying you have to do every run before the race in the same kit, but I do think it’s a good idea to try a couple out and make sure the kit you own works for what you need. No one wants to be puling a wedgie out every few hundred metres…
It can be difficult to manage depending on the weather, but being in the UK, I’d advise to train in at least a couple of different outfits. One for an unexpectedly boiling hot day, as with this year’s London Marathon, and one for the rain/icy conditions we saw in March! You just can’t guarantee what the weather will be like and having options on race day that you know will work make the world of difference.
Practise With Energy Sources
Not really necessary for races such as 5k or 10k, but I think a definite help for half marathon and further. I use gels, and I stick to High 5 Gels because I know that I like the taste and I know they actually help me. There are various other brands however, and a couple of races that I’ve done have had SIS gels. Find out what brand your race is working with (if they are!) and either train with those or take your own on the day. Same goes for energy drink if your race is providing that alongside water.
You can also test out sweets, dried fruit or other small snacks to give you that boost of energy. There’s no harm in trying out a few whilst training to see what helps you the most. Pre-planning this helps to stop unexpected stomach pains from something not agreeing with you!
One Week Before The Race
Longer distance training plans will include tapering, so you get to your longest training runs and then slowly start to bring the mileage back down. If you’re not used to constant high mileage, bringing it back down as you get closer to the race just helps to save your legs. I’ve only really seen proper tapering happening for marathon training, but it’s something to keep in mind.
In the week before a race I don’t run all that much. I do a few easy runs to keep my legs moving, but I don’t do tough sessions. I just find that giving myself a bit more rest helps me to save getting too tired before the day arrives.
If you mix your running training with gym sessions it is also a good idea to lay off doing anything too heavy. Having aching muscles come race day is not a good start, right? It’s the perfect opportunity to volunteer at park run instead of taking part yourself!
As for food, I just try to be more mindful about what I’m putting in. I know that if I have takeaway style food I’ll just end up feeling more sluggish and heavier, and that’s never a good feeling. Making sure you’re getting enough water and fluids in the lead up is also better than trying to just get it all in the night before.
The Night Before The Race
I think this really depends on the person, but getting carbs in gives me more energy. My go-to meal is a big bowl of spaghetti bolognese. Pasta is an easy way to get carbs in, and it’s tasty whilst still being quite a simple meal on the stomach. You can eat whatever suits you best obviously, but just make sure that you’re not trying anything too outrageously new or something that has the possibility to give an upset stomach in the morning.
Prepare Your Race Kit
Grab your race kit and set it all out ready to just slip on in the morning. Same with any bits that you’ll need – bib number, safety pins, shoe chip, gels, water bottles etc. Getting it all sorted means you don’t have to spend the morning panicking because you’ve lost something important. Just pack your bags with everything you’ll need on the day and your race morning will be nice and calm. It makes the morning run so much more smoothly. I always take extra clothing because I know that once I finish I’ll be cold after just a few minutes of hanging around.
Plan All The Logistics
Know your route in. Are roads closed off? Are your buses/trains running at irregular intervals? If you are travelling to somewhere new, it’s definitely best to check the route and seek out the nearest car parks and whether you’ll need money for that. I follow a satnav when I’m visiting a new town so that makes things much easier.
For bigger races especially, know your meeting points. If you go alone then it’s no issue but if you’re having to find family/friends after a race it can be difficult to find them in a huge crowd. I know especially for events such as London people have said that it could take up to an hour to get out of the race finish and finding everyone.
Race Day Prep – Keep Those Nerves at Bay
Set an alarm that gives you plenty of time to wake up and get ready. Obvious, right? I’m guilty of taking ages to get out of bed and then not being able to have a sit down breakfast and taking it to eat on the go. Do not be like me!
Also worth mentioning that it’s a good idea to test out breakfasts. I used to stick to just an apple or cereal bar for shorter races (because I found that I ran better on an emptier stomach) but I could not do that for a half. I’ve recently discovered that I do in fact like porridge and I think this is the perfect breakfast for me.
Basically you just want to make sure your morning runs as smoothly as possible. Find out beforehand where the baggage drop is if you need to use it. Find out if you have to walk a certain route to get to the starting line. Go to the toilet before you leave, and find toilets once you arrive. Believe me, you will find the need to go again!
All this race day prep will hopefully lead you to feeling a lot more in control and relaxed on the day. And you know what, if it doesn’t all go to plan there’s always next time. Because there will be a next time. Does anyone ever stop at just one race?