Race Day Mistakes, and 12 Ways to Avoid Them
Ah race day! One of the most exciting and stressful occasions for a runner. On one hand, you finally get the chance to see if all of your training will pay off. On the other hand, you may freak yourself out by worrying about all of the little things. While the stakes are a bit higher the longer your race, the butterflies are no less real. If you’re new to running and racing, it may all feel super intimidating.
I’ve been racing, in some form or another since 1994, and I still find myself getting race day jitters. I doubt and second guess whether or not I prepared in the best way possible. Although I’ve gotten better at avoiding mistakes, I never quite feel 100% at east.
I’ve asked a few of our contributors to share their best “dos and don’ts” for avoiding race day mistakes to help you feel more confident. These aren’t about training per se, more how to tackle the complexities of the race experience.
DO These Things when Preparing for your Race
There are tons of things you should be doing on race day. Some of them (like remembering your running shoes) may seem obvious, but those are often the things we overlook.
I always make a list of what I need for my race, and lay everything out the night before. This doesn’t need to be complicated, (sometimes mine is typed, or on a napkin like the one below). Your race day list frees your brain up from having to make those decisions, allowing you instead to focus on your race.
Here are five more tips that will help you during your next 5k or marathon.
- Know where you are going (including having a parking plan B, or have someone drop you off at the start). It’s just one less thing to worry about when you are already nervous about your race. ~ Rich Rein
- Warm-up properly - prepare your body for the hard effort, the little bit of warm up will not tire you out for the race and should help you race better! The warm-up should end 5 to 10 minutes before the race. ~ Justin Kruse
- Have more than one goal. I use what I call “the bullseye method” — outer ring is always to finish the race. The second ring is a PR. Hitting a bullseye is that big, audacious goal. Then you never leave feeling disappointed with yourself and always leave room for growth. ~ Angie Norvich
- Get familiar with Body Glide and apply it liberally to toes, thighs, under your sports bra, collar bone, belly button (yes, my collar bone and belly button have chafed). ~ Jennifer Fitzharris-Funk
- Have a race plan. Know where water stops are going to be, where you’re going to fuel, and where major hills and turns on the course are. ~ Claire Walling
DON’T Do These Things on Race Day
Don’t forget to allow yourself plenty of time in the bathroom on race morning. Between nerves and other stuff, you may find yourself needing more time than normal in the porta-potty. At the risk of oversharing, this has been a tremendous learning curve for me, and one that, after much trial and error, I’ve mastered.
Here are a few more things not to do.
- Put all of your eggs in one basket. Like Angie’s “bullseye” above, whether that is racing your goal distance multiple times in a year to help minimize external factors (getting sick the week before, too cold/rainy on race morning, etc.), or having multiple goals for a longer distance (A, B, and fall back for your marathon/ultra), you are more likely to set yourself up for success when you don’t hang your eternal happiness on one far out race and one very specific time - or else. ~ Rich Rein
- Line up in a corral that is too fast for you to “beat the crowd”. This causes issues for everyone around you and is frustrating, to say the least. Line up with your pace and run your race. You’ll feel better about your race pace since loads of people won’t be passing you (demoralizing!) and you won’t get swept up in a pace that is much too fast for you, causing you to flame out in the early miles and making the later miles a living hell. ~ Justin Kruse
- Try anything new on race day - clothes, socks, shoes, gels, warm ups, food… the less opportunity you leave for “what if” the more relaxed and confident you will feel at the start line and through the race. ~ Angie Norvich
- Spit or “farmer’s blow” on the course unless you pull to the side and aim for grass. ~ Jennifer Fitzharris-Funk
- Get discouraged if you have a bad day. In the end, the point is to have fun and enjoy being active. Great races and PRs are a nice bonus. ~ Claire Walling
Your Race Day Mistakes
If you’ve been racing for awhile like we have, what are some of your best tips you can share? If you’re new to this thing called running, what are some questions you have that we can answer? Leave both in the comments below. We would love to help you become a faster, stronger runner!
Nathan currently lives in Portland, but works in Minneapolis and runs wherever he is. Favorite Minnesota running route is anything that takes him along the Mississippi River.
Nathan's day job is as a senior consultant with Leadership Vision Consulting in Downtown Minneapolis.
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