I’ve run my fair share of races over the past decade (and more).
And do you know what? The nerves are always there…
Whether I’ve done minimal training and I just want to participate, or I’m targeting a PB, I still get butterflies a few days before, and they turn into a full-on windmill at the start line.
And I think by now, it’s part of what I enjoy about Race Day.
But that wasn’t always the case – and early on in my racing experience, I made a lot of blunders that I’ve managed to overcome now.
So I wanted to share with you my favourite Race Day tips, in the hope that you can learn from my mistakes:
- Treat race day the same as the day of a long run
In the beginning, I used to think I had to do things like carb-load, energy conserve and uber-hydrate on the day of a race. Which meant my routine on race day was very different to that of a normal day. I might have an extra-big breakfast with loads of carbs, and keep snacking up to an hour before the race. By the time the race started, I would feel full and bloated and I would never run as comfortably as I had on training runs. And no wonder! My body didn’t know what was going on with all these changes to my habits. So remember, stick to what you normally do on race day – at beginner and amateur level, there’s no need to over-complicate it.
- Don’t use race day to show off your new running gear
Race day is not the day to try out your new running kit – if you’ve not run in an item of clothing or runners before, don’t start on race day. Those super-funky leggings might have a waistband that keeps slipping down, your new sports bra might not offer the support you need (#morto), that new sleeveless running top might chaff your arms (or worse!). And all of these things can drive you mad during a race. So run in your well-worn duds – they’ll serve you well!
- To gel or not to gel
I often have clients ask me if they should take energy gels on race day to help their performance, and I always ask them the same question back “Have you taken them before on a training run?” If the answer is “No”, then I would say there is no need. If you’ve got to (or close to) your mileage without them, then they won’t benefit you much. And if you take too many or your system isn’t used to them, they can upset your tummy and take away from the enjoyment of the race. Of course, if you’re a seasoned runner and you take gels on your training runs, there’s no need to stop.
- Water, water everywhere…
You can possibly see a theme coming through here! There is no need to over-hydrate on the day of a race. You don’t want to be dehydrated of course, but there is nothing worse at the start line than thinking “I need to go to the loo again”, after going 4 times already in the previous half-hour. Sip water regularly in the hours leading up to the race and take a mouthful of water at every water station along the way, and you’ll be fine.
- Be weather-aware
Check the weather forecast before the race, especially if it’s out of town. If you’re travelling to the event, you need to know if you have to bring a bag with you (and whether they have a bag drop), because if it’s raining or cold you’ll need to bring a few layers with you to put on after the run. Also, if the weather is going to be very wet, use a bin liner as a disposable jacket. Cut a hold in the bottom and put it over your head. You can wear it at the start line right up to when the race starts, and then dump it in a bin along the route. It will save you having to start your run soaking wet.
- Leave the phone at home
Unless you really need to have your phone with you, I’d recommend leaving it at home or somewhere safe you can pick it up from after the race. It’s such a pain to have to carry it with you, and even more difficult to try and keep it dry on wet days. Not having that distraction helps you to enjoy the race more – and you can always take your post-race photos for Insta on a friends phone, or at the finish line!
- Pace yourself
If you’re new to racing, it’s difficult to imagine what the buzz at the start line can do. I know that in my first few races, I was so caught up in the atmosphere and the crowds that I took off like a bullet but then ran out of steam for the last few kilometers, and ended up falling back. So I recommend pacing yourself. You can do this by following the race pacers (they normally have balloons tied to them with a finish time written on the balloons), or get chatting to some people at the start line and follow along with someone hoping to do the same time as you. And that way you’ll also have some company along the way.
- Enjoy it!
I remember thinking that my first 10k race was going to feel like it was over in a flash, but I was wrong! And what I missed doing on those first few races was enjoying the event. Taking the time to take in the views – chatting to people who were running along with me – enjoying the fact that I was fit enough and healthy enough to be able to do the race – looking forward to the finish line and the cheers from the crowd at the end to push you on. These days, I really relish each race and make sure that I take in as much as I can of the day. And when I’m finished I always think, “I can’t wait for the next one” 😉 (well, nearly always)
Good luck to everyone doing the Galway Bay 10k, half-marathon and marathon this weekend. And especially for those running for Team Manuela 😀