Two posts in one day?! Yep, things are getting crazy over here.
My bus is leaving around noon tomorrow to head to Champaign and I am so excited! Before I leave, however, I want to share tips on what to do on race day because…you’ve been working so hard for this day to come! Now that it’s finally (almost) here, you’ll want to know all the tips and tricks to make it run as easily as possible (yes… pun intended). So, here we go, I’m going to starting at the beginning of my race day and go up until the gun goes off!
“I wake up, in the middle of the night…” (okay, so these aren’t the exact words sung by Cyndi Lauper, but if you can start off your morning singing…you know it’s going to be a good day. Anyways, because most races are early in the morning, you will most likely have to wake up early. We’re talking earlyyyy, people. Even though I’m a morning person, it still seems a little odd waking up in the pitch black “night” and hearing silence. No birds singing…because even they’re still sleeping! Set your alarm as early as possible, but also be sure to let yourself get as much sleep as you can too. It’s hard running 13.1 miles or 26.2…and it’s even harder with no sleep. Trust me, I’ve run a half-marathon on 4 hours of sleep. It’s completely do-able, but do you really want to do that? Didn’t think so. If you’re staying at a hotel near the race, I’d recommend waking up about 3-4 hours before the race. If you’re driving that morning, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to drive there. Also, give yourself time to get lost. Sometimes streets are closed around the race route and you’ll be forced to go down random streets. This all takes time, so wake up early!
It’s important to eat a solid breakfast a few hours before the race. But it’s really important to know how your body handles food. You should eat how you always do before long runs. For most people, it’s helpful to eat 2 hours (or more) before a race to allow your body the time it needs for proper digestion. You should also eat foods your body is used to. Is today the time to try that frozen Chinese dinner for breakfast? Uh no. (Save that for after the race!) Instead, focus on foods that your stomach can easily handle. I usually like to eat a peanut butter sandwich and a small banana. I’ve been eating peanut butter sandwiches almost every day of my life, and they’re almost always my pre-run meal. However, this does NOT mean you should make this your pre-run meal on race day. Are you used to eating plain bagels? Stick with it! Protein smoothies? Stick with it.
It’s also a good idea to stay away from foods that have an excessive amount of fiber. Certain fruits, veggies, and other tasty things may cause you to get cramps and run to the bathroom if you eat them before a race. It’s probably your best option to avoid them if you can.
Another misconception is the belief that you need to eat everything and anything to help keep you fueled up during the run. If you do this, you can say HELLOOOO to cramping, bathroom breaks, and general discomfort. Eat a normal sized amount of food. You’re going on a run, and you’ll fuel on the run with GU, so you’ll be a-ok with your normal pre-run meal. Think back about your other long runs…you survived it! You ate a normal-sized meal and were able to successfully complete your run. Today is just another long run day…except that there are more people watching you succeed.
Start drinking that H2O as soon as you wake up. I’ve heard that it’s good to stop drinking about an hour before the race and then to drink a small glass right before you start running. This strategy will hopefully prevent bathroom breaks, so feel free to use it if you think it will help your race day performance. It’s important that you are hydrated, so listen to your body. If you’re thirsty, you’re thirsty- drink up!
Wear comfy running clothes! You’re going to be running for a while, so you’ll want to be as comfortable as possible. This is also when you should use your Body Glide to help prevent any chaffing.
But wait, what if the weather is weird? Maybe it’s windier than usual. Or it’s raining. Here’s a helpful website, made by Runners World, to help you decide what to wear on race day.
Use it before you leave your hotel. Use it when you get to the race day location. Use it before you get to the starting line. If you don’t, you’ll regret it.
Flashback: At the 2011 Chicago Marathon, I decided I didn’t want to wait in line to use the porta-potties before starting the race. What if they start the race while I’m in the extremely long line? News flash: You probably won’t miss the start. And, if for some reason you do, at least you won’t feel the need to go to the bathroom… for the first 7 miles…until you finally decide to give in.
Some runners find it helpful to do a warm-up run and stretch before the big race. I have never done a warm-up run, and instead take a fast walk around. This is how I always warm-up before my training runs; I do a five-minute speed walk and follow it with stretching. Remember: do what you always do.
Extremely important: make sure your laces are tied tight enough/loose enough. It’s always terrible when you start a run and then have to stop to fix your laces. Re-doing your laces while running a race would be even worse. I like to do a couple second jog to “test out” my laces before game time.
Fix your hair
As your walking toward the starting line (before the gun goes off) or as you’re standing near the line with your friends, now is the time to make sure your hair is exactly how you want it. Fixing a ponytail when running? Forgetaboutit. Only do this if you have to, don’t rely on it.
Hello, it’s RACE DAY! Get out there and get going!
Those are my pre-race tips!
However, once there are a couple of words of advice I’d like to give for what happens after the gun goes off…
1) Races are crowded. Watch out, or you may be run over. Or you may run over someone else. Look around and behind you before running diagonally. This is especially important to remember when running to the water cups.
2) It’s okay to walk when drinking water. If you walk while drinking, it allows you to drink it easier, faster, and…drink more of it! This is the part of the race where I allow myself to (speed) walk and hydrate.
There’s much more I could say, but that’s enough for tonight!
Questions for you:
1. What are your pre-race rituals?
2. What do you like to eat before a race?