I'm going to start this post off by saying that if you're a seasoned runner, you're probably going to find this pretty fundamental. I hope that by going back to the basics, this post will serve as a good reminder of what makes for a great race day, and I'd love for you to contribute your own tips in the comments! But if you're new to the running game and planning on running your first race this summer...read on!
I've run a few races in my running journey, mostly 5k's, and my goal is to run a half marathon (which I think I've been talking about for forever, but haven't actually found one I'm excited to run yet!). Through those experiences, I've realized that there are a few things that take some simple planning, but make race day go so much smoother!
1 // Be Comfortable
We all know that race day is not the time to break out those new sneakers that you just purchased, but the same goes for your outfit! Whether you're running a 5k or a marathon, choose tried-and-true running gear that you know will hold up for the amount of miles you're running. If you're constantly tugging at those new shorts you just bought when you're walking around, then you probably should leave them at home on race day. Be sure to wear an outfit that doesn't rub, pinch, or annoy you! You want to be comfortable so that you can focus on your running and not on adjusting your clothing every half-mile! Plan ahead and be sure to pick up race-day gear far in advance so that you have plenty of time to break it in. One of my favorite places to grab athletic gear is from Zappos...you can't beat their selection, shipping, or return policy!
2 // Stay Hydrated
This is important all year round, but it's crucial for summer races! Staying hydrated goes beyond just the day of your race, though. Throughout your training, be sure to get enough water on a daily basis...that will only help you in the long-run. On race day, don't try to be a hero and skip the water station...the few seconds you may lose by slowing down for a cup of water will be completely worth it. And be sure to have ways to replenish your electrolytes as well. Some larger races will have things like energy or hydration gels available at water stations, but if your race doesn't, consider stashing one or two on you somewhere (perhaps in a key pocket), or have a spectating friend or family member hold onto them for you and give them to you along the course if you need them! Hydrating post-race is crucial as well, so be sure to drink up after you cross the finish line!
3 // Sleep Well & Eat Well
The week leading up to your race, make sure that you're giving your body enough rest. You trained hard, so now be sure that you give your body the best possible start on race day! Because races typically start early in the morning (often between 8-10am), make sure you hit the pillow early the night before. There's nothing worse than waking up and stumbling to the starting line in a fog. Not only will it affect your time, but you'll also spend the race wishing you were back in bed! And don't skip breakfast on race day. A good mix of protein, fat, and low-glycemic carbs (think nuts, a sweet potato, an orange) will help you perform well. Eat until you feel good, but don't overdo it.
4 // Bring Extra Clothes
Even on the warmest of days, all of the sweating you'll be doing during your race can send your body into a chilly tailspin after you're done. I always like to pack an extra shirt and a long-sleeve shirt just in case, and often times, I also pack a fresh pair of shorts and underwear. Most summer days, I don't need the long sleeve, but it's better to be safe than sorry! Either way, it's great to have some fresh clothes to change into, especially if you have a longer drive home or to a shower. Also plan to bring along some other footwear. A lighter pair of sneakers or athletic sandals can be great options for tired feet after the race!
5 // Have Fun!
Most importantly, have fun! Unless you're trying to qualify for a marathon or something, remember that your time is just a number...of course you want to strive to do your best, but try to enjoy the race and the day and don't focus too heavily on whether or not you PR. If you can convince a friend to run with you, all the better! Make your race a celebration of the time and effort you put into training, and just enjoy the run. I always get super nervous before I run a race and then I have to remind myself that it's no different than just heading out for a run on my own. Take the pressure off of yourself and don't lose sight of why you love running or the cause that you're running for!
If you're in the San Francisco area this weekend and are looking for a fun race, then check out the Zappos Bay to Breakers, a 12k that's been going on since 1912! This year, they're working on setting the most world records set during a race (think weird things, like "Most People to Take a Selfie with a Port-o-Potty"), so it's sure to be a fun race to run or just watch! And with Zappos great online offerings of athletic gear (and so much more!), fast & free shipping, plus their 365 day return policy and great customer service, I bet that any race they sponsor is pretty great!
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR RACE DAY?