You’ve worked hard training for your race. You’ve followed your plan and completed all of your tempo, race pace, and long runs. You’ve tapered appropriately, and you’re feeling good. You’re ready. This will be the day you accomplish your goals, whether it’s to finish feeling great, set a new PR, or qualify for Boston.
After putting in all of that hard work, you will want to make sure that race day goes as expected. Here are seven race day tips that will help you rock your race day!
1. Eat before the race
Eating a light breakfast before your race will top off your nutrition tanks and help you stay fueled for the long mileage ahead. Keep your meal simple and light. Ideally, you should consume your breakfast about three to four hours before your race. Foods like oatmeal, a bagel or toast with a little peanut butter, yogurt, or dried fruit are great choices. These should be foods that you have tried successfully during training so that you know that they won’t upset your stomach or cause other issues.
2. Nothing new on race day
As with your food choices, stay with the tried and true on race day. As cute as that outfit you purchased at the expo is, save it for another day. The same goes for shoes, race nutrition, and hydration.
3. Start slowly
Starting too quickly may well be the number one mistake that almost all runners make, no matter how many marathons they’ve run. The excitement of the moment, the other runners (many doing the same thing!), even a downhill start, can all encourage you to sprint at the sound of the gun. Instead, stick with your plan and your goal pace.
Eating during your race is important to maintain your carbohydrate stores. Studies suggest that about 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour is ideal, depending on your own pace and body size. That is about 120-240 calories and can be consumed via gels, energy drinks, bars, or other food. Again, these should be things that you have practiced with during your training.
5. Race day hydration
The morning of the race, make sure to have a water bottle with you so that you can keep hydrated before the start. To maintain hydration during the race, a runner should consume an amount of fluids about equal to their sweat rate. This is generally about 24-28 ounces per hour, depending upon racing temperatures and other factors. You can measure this yourself during training by weighing before and after a run (don’t consume anything during the run). Using a sports drink can also help replace carbohydrates and electrolytes. If you don’t want to carry your own, make sure to find out what the race will be using and try it out during your training. Or stop by a water station along the course.
6. Have a plan
A plan is essential for a successful race day. Your plan will not only include most of the above (nutrition, hydration, and pace), but it will also take into account what you will do if things go awry. What if you feel nauseous? Get a blister? Feel like you can’t run another step? Planning for these eventualities ahead of time will prepare you mentally if something goes wrong.
7. Have fun
Yes, we want to challenge ourselves, earn new PRs, and achieve our goals. But in the end, shouldn’t it be fun? Enjoy the music, the other runners, and the entire experience. Make memories that will last forever — that you can tell your children and grandchildren. That is my definition of rocking your race day!