Whether it’s your first half marathon or your 10th ultramarathon, race day can be pretty daunting if you’re not too sure how to handle it. Follow these tips so you know how to deal with race day and reduce the last minute nerves.
1. Bring warm clothes
You’ll want some warm clothes for before the start. You will likely be hanging around for a long time before the gun goes off so make sure you don’t get too cold by having some warm clothes that you can ditch before you enter the starting pen. You can either give these clothes to a family member or friend who has come to support you. For some of the bigger events, you will be given a kit bag that you can store at a safe baggage drop location so do make use of this if you can.
2. Go to the loo before the start
One of the worst things that can happen to a runner is to need to the loo after you’ve crossed the start line. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it will also add time on to your finish time if you have to stop half way around the course. Avoid this by making sure you get yourself to a porta-loo before you head towards the start line. Although the queue will be pretty long, it’s definitely worth the wait to avoid a sticky situation at some point on the course.
3. Bring your phone
Make sure you’ve got a charged phone on you before, during and after the race. This will mean that you can communicate with your friends and family during and after the race. I’m not saying stop during the race and have a 10min chat with them, but a text to say when you think you might finish won’t hurt.
4. Pick up your race pack early
Some event will send your race pack directly to you prior to the event. For those that don’t, you’ll want to get to the race site nice and early so you don’t have to queue to collect your race pack and have the stress of missing the start because you were still in the queue.
5. Don’t forget your warm up
Heading out on a big run without a proper warm up can be dangerous and lead to some pretty serious injuries. Make sure that before you head into the starting pen you some light jogging done to get the blood pumping and get your muscles warmed up. Some light stretching is also a very good idea to loosen up the muscles before you put them to work.
6. Find runners of a similar speed
Some events will have pace-runners — people whose job it is to run at a certain speed so that runners know how to pace their race — so a good idea is to find the pace-runner who will be going at your desired speed to help keep you on track. If not, just ask around and see what sort of pace or finishing time people aiming for so you can find your place in the starting pack.
7. Start slowly
It’s very easy to let the excitement of race day get the better of you and to go off to fast and blow. Just before you cross the start line, take a big deep breath to relax yourself and then head off at a good sustainable pace. Try and think about the first 10 mins of the race as the warm-up and then after this, you can get into a comfortable and consistent rhythm for taking on the rest of the course.
8. Run past the first water station table
The majority of runners will all flock towards the first table at each water station meaning there’s often a queue or just general pileup of people. If you run past this table to the middle or last table at the station, then there won’t be a queue and you can just carry on with your run.
9. Complete, don’t compete
Lots of athletes will get way too hung up on their time and see a big run as a kind of ‘fly or die’ challenge. The point of these kind of days is that you enjoy yourself and try and finish the course so don’t go out too fast and ruin yourself trying to chase a time. Just take your time and enjoy the day.
10. Don’t forget your medal
Most races will make it pretty hard to forget your medal as they will hand them out as you cross the finish line. But make sure you leave the race with it so that you have a symbol of your great achievement.