Preparing for race day

Posted on: 16/09/2018

While mentally preparing for the forthcoming Cheltenham Half Marathon, I thought it would be a great time to share some race day tips, especially for those running for the first time. With exactly 2 weeks until the event, I would fully expect you to be into your tapering phase right now. The hard mileage should be complete, and you should be allowing your body to rest in preparation for race day.
Continue to trust your training schedule and the taper as well. See below, my race day tips to ensure you provide yourself the best chance to achieving your objective, whether it is to complete your first ever race day or achieve a personal best time.

Ensure you get an early night before the race – It can often be quite difficult to sleep the night before a race. I suggest you remove as much pressure as possible by being totally organised by setting out everything you need the day before – all of your clothing, fuel, technology, race vest, pins. Then this should help you sleep easy. Even if your nerves and excitement make you twitchy, you can rest assured you are on top of everything.

Don’t try anything new on race day – You should have hopefully established best practice during your training programme. I suggest you keep it tried and tested. This includes clothing to socks to what you eat for breakfast to what you eat during your race. On race day, try to create the pre-run routine from your training runs. Your body will appreciate the familiarity as it will be impacted enough by your nerves. Don’t introduce a new food or drink before or during the race.

Ensure technology is charged – If you read one of my previous posts on gadgets, it may have prompted you to invest in a gadget of some kind to support you through your training. Therefore, you may now be quite reliant and have an expectation with it. Do not forget to charge anything you require up the night before, so you have everything you require on race day. Reduce stress factors by thinking ahead.

Be clear on your goal and don’t change things last minute – Maybe you were planning on timed run/walk intervals, but you switch to running the entire course. Maybe you planned to run to finish, but are making good time at the 7 mile point and decide to push for a personal best. Maybe you had planned for a personal best and your legs never felt right. Different days can have a different result so be willing to go with the flow but beware, altering a plan mid flight can be disruptive and force you to be disappointed with the end of result.  My advice will be to run with the plan set by your training.

Pack a post-run bag – You will have learned over the course of training what you need after your run. Think about packing a pair of flip flops or sandals, a light jacket, maybe even some dry clothes as the weather in the UK can be very temperamental in September. I encourage you to include a post run snack that you so badly want to keep you motivated. Ideally leave your bag with someone who is coming to support you.

Aim to arrive early – It is a good idea to arrive nice and early pre-race to learn where the toilets are, first aid area is located, water station set up and where you plan to meet your friends/family post race. This will also provide you the opportunity to run through a pre-race warm up and fully prepare your body accordingly. Sip water and keep hydrated before the start. There is nothing worse then rushing and forgetting the basics of good preparation.

Don’t aim to go out too fast – It is easy to get caught up in the moment and run too hard in the beginning. Try to hold back and maintain enough energy for the last third of the race. It is easier to run harder at the end when you have reserves than to blow all your energy and to have heavy legs at the end. Run your pace and run your race.

Enjoy every second – This is your moment, so go and enjoy it. The training will have provided you the foundation you require now, so follow your plan and enjoy the event. When a high volume of people come together to take part in an event such a half marathon, it provides a huge sense of pride. Soak it up and feel proud when you cross that line.