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The date I am writing this article is 26 on April 2016 and it’s a special day for me because six years ago exactly I started running after a period of about 16 years of sedentary and inactive life, smoking, eating junk food and gulping down coffees and unhealthy sodas of many kinds.
You can learn more about my running escapades from my first book Thirsty for Health. Today’s article though is not so much about memory lane as more about what you need to do on race day.
This is probably the most important thing you can do if you want your race day to go with fewer problems and obstacles as possible. If you arrive early at the race location you have certain advantages as.
- You will find parking place more easily and also nearer to the race location.
- You will not have to wait for hours in line to get your number if you didn’t have the chance or the luxury to get it the previous day of the race.
- You can take care business (using the toilet) on clean toilets, trust me anyone that run a race knows what I am talking about.
- You will not have to wait for long lines to use the toilet.
- You can find a nice spot to do your warm up and relax.
That’s some of the advantages of getting there early. Disadvantages are exactly the opposite of the above.
- You will not find a parking lot easy because everything will be taken and even if you do find something it will be probably outside of the parking place, it will be far and away from the race location and not as secure as it would be if it was in the parking lot. So except worrying about the running you will also worry about your car getting scratched or hit. Also, you will have to walk a greater distance to go to the race start.
- Arriving early it means waiting in line for a significant period of time to get your number and also pay the race fee, this time, you could have easily spent it warming up, stitching your number on your shirt, relaxing and preparing for the race. Having in peace and quiet the last pre-race snack and so on.
- You will be waiting in line to use the toilet and when you finally get there it will not be the cleanest, trust me I know.
- You will not have time to make a proper warm up increases the odds and the possibility of you getting injured during the race and also even if you don’t get injured which nobody wants that you will not achieve your best personal record because of inefficient and hasty warm-up.
- You will not have time to relax and prepare yourself mentally for the race and also you will not be able to get a good spot on the starting line.
I think I made my point clear why it is important to be on race day early!
Keep pre-race fluids and fuel handy
I always try to train myself when whatever the race organizers offer. I find out about the food and drinks the organizers will provide with a simple email or a phone call asking them exactly what they will be serving on race day, except water, of course, that’s a given. By knowing this I use the same brand food and liquids while I am training for the race, so it will give my body the chance to do basically two things, one to accustom my body with this food and beverages and acclimatize myself and second to see which of them do not work for me at all.
So this way on race day I minimize the chance of me having digestive problems during the race. That’s what I do, other though, like to prepare their one pre-race and also fuel food during the race. The length of the race does play a role, usually 5 to 10k races you don’t need anything else except water and you can find it readily at the water stations that are spaced along the race route in strategic spots.
When you are running a half marathon and longer, then yes fuel during the race is definitely needed.
So on race day make sure you bring your pre-race snack if you are having any and also the fuel you are going to carry with you during the race. On the top of my head, electrolyte pills, sugary gels, chocolates and so on.
Take care of business
This is one of the funniest phenomena in races where multiple lines of runners waiting outside the toilets, so they can go take care business which is number 1 or number 2 or both.
If you get at the race location early as I mentioned in the advantages at the beginning of the article you can have a clean toilet, no lines to wait and nobody banging on your door to hurry up.
Always have with you some toilet paper, or some kind of tissue trust me, you will need it, and you can thank me later.
Also, you can use your warming up as a way to spot additional places where toilets may exist in case the line is too long, like gas stations, restaurants, and if the shit hit the fan then secluded bushes but don’t tell anyone I told you that, I deny everything.
Apply skin protectors and take medications
If the race is going to be longer than 30 minutes my advice is to use some kind of skin protector is the conditions are really hot, also, a hat that provides adequate protection from the sun is a good idea too, prefer light colors like white, do not wear dark hat or even dark shirts, it attracts the UV radiation of the sun and you will get cooked even before you start running.
If you are using any kind of medication make sure you have them with you or you took them before and after the race if that’s what the doctor ordered.
Inform the race organizers for any special requests you may have so they will be in the loop in case something happens.
Myself, I always go to the race day wearing the shoes which I am going to run with; even if I am driving I will use the same shoes. It’s easy, it’s fast and no hassle. I do take them all though after the race, I use other shoes. I try to limit the use of my running shoes to other non-running activities. My running shoes are for running, follow this advice and your running shoes will last you on average for 18 to two years before you will need to buy a new pair.
Other runners either because it’s their choice or because they can’t drive using their running shoes, or for any reason don’t want to wear them before they start running they bring them with them on race day, which is cool, of course it’s just you need to save them somewhere and if you don’t have somebody with you or a car or the organizers do not save personal belongings then that could be a problem, but you are big boys and girls you can program it and find the solution I am sure.
Final clothing adjustments
As I said many times in my book “How to train and finish your first 5k race.” Running the race with the shoes and the running clothes you were training is maybe the most important thing you can do to make sure you won’t have any problems during the race and you will minimize drastically the occurrence of mishaps and accidents. So make sure you have your number stitch ok and is secure, you don’t want it to fly away while you are running, also, if there is a timing chip make sure it’s securely attached to where the organizers instructed you to have it, usually is attached to the shoes.
Final mental preparation
Some are loners like I am; Others like to hang out with their friends and other runners, some more brave read either using their mobile phones or actually bring a book with them. Like I said many times in my books, every person is unique, snowflakes in a beautiful winter scene, so every final metal preparation is unique too.
Warm up and Cooling down
It’s a good tactic about 15 minutes before the race starts to be ready and warm-up, the reason is that you can use that time to get a better position on the start line, use the toilet or anything else you think you need to do, it’s just good tactic. I warm up for about 20 minutes, others need less and other needs more, it’s a unique characteristic that you need to practice it in training, every time you go to train you should find a warm up routine that works for you. Weather conditions play an important role in warming up so you need to adapt accordingly.
Here is an excerpt from my book “How to train and finish your first 5k race.” that clearly shows what I do
“Warm up and cooling down.”
I want to say a few words about these two very important parts of running. I learned it the hard way that is very important to warm up before starting a training session and cooling down after you finish.
Our muscles and tendons are like a well-oiled machine and you need to treat them with respect and love.
They take some time to warm up before you should start asking them to go to work. Warming up is like some people’s morning coffee; they need to have it to be able to function. Well, warming up exercises is like that, they prepare your body.
I always like to make the least effort and gee the best results so this is how I warm up.
I walk for 10 to 15 minutes, it doesn’t matter if I am on a track or outside on a trail, I walk for 10 to 15 minutes with a comfortable pace, not too slow but not power walking either.
After that, I will start running for about 10 minutes with a comfortable pace again and after that, I do this.
I start butt kicking myself for about 20 meters and then I run, I stride for about 80 meters, and then I slow down.
On the way back, I do high knee lifts for 20 meter stride for about 80 meters and then slow down, I do that as many times as I feel are necessary.
After that, I start doing what I have planned for the day.
After the training session is over, my cooling down method is pretty simple. I walk for about 10 to 15 minutes until my heart rate drops back to normal.
I don’t have pre-race rituals unless me always wearing a specific hat count as one which is ok I guess comparing with other people’s ritual mine is pretty mild.
I know people that do not take a shower or a bath the night before, do not shave, and use certain bracelets, wear certain shirts the list is endless like are the people that they run.
If you think a ritual will help you run faster or achieve your goal that you set, then by all means use it, just don’t tell your non-running friends they will not get it, trust me I know from experience.
Have a healthy and happy day!
The competitive runners handbook by Bob Glover and Shelly-Lynn Florence Glover
Chi Running by Danny Dreyer and Katherine Dreyer
Galloway’s Book on Running 2nd edition by Jeff Galloway
How to train and finish your first 5k race. by Andreas Michaelides
Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, Ray Moss(May 15, 2007) Paperback