A blog by runners. For runners.

Ten steps for race day success

You’ve spent months preparing for it. You set your alarm clock early in order to train well for it. You turned down multiple social invitations because you had to make it your priority.

Well, it is finally here. It is race day. This is the goal event you’ve been training hard for — and looking forward to — for months. And the last thing you want to do is ruin that hard work by making an avoidable mistake.

Following these 10 tips can help make your race — from a 5k to the marathon and beyond — a success:

  1. Trust the taper. It can be tempting to rack up extra miles and do one last speedy run in the days before a race, but resist the urge. Running hard can do more harm than good now. Save your fresh legs for race day.
  2. Rest up. Spend plenty of time off of your feet in the final few days of your taper. If you’ve traveled to a destination race, do not explore the locale by foot before the race. Save sightseeing for a post-race activity. The last thing you want to do is tire your legs out before the big event.
  3. Hydrate well. Focus on drinking plenty of water in the days leading up to the race. Studies show that starting a race even slightly dehydrated can hinder your performance.
  4. Don’t try anything new. That new gel flavor you received at the expo looks like it will taste good, but save it for after your event. Do not try anything new on race day to avoid mishaps. Wear the same shoes and clothing and rely on the same meals and fuel as you did throughout training.
  5. Know the course. Study the course map and elevation profile beforehand so you can know what to expect. This way, you won’t be surprised by any steep hills or out-and-backs along the course.
  6. Prepare the day before. Lay out all of your race day essentials the night before the race. Set out your clothes, shoes, socks, hat, sunglasses, fuel, race bib, and any other necessities. The morning of the race, you’ll be groggy and flustered, so it’ll be hard to get everything together.
  7. Don’t start out too fast. Position yourself in the correct corral for your pace, and take it slow out of the gate. Race day excitement may prompt you to push the pace too hard in the beginning, which is a decision you’ll likely regret in later miles.
  8. Focus on the positives. Is it humid, cold, or windy? Do you have an itch on your right foot? Or do you wish the race wasn’t quite so crowded? Don’t focus on the negatives, especially things that are beyond your control. Instead, think about the positives. You’re finally running your goal race, you’re strong, and you’ve worked hard to get here.
  9. Repeat a mantra. When the going gets tough, it can be tough to stay strong. Repeating an inspirational phrase in your head may be just what you need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. So, go ahead and repeat “you are stronger than you think” or “it’s your choice to finish strong” until you believe it.
  10. Celebrate your victory. Racing is a celebration of your hard work. Just making it to the start line after months of training is a huge feat in itself. Look at all of the spectators cheering for you. When you see racing as a celebration you’ll be happy no matter where you finish.

Written by Jenilee Matz, MPH. Jen is writer, runner, and new(ish) mom living in the suburbs of Charlotte, N.C.