Most of us get nervous before a race. Even if I don’t think I’m nervous, my body usually is. Last week I was joking before we ran a low key race, that my friend was nervous. He pointed out I must be nervous too, as I was drinking a lot. He was right, I had a dry mouth, despite thinking I was relaxed!
After around 15 years of racing I’ve learned that even when you think you are under control, your nerves may be kicking in. Unfortunately this can mean that your brainpower goes. I heard recently about a man who ran a whole marathon in his wife’s flip flops, having forgotten his trainers!
This is why I developed a race checklist. Even if you write a list of what you need, if it’s too close to the race, you may leave something vital off it (like trainers!) I trust the checklist as I know it is the definitive list of what’s needed before, during and after the race. It saves me time not having to think of it all each time I get ready. It relaxes me because I’m not worrying about having left anything out. It also looks good, so that all helps make you smile and feel calm before a race.
Here’s my full rundown on what’s included on the race checklist and why:
You usually get sent information about when and where the race starts, transport and parking, and often a course map. If this is hard copy, pop it in your bag. If it’s on email, check you’ve got it accessible.
Working out how long and which way to get to your race in advance is another way to cut down stress. Make sure you’ve got your map, notes or train times on paper or on your phone.
Applying some sort of lube cuts down the risk of chafing and blisters. Smear it wherever seams, skin or heart rate monitors might rub. You can also put it on your feet. Lots of people use Vaseline. I like Bodyglide and there are lots of similar ones out there. Don’t forget this or you could be screaming in the shower as you discover where you’ve chafed!
Sun/ lip protect
If it’s sunny, put on suncream. If it’s cold, don’t forget your lips. You could use vaseline, or a small SPF lip protector is easy to pack and help keep you kissable by your family at the finish line!
We all know we should keep hydrated before a race (pale or clear urine is what you need). I try to stop drinking around 45 minutes before, to avoid having to go to the loo in the race.
You probably ate breakfast quite a while before the race. I like to top up with an energy bar or banana about an hour before the race.
You don’t want to finally get to the portaloo after ages queuing only to find there’s no loo roll. You wont regret having some of your own.
Kit bag (labelled)
If you’re handing your bag in to the kit tent, make sure you’ve got it ready and labelled with any official tag, or number that the organisers have asked you to put on.
You need your number on to get a finish time. You don’t want it flapping around as you run. Have a few spare safety pins with you in case you rip it.
Bin bag/ disposable clothes
This is for the start line. If it’s chilly and you have to wait around before the race starts, you’ll need these to keep warm. Either take some old clothes you’re happy to get rid of (charities usually collect and sell these after). Or I prefer to take a bin bag and cut head and arm holes. It’s just easy to carry and get rid of, and can keep you warm and dry.
Wear : Your racing clothes
Trainers and chip
Both pretty key items. Make sure you’ve got them ready to run in.
All self-explanatory, but just do a check that you’ve got every item you need.
Top with race bib
I like to pin my number on before the race. It’s one less thing to worry about and do on the day.
Accessories: These are the things that aren’t your core clothes, but help you race
Heart Rate Monitor
If you use it, pack it! See how hard you’re working in the race!
Most of us like to time ourselves, and lots of us monitor our pace. I set mine to show time, mile splits and heart rate for racing.
This covers all weathers from woolly hat in cold, to cap to protect you from rain or sun. I always run in a headband to keep the hair out of my face.
Gloves can help on a really cold day. I usually run in a sweatband to help get rid of all that sweaty effort (this is why the elites get given towels at the end of races!)
Some people like to have their splits with them. You can print off a good one here
Carry: what you’ll need with you on the course
Lots of us run with gels or energy sweets in a belt, or water in a running backpack
Whatever energy food you use. To put in your belt or backpack!
Hopefully you’ll have a fantastic race, feel great and get a PB. But just in case anything goes wrong, having some emergency money means you can call a taxi, or buy something vital if you stop.
Plastic bag for kit
Easy to forget but so useful. Put your sweaty/ muddy/ rainy race kit in and tip it straight into the washing machine when you get back.
You wont want to stay in your kit. That should be safely in its plastic bag. You can get quite chilled after running, even in the heat, so have some warm layers you can peel off later. It helps if everything is easy to get into, because you’ll be tired, and you may not have much privacy at a race finish.
It feels like a huge treat to get out of your race shoes, which like your kit will be sweaty/ muddy/ rainy. You may also have blisters or sore toenails. I normally take flip flops as they’re very comfy and it feels good to get some air to my feet.
Wet wipes/ Shower
If there are showers at the finish, take some shower gel and a towel. If not, wet wipes can make you feel like a new person!
Think of what you might need at the end. I usually have plasters, blister plasters, savlon and ibuprofen.
Food and drink
Important to get some carbs and protein in to help you recover. I like to have a chocolate protein recovery drink, and energy bar for carbs, or cake if there are good ones at the finish line!
Phone to help you meet up with people or text them your amazing new PB. A phone or camera to record the moment.
I hope that helps take some of the stress out of racing, helping you relax and get that PB!
As a final checklist for you, here are some useful links:
Here’s where you can get your race check list
How to predict your pace