If you haven’t raced before, it sounds daunting. If you have, you know it’s not easy. So why do we do it? Because it makes us stronger, because it’s rewarding and because it can be fun!
If you’re building to a big event, like a marathon or a sportive, it’s a good idea to have a practice or ‘build up’ race. This way you can test out your food, kit, and mental and physical readiness for your main target!
Here are my top 10 tips learned from years of experimenting and racing:
Before race day
Take at least one day off before the race, more if you need it. Sleep well. You want to feel rested and fresh for the race to give it your best shot.
2. Eat what’s normal for you:
Traditionally runners have eaten meals high in carbohydrates. I’m always being offered pasta by my non-running friends. The idea is that carbs store energy in the form of glycogen to power you through your rest. What is best is what works for you. You work this out by trying out meals before your long runs or other hard training sessions.
I never think I’ll be nervous, but I’m always surprised how adrenaline kicks in on race morning, and it’s easy to forget things. I find it much easier to get everything out the day before – what you’re going to wear before the race, in the race, after the race (you need a change – if you’ve tried hard, your kit will not be pleasant!) If you’ve got your race number, pin it on your shirt or your bike. It all means you’ve got less to think about on the day, helping you be more relaxed and perform better. Even better, get a handy race checklist, good for 50 races.
Another stress-avoider. Work out your travel to the race. Most race websites now have really useful info about how to get there. I like to have about an hour to suss out where to leave bags, where to start, queue for the loo, warm up – it all goes really fast!
Super personal. You really do have to practice what works for you, and how long you need to digest (2-4 hours for most people). Porridge, toast, peanut butter, museli, bananas are all popular. Find out what you and your stomach like, and then stick with it!
About 30 minutes before it’s good to have a light jog, then do some dynamic stretches. Do what works for you and ignore what other people are doing. Having your own routine is yet another system that will help you feel calm before you start.
7. Start right:
We all get frustrated if we’re held up, or if we’re in the way of others, at the start. Line up where you think is realistic. There are often signs with predicted finish time to help you. If in doubt, fast people are at the front! Keep as calm and happy as you can. Everyone is a bit nervous, but relaxing will help you perform better.
8. Go for it!
If you’re new to racing, don’t start too hard as you could blow up, but increase the pace later if you feel good. If you’re going hard, try and keep going! I sometimes feel like stopping in races as it’s such hard work. But I tell myself everyone else feels the same, and also how annoyed I’d be if I pulled out. I know I’ll feel proud when I finish.
Once you cross the line with a new PB, savour the moment! Just don’t forget to get into warm kit and eat some food and drink to help your muscles recover, and avoid getting a cold as your immune system can take a whack straight after a race.
You did it. You battled through fatigue, you pushed yourself. You’re an experienced racer, ready to tackle another and do even better!
Racing takes organisation, effort and guts, so support and congratulate your friends, or give them a nudge to support you. I’ve got a gift guide to help you, or browse the shop by theme like good luck or race finisher.
GOOD LUCK and let me know how you get on!