Race Day Tips: 10 Marathon and Half Marathon Keys to Success

The hard work is done.  Celebrate your dedication, commitment and training.  We are heading into some exciting fall marathon and half marathons!  

1.  Set your Race Day Intention!  State what you want to get out of the event.  Will this be a new milestone distance?  Are you going after a new personal record?  Is Boston in your sights?  Is this an opportunity to spend a few miles or hours with your friends?  Are you there for a unique way to tour the region and see the sights?  What does the experience mean to you?  Write it down and say it out loud to get more out of the day.



2.  Nothing  Something New (but be smart) On Race Day!  "They" say to avoid anything new.  That old advice is boring and undermines your judgment skills.  I say you can try new things.  Avoid new things that can cause potential discomfort or distraction.   Running is an adventure and new things make it fun.  Be smart.  A new song on the play list or a new mantra?  YES!  Avoid risks like a new nutritional product, new shoes or an outfit that could cause chafing.

3. Make Race Morning Easy on Yourself.  Don't waste race day energy on the morning prep.  Wake up early.  Set 2 alarms.  Check the weather the night before and set out EVERYTHING you need from water bottles, nutrition, race bib to car keys.  Plan out the logistics of getting to the race in advance with considerations for traffic and parking. 

4.  Dress the Part.  Assuming you plan to push yourself in the race dress as if it will be 15 to 20 degrees warmer.  Arrive to the start in your tried and true comfortable race day gear with easily removable layers on top.  Some wear plastic garbage bags they can toss to stay warm at the start line.  If you have a race day fan/supporter hand your extra clothes to them just before it is time to go.  For a chilly race day I recommend doing the first few miles with a headband over your ears that can be pushed back later, flexible throw-away gloves, arm warmers and old zippered hoodie or long sleeved shirt that you have been meaning to give to Goodwill.  If you wear inexpensive items you are willing to part with you can toss them at aid stations as your body warms.

5.  Know the Course!  Even if you are not afraid of being lost, it is always great to know when to expect the big hills, the sharp turns (so you can run the tangents and shave time) and where your fans and friends might be to cheer you on along the way! Review race maps, talk to other runners and read race reports online.

6.  Watch this hilarious video!  It is funny.  I did not make it but I like it.  



7.  Warm Up.  This reduces injury risk and enhances performance potential by loosening the body, triggering the mind-body connection and increasing core temperature.  The shorter and more intense the race the longer the race day warm up should be.  Even if you are racing a marathon you want to prepare your body in advance for the demands of the race.  Talk to your coach about the specifics of the warm up but the most basic routine for any distance could be 10 to 20 minutes of easy running with a few 30 to 60 second accelerations.  Add drills and dynamic exercises to prime your body.  A warm up also tends to prep the mind for the race.  At Track Cat Fitness, athletes are prescribed a dynamic stretching routine before most running sessions in training.  This is great for your race day warm up.

8.  Follow a Race Plan.  Know the pace you expect to hold for the race in advance.  Commit to it.  An overzealous adrenaline fueled pace at the start risks a kamikaze fade later.  Commit to a pace so you are unlikely to "back down" late in the game when you need to be mentally strong.  If you do not have a plan yet, simply review past training runs for  an idea.   You can review a running calculator online or on some smart watches.  Just be aware that most calculator algorithms assume you have been training at certain volume and thus the longer distance pace projections are often too fast for us mere mortals with real life schedules.  I prefer to use paces achieved in training as the guide.  In the first section of the race watch your watch/gadgets or dial back your effort to slightly less than you think you should be running.  Some races offer formal pace groups you can join with a trained pace leader who takes the thinking out of the equation for you.  It adds a social element.  Pick the appropriate group. 

9.  Race Day Nutrition Matters!
Do not sabotage your hard work by eating a greasy breakfast or forgetting to fuel the day!
Eat breakfast even if nerves have suppressed your appetite.  You need fuel.  You need fuel in the form of easily digestible carbohydrates that you have tried in training.  Hydrate.  I could write pages about nutrition but will keep it simple.  Every 35 to 60 minutes depending on distance, pace and your own tested individual needs replenish your glycogen stores by eating something.   Carry your favorite energy gels to keep energy up particularly in the longer races. Set an alarm on your watch or write on your hands to remind you to eat.  Drink fluid even during chillier events.  After two hours at marathon effort with out taking in any fuel you will have no more energy left and you will fade or crash.  A few energy gels at planned intervals and some sports drink and water at aid stations can make your best day possible.

10.  Share your Race Day Journey!  Big races will have tracking apps online so give out the link to your friends.  When you are running it is encouraging to know your friends and family are cheering you on from home or from the sidelines.  If you have family meeting you at the finish or along the course, you can use the Road ID App on your phone or a similar app so they can track your exact location in real time.  Be proud of your finish, take pictures and share it online.  You never know who you might be inspiring when you share the joy of your accomplishment.  At the very least, report back here.  I love hearing race recaps!

Go out there and enjoy marathon or half marathon day!  Let me know how it goes and if you want to talk about any of these tips in greater detail drop me a line!   I'm here and happy to help you.   

- Kelly