Sometimes just getting to the start line feels like more of an accomplishment than finding your way to the finish. After weeks of training hard, race day should be your reward — a chance for you to go out, have fun, and show ’em what you’ve got. We’re here to help you make the most of it. Here’s how you can make race day a great day.
Go the distance
Give yourself five to 12 weeks, depending on your experience, to train for a shorter race like a 5K, says Nikki Rafie, head coach for Team Athena, a Portland-based women’s running club.
“If you want to feel more confident going in, practice running farther than the total race distance, say 5 miles,” Rafie said. “And add a few strides (run hard, almost at a full sprint, for 100 meters; recover for 100 meters) on to the ends of your longer runs to learn how to finish stronger.”
The week leading up to your race is a time for your body to recover and prepare itself for what’s to come.
“Be active, so you don’t get stiff, but not overactive,” Rafie said.
Try a short run, with some strides at the end, four or five days pre-race. Two or three days before the race, run a couple of miles, just to keep your legs loose. If you can, try to stay off your feet the day before.
Do a dress rehearsal
Don’t wear anything (head to toe) on race day that you haven’t worn during training. You don’t want any surprises out there on the course…
Lay out your clothes, including your race bib, timing chip, and all of your hydration/nutrition essentials the night before. That way, you won’t have to hunt for anything the morning of the race.
You don’t need to carbo-load for a shorter race. In fact, it may actually just slow you down. Stick to a healthy, well-rounded dinner that you know won’t upset your stomach the night before. Rafie suggests eating something easily digestible two hours before the race with both carbs and proteins, such as toast and peanut butter or Greek yogurt and a banana.
Drink 8 to 16 ounces of water one or two hours before the start of the race. And then be sure to take a sip at every aid station. If it’s really hot outside, you may need to replenish electrolytes such as sodium and potassium that are lost in sweat as well. If that’s the case, take sips of an energy drink at each water stop.
Do at least 10 minutes of warm up exercises before the race. Doing a bit of jogging or walking will help you get some of the nerves out. And be sure to stretch. You want your body to be nice and warm before the race starts.
Position yourself wisely
According to Rafie, you want to start somewhere in the middle of the pack.
“If you start in the front, you’ll go out too fast,” she said. “Start in the back, and you’ll go out too slow.”
Divide and conquer
“I like to split the 5K into thirds,” Rafie said. “For the first mile, find your rhythm. During the second mile, pick up your pace a little bit. The last mile is where you start to push it, and then save your sprint for the final stretch.”
Your ultimate goal should be to cross the finish line with a smile on your face.
Got any other good race day tips? Share them with us in the comments section below.