To perform your best on race day, start your warm-up 40-50 minutes before the race begins.
Here’s a proven routine that takes about half a mile to complete (approximately the distance from the parking lot to the start line):
- Walk slowly for 5 minutes, followed by a normal walking pace for another 5 minutes.
- Set your watch for your run/walk ratio and run/walk to this pace for 10 minutes.
- Walk around for 5-10 minutes, trying to laugh and relax before the start (bring some jokes).
- Get into position in your start corral and pick one side of the road where you want to line up to be ready for your first walk break (always move to the side of the road to walk). YOU’RE OFF!
For your race, line up towards the back of the runners (but in front of the walkers) to avoid the stampede and stay on the inside lane. And don’t forget to cut the tangents.
I’ll be routing for you! Please reach out to me after the race and let me know how it went.
The best advice I can offer you for your upcoming race is to stick with what you know and control what you can.
- Check the weather report. But remember, this is Oklahoma, so expect the unexpected.
- Lay out your race outfit and accessories entirely the night before and double check that you have everything you need. Never ever wear anything new on race day. New shoes will undoubtedly find a place to rub you raw, be too tight or too big, and turn your feet into a blistered mess. New clothing could have a seam in a delicate place, rubbing your skin so raw that when you take a shower, it will sting like the dickens. Pick a race outfit that you know won’t rub you in the wrong places and will fit well in case of a windy course, avoiding the possibility of added resistance.
- Pin your bib on your front. I recommend the front of your pants/shorts/skirt. That way, if you take your jacket off, your bib is still visible.
- I recommend slathering Vaseline, Aquaphor, Body Glide, or other anti-friction lubricant on your feet prior to putting on your socks to help prevent blisters, as well as on any other problem areas where you tend to chafe.
- Arrive to the race early.
- Eat only what you know will not cause gastrointestinal distress.
- Hydrate all week, but don’t overdo it; drinking 4-8 oz. of water each hour works well.
- Get plenty of rest all week; aim for 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Minimize the stress in your life; no negativity this week!! The mind and body are connected and are operating at all times, so your mental health can have a serious impact on your physical state.
- Stay away from sick people!
- Run the tangents better. You can run your fastest race ever, but still end up with a slower time. How is that possible? Running even just .1 mile extra could cost you 30-plus seconds extra on your official time. The better you run the tangents, the less mileage you will run and, therefore, the less time you will be running. Aim to cut the corners as closely as possible while looking for the shortest route in between the curves.
- Perfect your pacing. You can sabotage all of your hard work by starting too fast on race day. You trained for a certain pace; trust it. The pace will feel easy when you start. Don’t give in. Trust your training, stick to your goal pace and save energy for the last portion of the race.
- The mental game. A race can hurt — there’s no way around that — and you’ll find that your mind will want to quit long before your body does. As the race progresses, your lungs will be burning and lactic acid will be telling your legs to slow down. Thoughts of quitting or easing up the pace start to take over. Prepare yourself to quiet the negative thoughts when they begin to creep in during the last half of the race. Decide on a Mantra to propel you when the race becomes difficult (repeat to yourself, “I Can Do This!”)
While gearing up for your race, trust your training. Focus on what you can do, what you have accomplished, and the joy of running. Be proud of yourself. It’s always okay to embrace where you are today. This is YOUR RACE, YOUR PACE! You are only competing against yourself – the endurance athlete you are now vs. the person you were when you started.
If you choose to listen to music during the race as a form of distraction or a tool to keep cadence, keep the volume low and only wear one earbud. That way, you can always hear those around you.
I sincerely appreciate your participation in our program! I have really enjoyed getting to know you.
Your health, time, and trust are priceless. I wholeheartedly hope that you grew and found something to take away from this experience. Maybe even something you didn’t expect – a lesson, knowledge, physical or mental strength, or more. You’re why I have this program. While runners may technically run alone, each of you adds to the strength of our program. Together we are more!
When you enter an event, your behavior is important. Know the basic rules of race etiquette before you cross the starting line.
- Line up properly: If the event has different pace groups set up at the start, get into the correct one. Nothing is more annoying at the start of a race than having to weave around slower runners and walkers after the gun goes off. You may think you gain something by starting closer to the front than your pace would allow, instead you’ll become an obstacle. Most races use timing chips, so the time it takes you to reach the starting line won’t count in your final net time.
- Don’t jingle: Don’t carry loose change or a set of keys in your pocket. Although it may not bother you, the constant jingling can be really annoying to those near you.
- Don’t take up the whole road: The biggest complaint you’ll hear from other participants is difficulty in getting around a group of walkers or runners. The simple rule is – no more than two abreast. Even if you start off at the back of the pack, you can be assured there’s somebody behind you getting angrier and angrier that they can’t easily pass you.
- Allow yourself to get passed: Be aware of people who want to pass you. You’ll be correct if you just assume that somebody always wants to pass you, so leave room to allow them to pass on the left. If they ask to pass on the right with a “Passing on the Right” then keep your arms in and let them pass on the right.
- Don’t pass somebody and then slow down right in front of them: Run/walkers are the biggest culprits in this. Remember that the folks behind you don’t slow down when you do. Never race ahead of someone unless you continue to check that you’re still going faster than them and continuing to gain distance on them.
- Pull to the side if you must stop: If you have a shoe problem, get a phone call, want to take a photo, etc., you must move completely to the side of the course and ensure you’re not blocking anyone. If possible, step off the course and onto the sidewalk or grass. Don’t stop near the start of a race or you’ll risk being trampled and tripping others.
- Move through the water stops: The proper way to grab water at an aid station is to do it at a steady pace, on the move, and pull completely through the aid station. If you need to stop, go all of the way off the side of the course to do so. Don’t stop within the aid station. Even at smaller events, take your water and move to the side if you plan to chat with the volunteers. Watch where you fling your cup after using it so you don’t toss it on racers approaching you from the side.
- Move predictably and keep your arms to yourself: Try to move predictably rather than weaving and veering into other people. Don’t fling your arms out suddenly – someone may be trying to pass you and get clothes-lined.
- Show appreciation to volunteers: Say “Thank You!” to race volunteers who hand you water or put your medal around your neck. They’re volunteering their time, and the race wouldn’t be successful without them.
- Use caution when wearing headphones: Yes, most races allow participants to listen to music (as long as they’re not competing for a prize), and a lot of runners can’t race without their music. But, for your and others’ safety, you should make sure you can still hear what’s happening around you. Keep the volume low and use just one earbud so you can hear instructions from race officials and warnings (i.e., “on your left”) from others during the race.
- Thank supporters, too: Acknowledge race spectators who cheer for you as you pass them. If you’re too tired to say “thanks,” show them a smile, wave, or give them a thumbs up. It will make them feel good and encourage them to keep rooting for others.
- Keep moving at the finish: Don’t immediately stop at the finish line or in the chute. There will be others coming in right behind you, so keep going until it’s safe to come to a stop.
- Don’t be a glutton: Don’t take more than your fair share of food and drinks at the finish line. There are other, slower people behind you. Take only what you need at that moment. Above all, don’t cart off a box of goodies from the finish unless and until you are the absolute last finisher, and everybody else is out of the finish area and the medical tent. That food is for others, not just for you, and for today only.
- Spit happens – don’t share it: If you need to spit, or vomit, or toss anything liquid, try to pull to the side and ensure you aren’t projecting onto somebody else.
- Portajohn line courtesy: Somebody in line behind you is desperate for that portajohn. If there’s a line, line up close to the doors and keep paying attention to a portajohn being vacated – don’t delay the others in line by dithering or being distracted. If you’re going to hand stuff to a friend or put it outside the door, do that or plan for that before you are at the head of the line, so you’re ready to race into the john. Allow others with greater need to go first if they look desperate. Don’t complain about “smelly portajohns.” We love all portajohns. We think the world needs more portajohns. Tell that to the race director for planning for next year. It’s best to carry your own toilet paper or kleenex and hand sanitizer as the portajohn may be out of those.
Following a sensible training plan is the most effective way to reach your ultimate racing goals. But part of that plan might call for the need to race in a *shorter* race to tune up your fitness and competitive juices.
When planning for a significant goal race such as a 10K, half-marathon or marathon, incorporating tune-up races three to eight weeks before your big day can keep training fresh, provide a fitness indicator, offer increased training gains, and let you try out race-day strategies and gear.
Boost In Fitness
When it comes to fitness gains, there is no substitute for a hard race effort. The intensity, adrenaline rush, and competitive aspects of a race can allow you to push beyond your normal comfort zone, which translates to a higher level of overall fitness. It can be difficult (and counterproductive) to simulate a race experience in a training session, even if in a time trial. Adding races to your schedule is a more effective approach to training than forcing workouts to be harder than appropriate.
Tune-up races help you practice race-day execution for your goal event, the big race for which you’re ultimately training. Having a few trial run races to practice race-day routines, test out shoes, socks, clothes and accessories, practice pre-race and race-day nutrition, and tinker with goal pacing are all invaluable. These elements are often underestimated when toeing the line for the larger goal, but, in fact, honing these small factors will contribute to your confidence and often make the biggest difference between race-day execution going poorly, average, or really well.
A Good Indicator
Tune-up events are a great way to gauge fitness and preparedness. The good, hard effort of a tune-up race will help expose areas in your training that have room for improvement. That might include your comfort level at a certain speed, your ability to maintain your effort on hills, your consistency of holding pace, or your ability to finish strong the last 25 percent of the race.
If you’re paying close attention to how you feel in your tune-up race, you’ll learn what aspect doesn’t feel quite right, or confirm that you’re on the right target. For example, you might realize you need more long runs to add to your aerobic base. Or you might sense you lack quick leg turnover and need to work on speed and drills.
Plan ahead, look at your training calendar, and add events that work with your overall plan. Be careful not to just pop races in here or there, but instead consider where a down week would fit nicely or how a race compares to the number of weeks out from your goal. Beware of having too many race efforts in a given period or you may put yourself at risk of injury or fatigue.
More Is Not Always Better
Having too many secondary races will lead to a lack of proper training and continual compromise. Racing should be one of the many aspects included in a training plan, but it should not take the place of the actual training, bigger mileage weeks, and weeks with several hard workouts and a longer run. Too many races will cause your overall fitness to level out, leaving you stale and unable to achieve the proper physical and psychological peak.
The distance of your tune-up races should complement the training you are already doing, not confuse it. For example, if you are preparing for a 10K, then running a few 5Ks within the last six weeks leading up to your goal would be appropriate. A hard half-marathon thrown into the mix wouldn’t be a wise choice and could actually be counter-productive, unless perhaps you were planning to run only a portion of that race at race pace. Generally, consider racing half the distance or less of your goal race, but not within two to three weeks of your goal race.
Even for seasoned racers, the days before a race can be stressful. With all the hope and hard work that you’ve invested in your goal event, you want to arrive at the starting line feeling calm, healthy, and ready to race your best. Here are a few reminders to keep you on track in the critical days and hours before the starting gun fires, and to help you recover after you cross the finish line.
THE WEEK BEFORE THE RACE
- Stop stressing. 5Ks and 15Ks are hugely positive community events. You get to spend a morning with strangers cheering you on, feeding you and offering water, and celebrating doing something healthy for yourself. Everyone fears that they’ll be last, but don’t worry. In all likelihood, you won’t be. People with a very wide range of abilities and levels of fitness do 5Ks and 15Ks, and many people just go to walk them from start to finish.
- Cover the route beforehand. If you can, work out on the route where the race will take place so you can get familiar with where you’ll need to push and where you can cruise. Finding the race start beforehand will prevent you from getting lost on race morning!
- Eat what works for you. Your best bet is to eat whatever has worked best for you—that’s given you a boost without upsetting your stomach—during your regular weekday runs. Don’t eat anything heavy within two hours of the race. A smoothie containing fruit and yogurt is always a good choice because it gives you a good balance of carbs and protein but not too much fiber (which could cause GI distress).
- Get ready the night before. Lay out your gear and get as much sleep as possible – aim for eight hours.
THE DAYS BEFORE THE RACE
- Don’t do anything new. Race week isn’t the time to try new shoes, new food or drinks, new gear, or anything else you haven’t used on several workouts. Stick with the routine that works for you.
- Get off your feet. In the days before you race, try to stay off your feet as much as possible. Relax, and leave the lawn mowing or shopping or sightseeing for after the race.
- Graze, don’t chow down. Rather than devouring a gigantic bowl of pasta the night before the race, which could upset your stomach, try eating carbs in small increments throughout the day before the race.
- Put your hands on your bib. The night before the race, lay out your clothes, and if you have your bib, fasten it on. That’s the one thing you need at the starting line. Don’t show up without it!
- Limit your sipping. Yes, you need to stay hydrated, but no major drinking 30 minutes before the gun; sip if your mouth is dry or it’s particularly hot out. Some athletes will take a mouthful and use it as a rinse and spit. Your best bet is to stay hydrated throughout the day. Aim for half your body weight in ounces. So for instance, if you weigh 200 pounds, aim for 100 ounces of calorie-free fluids like water each day. If you weigh 160 pounds, aim for 80 ounces per day.
- Arrive early. Get to the race at least one hour before the start so you’ll have time to find a parking space, pick up your number (if you don’t already have it), use the porta potty, and warm up. You don’t want to be running to the starting line.
- Bring a trash bag. A heavy-duty trash bag can provide a nice seat so you don’t have to plop down on wet grass. If it’s raining at the start, you can use the trash bag as a raincoat.
- Bring extra tissue. The only thing worse than waiting in a long porta potty line is getting to the front and realizing that there’s nothing to wipe with.
- Don’t overdress. It will probably be cool at the start, but don’t wear more clothing than you need. Dress for 20 degrees warmer than it is outside. To stay warm at the start, you may want to bring (expendable) clothes that you can throw off after you warm up.
- Set at least two goals. Set one goal for a perfect race and another as a backup in case it’s hot, it’s windy, or it’s just not your day. If something makes your first goal impossible halfway through the race, you’ll need another goal to motivate you to finish strong. And it’s best to set a third goal that has nothing to do with your finishing time. This performance goal could be something like finishing, powering up the hills rather than walking them, or eating the right foods at the right time and successfully avoiding GI distress!
- Fix it sooner, not later. If your shoelace is getting untied, or you start to chafe early in the race, take care of it before it becomes a real problem later in the race.
- Line up early. You don’t want to be rushing to the starting line, so don’t wait for the last call to get there.
- Start slow, and stay even. Run the first 10 percent of the race slower than you normally would, with the idea that you’ll finish strong. Don’t try to “bank” time by going out faster than your goal pace. If you do that, you risk burning out early. Try to keep an even pace throughout the race, and save your extra energy for the final stretch to the finish.
AFTER THE RACE
- Keep moving. Get your medal and keep walking for at least 10 minutes to fend off stiffness and gradually bring your heart rate back to its resting state.
- Refuel. There are usually snacks at the finish line, but what the race provides may not sit well with you. To recover quickly, bring a snack with a combination of protein to rebuild muscles and healthy carbs to restock your energy stores. Consume it within 30 minutes of finishing the race. You might try a sports recovery drink, energy bar, or other packaged food that won’t spoil, spill, or get ruined in transit.
- Get warm. Change out of the clothes you raced in, and get into dry clothes as soon as possible. After you cross the finish line, your core temperature will start to drop fast, and keeping sweaty clothes on will make you cold.
- The next day, get going. As sore as you might feel the day after the race, it’s important to do some sort of non-impact activity like swimming, cycling, or working out on the elliptical trainer. The movement will increase circulation to your sore muscles and help you bounce back sooner. Just keep the effort level easy.