So as someone who has run too many races to count over the past decade (and lord, I do not want to know how much money I've spent on them!), I thought I might share a thing or two about how to have a great race day. Sure, there are a lot of things out of our control - like the weather - but there are a few things we can do to help make the experience a great one.
Plan Ahead. Sign up for the race with plenty of time to train, psych yourself up, and maybe enlist someone to join you. Don't wait till the last minute to look at the details - where the start line is, what time the race starts, what the course is like, when/where to pick up your bib, where to park. If family or friends are coming to cheer for you, take a look at the map and plan in advance where they'll spectate from. I can't stress enough how much easier your race morning will be if you take these simple - but often overlooked - steps.
Do a dress rehearsal. Pick a training run a few weeks in advance and wear what you're going to wear on race day. Chafing during a race does not make for a good experience. And if you're jumping in the deep end and picked a longer race for your first, be sure to test out your fuel to make sure it doesn't disagree with your stomach! The fewer pit stops on course, the better. Doing this a few weeks in advance will give you time to make adjustments and try again if you need to. Also, if you're lucky you'll get a chance to train in the rain or snow. I say you're "lucky" because you never know what race day will throw at you and if the weather isn't perfect, you'll feel much more prepared if you already have a rainy run under your belt.
Set a Goal. And then another. There is nothing wrong with setting an ambitious goal for your first race. In fact, that's awesome! But it's good to have a B Goal in your pocket because there are a lot of things out of your control on race day, including how your legs are going to feel. Having a B Goal can keep you from feeling discouraged after your first race and push you to keep going after that original goal. Remember, it's your first!
Approach it as "Race Week." Don't let race day be an island on itself in your life. You'll set yourself up for a great race day if you're preparing for it all week. Eat well. Stay hydrated. Don't overdue it on the miles. Stretch each day and put your legs up the wall. Get lots of sleep. It's common for even the most experienced runner to have trouble sleeping the night before a race, but the sleep before the sleep before the race, is the most important. The day before, lay everything out that you'll need the next morning so it's all there when you need it.
Stay positive and have fun! It's all about the attitude. You might be nervous the morning of, and that's okay. Finding a place to park, dealing with the porta-potty line, and waiting around for the gun to go off can be a bit nerve wracking. Don't let little things get to you and don't put too much pressure on yourself. Instead, go with the flow and talk with other runners. Do your warm-up, breathe deep, get your music going (if that's your thing) and go for it! Enjoy the cheering spectators, the view, and the awesome thing you're accomplishing.
Do you have any favorite race day tips to share with newbies? * What races are on your calendar for 2017?