It’s the night before your first race and you’re lying in bed trying to figure out what exactly possessed you all those months ago (when you were sitting comfortably on your couch in your PJs with your laptop) to sign up to run 13 miles…for fun. And let’s not forget the .1, or the fact that you paid actual money to run those 13.1 miles. While running your first race can be rather nerve wracking, here are some tips to help you relax and enjoy the experience. Once you cross the finish line, it’ll all be worth it!
THE DAY BEFORE
1. Stay hydrated! Don’t wait until the morning of your race to start drinking fluids. The day before, aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of low calorie fluids. If you weigh 140 pounds, aim to drink about 70 ounces of water.
2. Check the weather. Look at the weather forecast for both the start and the end of the race, and plan your running attire accordingly. If it’s going to be cold at the beginning of the race, take a long sleeve shirt that you are willing to part with, and leave it at the starting line when you are ready to run. At most races, volunteers will collect the discarded items and donate them to a clothing drive or local homeless shelter. Only wear items that you have previously worn to avoid chafing, discomfort, and blisters. Never, ever, wear brand new sneakers on the day of your race!
3. Pick up your race day packet early. Try to pick up your race day packet and information as early as possible to avoid lines and save time on the morning of your race. Be sure to keep track of the safety pins! Attach your bib to the shirt that you will be wearing and (if it’s not attached to the bib) affix the timing chip to your sneaker. Next, take a look at the course map and make a mental note of the start and finish lines, water stations, and any hills.
4. Set some goals. Even if you are running the race for fun and don’t care about your finish time, it’s good to set some goals to keep yourself motivated throughout the race. Would you like to finish without walking? Or finish with a smile on your face? If you are running for time, create a goal pace to follow and a desired finishing time. Set a second, slower time, as a backup in case it’s hot, windy, or just isn’t your day.
5. Carbo-load wisely. The night before your race, try not to go wild on the carbs. While it’s important to eat foods that will help keep you energized throughout the race, don’t over do it. Stick to normal proportions of foods you eat on a regular basis to avoid stomach problems and feeling sluggish during the race.
6. Fuel up. Eat a light breakfast such as a banana and a protein bar, or whatever you’re comfortable with that will give you the energy you need to power through the race.
7. Arrive early, but not too early. Plan to arrive at the starting line about an hour and a half before the race begins. Arriving too early will only make you more nervous! Because almost every race will have incredibly long lines for the porta-potties, head over and get in line as soon as you can. Even if you don’t have to use the restroom at that time, chances are that by the time it’s your turn nature will be calling! You can stretch while you’re waiting.
8. Start off on the right foot. Find your corral with time to spare and continue to stretch to stay loose. When the race begins, try not to start off too fast. Don’t let the runners around you affect your pace. Stay at a pace that’s comfortable for you, and in line with how you trained. During the race, if you experience any problems such as chafing or an untied shoelace, try to fix it sooner rather than later to keep the problem from getting worse.
9. Hydrate. Take advantage of the water stations, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Pinch the rim of the cup to make it easier to drink on the run. Make sure to thank the volunteers.
10. Remember to look up! During the race, be sure to look up and take in your surroundings. Are you running through Times Square in New York City? If so, not many people get to do that—not to mention with the entire street blocked off with crowds of people cheering for you!
11. Have fun and don’t forget to smile. Finishing a race, no matter how many miles it may be, is quite an accomplishment. When you cross the finish line, enjoy the moment and wear that medal with pride!
12. Keep moving. After you cross the finish line, try to keep moving. Stay on your feet for at least an additional 10 minutes and don’t forget to stretch.
Congratulations, you’ve completed your first race! It’s now time to treat yourself for a job well done. The day after your race, try to do some sort of low to nonimpact movement such as swimming to loosen your muscles and increase circulation. Finally, don’t forget to check out the professional photographs that were taken of you during your race–while some of them will remind you of the glorious feeling of crossing the finish line, most will remind you that no one looks good while running.