Whether you are about to toe the line at your first race or your 50th, all runners are essentially the same. Meaning, there are mistakes common to all runners that we can easily make, and easily wreck our race day experience.
We previously shared our list of the Top 10 Mistakes that will ruin your training run. We decided to expand this and list out the top mistakes that will ruin your race day experience so that you can avoid them. Doing so will put you in the best position to run your best race.
10) You didn’t do your homework. How many runners toe the line without ever looking at a course map? Where are the big hill climbs? Where are the bathrooms? How many water stops are there? Taking the time to know these things will help you conserve your energy for when you need it during the big on-course challenges ahead. Otherwise, you may set yourself up for a disappointing race.
9) You didn’t fuel/hydrate. Let’s be honest, over the course of a race that is 6.2, 13.1, 26.2, or whatever distance, slowing down or even pausing for a brief moment at a hydration station to grab a drink of water or sports drink is not going to make or break your final chip time. It is OK to slow down (and yes, even walk) during these stations to make sure that you grab the fluid and the fuel that you need to keep your energy levels high throughout the race.
8) You didn’t call the audible. It is all well and good to have a developed race plan, but, unless you are running for an Olympic gold medal, it is OK to allow yourself to call an audible on race morning if you just aren’t feeling it. Upset stomach? Nagging injury? Slept like you chugged a gallon of espresso before going to bed? We aren’t always at our best on race morning, so listen to your body and adjust your race plan accordingly. You never know, after a mile or two at an easy pace you may find yourself feeling yourself again and you can resume your original race plan.
7) You didn’t leave enough time to get to the starting line. So, how long does it take to get from home or your hotel to the starting area? What parking lots are available again? When do road closures start? Save yourself the white knuckled panic of grasping the steering wheel, worried you won’t make it to the starting corral in time, and leave a little early. Most races make race day times, parking, and event and public transportation information available online in advance (or at the very least at the race expo), so take a minute and map out how long it will take you to get there, and add, say 20 minutes to be on the safe side.
6) You didn’t dress properly for the temperatures. With the exception of the rare (and awesome!) night race, races typically utilize early morning start times. Thus, you may have cooler/colder temperatures at the start than you are used to. Additionally, over the course of a long race, you may have significant temperature increases, rain showers, or wind. Be prepared for whatever weather may come your way. Dress in layers, with your base layer being appropriate for the warmest expected conditions. Your outer most layers (especially when it is cold) can be items that you don’t care if you lose, so you can easily toss them on the side of the course (most races will collect, launder, and distribute these clothing items to local charities).
5) To bib or not to bib. Make sure you do not leave the house without your race bib! Additionally, if you are going to plan on removing an outer article of clothing pre or mid-race (see #6), make sure that your bib is attached to your base layer so you do not accidentally toss off your bib mid-race. Keep in mind, if your bib is not properly and visibly displayed, you may be mistaken for a race bandit and removed from the course by race officials.
4) You did not respect the bathroom call. We get it, you want to get that PR, no matter what. However, racing does not make you a machine. Nature will still call whether you want it to or not. Since you may be running for hours at a time, your race plan should allow for bathroom stops. You don’t want to be “that guy” who made a big “oops” on the course. For every person we’ve heard about who missed a Boston Qualifying time because they were in the port a potty, we’ve heard many much worse stories about runners who pushed their luck when it came to bathroom stops and things did not turn out well…in the end (Groan!).
3) You did not run your race. We get it, race days are exciting. However, it is so easy to be so overwhelmed by the excitement of the crowds, the music, and the fireworks that excitement takes over and you abandon your race plan. When you do this, you will go too fast too early and burn yourself out, leaving you with nothing in the tank for the rest of the course.
2) You did not leave it all out on the course. This is especially true for those running a race for the first time or those running a new distance or challenge. There is a fine line between over-running and being so conservative you don’t leave it all out on the course. Regardless of the race distance, your last mile should be your fastest. So (especially in the last mile) don’t be afraid to pin your ears back and just leave it all out there, you will have plenty of time to rest soon enough.
1) You forgot to enjoy yourself. Running is supposed to fun. Racing is supposed to be fun. So why is it that so many runners forget to have fun? We get it, chasing the rabbit is fun, but just because you did not grab that coveted PR does mean that it should dampen your enjoyment of your race experience. Conversely, so many first time racers are so focused on not getting swept that they forget to enjoy the experience for what it is. Do yourself a favor, remind yourself that no matter what your chip time may be in the end, that you can and should enjoy every step of the race.
Looking for more Tips? Check out our list of the Top 10 Mistakes that will ruin your training run.
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