Race morning is typically a time when your nerves are on edge. A good way to ensure you’re as prepared as possible is to know what not to do from the time you wake up to the moment when the gun sounds.
Keep these five “don’ts” in mind next time you’re getting ready to take the start line:
1. Don’t starve yourself.
Coach Dennis Barker of Team USA Minnesota suggests setting your alarm for about four hours prior to the start of your race so that you can have a light breakfast. “For a longer race, where glycogen depletion may be an issue, remember that while your muscle glycogen remains constant overnight, the glycogen in your liver is depleted even while sleeping,” he says. Alicia Shay, an Olympic Trials qualifier, internationally competitive trail runner and coach, agrees that proper fueling is key the morning of and suggests practicing in training what you will eat on race day. “You will want to know that those foods don’t upset your stomach,” she cautions.
2. Don’t start the race with cold legs.
Even if you’re running a marathon, do some sort of warm-up before the race. “Your warm-up is a time to prepare both your body and mind for your best effort,” says Barker. “While you’re jogging, doing drills and stretching, think about your race strategy and how you will execute it. You have probably already thought about it, but think about it again and commit to it.” Go to the line confident in your plan with determination to execute it, and be prepared to react positively to situations you can’t control.
3. Don’t forget a race-day plan.
Heather North, coach of Revolution Running says that your race-day plan should include figuring out the time you need to get up, knowing exactly where to park, understanding the best way to get to the start line or your corral and allowing plenty of time to warm-up. “Race morning can turn into a stressful disaster if you haven’t allowed those extra 15-30 minutes to get everything in,” she says. Also remember that races can be chaotic affairs, so come into it with a flexible mind and expect that change will be the norm. Barker points out that race management, course, and organization can change. Another thing that can change is the weather, so in your race-day plan, make sure you’re packing some cold, windy and hot-weather apparel options in the event that the race-day forecast is wrong.
4. Don’t abstain from coffee and water.
The last thing you need to worry about is a caffeine headache halfway through your race. If your body is used to it, it may not feel the same without it. Barker advises limiting your pre-race coffee consumption to one small cup. “You want to receive the benefits without getting too jacked up or having to go to the bathroom too much,” he says. Barker also recommends alternating between coffee and small amounts of water and/or a trusted sports drink that you’ve consumed in training. Don’t overdo it with the fluids. You want to be hydrated—not overhydrated.
5. Remember why you’re out there in the first place.
Sure, you’ve put a lot of time and effort into training for the race, but remember, this is supposed to be fun! “Many runners are so focused on race morning and the results of everything that they forget to enjoy the day,” says North. “This has been a process of many workouts, long runs, sweat and sacrifice. Relish in the journey that has taken you so many miles. Enjoy the scenery, listen to the sounds and take in each experience along the way. It is a blessing to be able to run, so soak it in!” Shay concurs, saying, “Running and racing is a wonderful gift and nothing that should cause too much anxiety.”