Get Ready to Run: Countdown to Race Day

You’ve put in the hard work. Now coast into race day like a pro. 

At the risk of sounding like a cheesy soundtrack, when you’re in the last week of training, this is it: the final countdown. You’ve done the training, and now your body is primed to get this party started. Optimize your race experience by treating your body properly in the hours leading up to the start.

Here are some rules of race-prep:

T: 72-24 Hours Pre-Race

  • Stay hydrated. Drink enough so that your pee is lemonade-pale, not straw-yellow. (Sorry if that’s TMI!) Also, a good sign to of hydration is having to get up once a night to use the bathroom.

  • Eat some salty snacks, like pretzels or some low-fat crackers, to help your body hold onto more water. You’ll sweat out electrolytes (which are mostly salt) like crazy on race day, so stocking up now is a great idea.

  • Focus on eating a few more healthy carbohydrates like brown rice, pasta (whole wheat, if you can stomach it), whole-grain breads. Your muscles will stockpile the fuel for raceday. Needless to say, now is not the time to fret about calories.

  • Aim to get some solid shut-eye–aim for at least eight hours–especially two nights before the race. Studies have shown that’s the night that can affect performance, not the night right before the race. So don’t fret if you toss and turn in the hours leading up to your race-day alarm.

  • Stick with the usual. Don’t do anything too that throws your body too out of whack. No happy hour pitchers of margaritas, no 10 o’clock movies, no ridiculously long work days (if you can help that). In a similar vein, don’t get a pedicure; you’ll want those calluses on race day.

  • Check the weather. You’re want to dress like it’s 10-15 degrees warmer than it really will be, so you won’t overheat during the race. Put another way: you want to be chilly standing at the starting line.

T: 24 Hours Pre-Race

  • Do a short run–three miles, max–to get your mind and legs ready to run. It’ll remind you of how fit and ready you are.

  • Continue drinking plenty of caffeine-free liquids: water, decaf tea, milk, sports drinks.

  • Kick back, if possible. Lounge by the pool, read a magazine, watch a DVD. Resist the urge to sightsee all day with your gal-pals or run yourself ragged doing chores. If possible, put your feet up for a few hours in the afternoon.

  • Eat a carbohydrate-packed dinner…but don’t pack in the dinner. Eating an entire box of pasta is going to drag you down, not fuel your engines.

  • Stay calm. Have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner if you’re used to drinking and your nerves could use a little calming, but wait until post-race to really celebrate. Not only is alcohol is dehydrating, it can disrupt your (already anxious) sleep.

  • Get prepared. Pin your number on your race outfit, and lay it out next to everything you could possibly need on race day: food for the race, sunglasses, fuelbelt, if you’re using one, hat or visor, sunscreen, socks, shoes, ID, emergency money, car keys, shoes to change into, post-race, if you want them, and any other essentials. If necessary, write yourself a note to remind yourself of other things you can’t lay out: “Remember water bottle in the fridge.”

T: Race Day!

  • Eat something at least an hour or two before the race. (Hopefully you figured out what works well during your long runs.) If you need some ideas, you want something bland and not too filling, like an English muffin with peanut butter, or yogurt and a banana. Sipping 12-16 ounces of a sports drink is also a good idea, as you’ll need the electrolytes, especially if it’s a hot or humid day.

  • Continue to sip water or a sports drink. Better to have to stop at a port-a-potty on the race route than become dehydrated.

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to the race; no need to waste precious energy fretting about parking and finding the starting line.

  • Hit the bathroom. When you get to the race, jump in line, stat, for the port-a-potty. Even if you don’t have to go immediately, the line will likely be long enough that by the time you get to the front, you’ll be glad you’re there.

  • Line up. Line up in a place that is appropriate for your running level. If you’re a new runner, grab a place more towards the middle or back; better to find your space and pass runners as you pick up speed than get plowed over by or go out too fast with the front runners.

  • Enjoy! Finally, remember that this is your race and your day. Embrace the challenges running brings and enjoy the ride!


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