Race day: The day you’ve been training for and looking forward to—and, yes, sometimes dreading!—for months. The hard work of training is done; here’s how to have the sweetest victory lap possible.
Do your prep work.
Before the big day, study the course map—or even drive the race route. (Remember that hills from the driver’s seat look much more intimidating than hills on foot do.) Get as much rest as possible in the week pre-race, even if it means skipping your company softball game. And realize that the hard work of training is truly done, even if you weren’t as diligent as you wanted to be: there are no intervals, long runs, tempo sessions that you can do in the week leading up to an important race that will influence your performance in the race. Carbo-load if you’re racing 13.1, 26.2, or further, and hydrate well. (No, beer doesn’t check both these boxes.)
Adrenaline + other racers + starting gun = faster pace than you’ve ever run in training. Unless you’ve diligently trained to blitz along at a 7:10 pace for all 26.2, you’re not going to be able to maintain that speed. Slow down and let others fly by you; holding yourself back slightly in the first half of the race ensures you’ll have the juice to pass them again and finish strong. If you listen to music, build your playlist to mimic your racing strategy, with slower-paced songs in the first half. Save Kanye and Katy Perry for the final miles.
Fuel your fire.
In ideal race conditions, miles speed by in a blur. That’s great—until you get to Mile 7 and realize you haven’t sucked down an ounce of carbs the entire way. Formulate a plan for taking in calories and fluids—say, at mile 4, 8, and 11 in a half-marathon—then remember to stick to that plan. (And no slurping down random grape sports drink if you’ve never had that brand of random grape sports drink…your stomach might rebel.)
Engage word power.
Have a mantra—a word or short phrase that speaks to you—cued up. When your motivation flags or your legs feel like tree trunks, silently tell yourself to, “Believe,” “Run with your heart,” or, “Suck it up, Buttercup.” Better yet, get your mantra into a rhythm with your footfalls and you’ll enter a Zen-like state where all you focus on is the strength in those words.
Hold on tight.
You’ve been tightly clutching your time goal all through training: Don’t let go of it even if your legs and lungs are shrieking at you at mile 25. You’ve come this far. Stay strong—then that chocolate milk, banana, and glorious pride are all yours.