Signing up for a race, whether it’s your first or your hundredth, is exciting. It also requires planning: You plan your workouts, your runs, your rest days, your nutrition, your sleep and even your wardrobe. But one thing people often forget to plan is race day itself.
The morning of a big race can be hectic, nerve-racking and sometimes confusing. To minimize the risk of forgetting something important and to avoid adding extra stress to your day, prior to race morning keep these five tips in mind:
- Check the weather. Weather forecasts change and vary from day to day. Make sure to check the weather the day before in order to appropriately dress for your race. In many climates, the weather can be cold in the morning but 20-30 degrees warmer by the time your run is over. Plan to layer with “throwaway” clothing for the start of the race. Many races will collect tossed clothes to donate to charity. Also, plan your outfit based on clothes you’ve run in previously. You don’t want to try anything new on race day. Wear tried-and-true clothing that you know won’t leave you with riding, chafing or rubbing.
- Study the course map. Well ahead of your race, check out the course map. You want to be aware of any significant incline changes, areas of congestion (where streets narrow or racers come together), sharp turns, or things like out-and-back sections. This will help you with your race plan of attack regarding pacing and effort. It can also help you coordinate with friends and family that are coming to watch you run (knowing when and where you will see familiar faces will motivate you and give you that extra push when you need it the most). Try to place them on out-and-back sections so they can see you run more than once.
- Check for road closures and parking. Study the race website ahead of time and make note of any local road closures or parking instructions surrounding the race start and finish. You may need to take a different route than normal to get to the event site, so allocate enough time to drive and park without being stressed or worried about making it on time (you’re always better off being early). Keep in mind that parking lots can fill quickly and street parking is often difficult.
- Pack your drop bag appropriately. Whether you’re planning to leave a bag with the official race-bag check or with people meeting you at the finish, it’s smart to pack it with everything you may need after the race. Most importantly, pack warm and dry clothes and a change of shoes and socks. Even on a warm day, when you stop running your core body temperature drops. This, combined with sweat, may leave you feeling chilled. Having dry and warm clothes will keep you comfortable and safe after a race. You may also want to pack your cell phone, ID, money (for emergencies or the beer garden), any specific food and drinks you prefer, and a small first-aid kit. Be sure to place the important items inside zippered pockets and make sure to securely seal the bag before dropping it off.
- Attach your bib and timing chip. When you lay out your clothes for race-day, attach the bib number and timing device to the appropriate locations (this guarantees you won’t forget them). In the midst of getting out the door early on race morning, the last thing you want to do is get to the starting line and realize those items are on your kitchen table.