It’s your first race. So first of all, go you! You’re awesome, and you’re gonna do great. But you’re getting close to race day and (understandably) you have a lot of questions. What should I do to be ready? What if I forget something? What is carbo-loading and how much pasta and pizza can I get away with eating? Should I go to bed super early? You don’t have the experience to go on and you don’t know what works well for you. But here’s the good news: after this race, you won’t have so many questions. You’ll learn a lot about what pre-race routine is best for you and you’ll adjust and tweak your plan as needed.
Here’s a basic outline of what to do before your first race to get you on the right track.
1. Know the plan. Where are you going? How long will it take you to get there? What’s the parking like? Are there shuttles? Will there be food or other activities? Answer all of these questions.
2. Make a list. And check it twice. I’m a list lover (could you tell?). I find a lot of peace in writing down what needs to be done, and it helps me stay organized and stay on top of the task at hand in a timely manner. Write out a timeline for the next day as well as a list of what you will need to bring with you. From water bottle to nutrition to your favorite post-run hoody… write it down. One of the best things about writing things down tonight is that you’ll probably realize a few things that you may have otherwise forgotten.
3. Lay out your race outfit & charge things. From head to toe, get it all out and ready for you in the morning. This will also allow you crunch time if you realize your favorite running shorts are in the laundry (midnight laundromat run, anyone?). Shoes, check. Running socks, check. Bottoms, top, check, check. An extra layer if it’s cold and a hat if it’s sunny are also good considerations to make the night before. If you already have your race number and tracking chip, get those set up tonight as well. It just makes getting ready tomorrow more simple. Remember to charge your iPod, phone, and GPS watch if you’ve got one! Not everyone requires music for their run, but if you are iPod dependent as I am, you will be seriously thrown off if you find your device is dead mid-race. Plus you’ve been working on that race day playlist for months.
4. Plan to get your photo taken. This is something that you might not otherwise think about, but you’ll want a cool photo to commemorate your finish of your first race! Get a friend to wait at the finish line to snap a pic or pay the race photographer to get a good shot.
5. Have a good dinner. This means different things for different people, but generally if your race will take you less than an hour, you have no need to carbo-load (I know, I know… this was your excuse to binge on your favorite pasta… don’t shoot the messenger!). Eat a dinner of typical size and type to what you usually eat each night before a run of this length (don’t change things up, stick with what your body likes!), and make sure that some complex carbs are present (whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds). Eat slowly. Oh, and HYDRATE.
6. Set an alarm. Or three. And DON’T HIT SNOOZE. I’m looking at you. The extra alarms are precautions in case you happen to sleep past the first alarm. Even better, tell a close friend about your race and have them check in with you in the morning to make sure you wake in time, if you’re worried.
7. Get to bed. But not too early. If you conk out hours before your usual bedtime, chances are you will wake up too early, or not be able to fall asleep because your body is like “what the heck, man?”. It doesn’t help that you’re probably a little anxious about tomorrow. Just make sure you aren’t staying up particularly late… get what a “good night’s sleep” means to you personally.
1. Wake up. Like, really wake up. Do whatever gets your blood flowing. For me that means a shower first thing. For others that might mean yoga and some good morning jams.
2. Eat light. Two hours before you are set to race, eat something light that will take the edge off of your hunger without leaving you all bloated and sluggish. The most important tip, though, is to stick with whatever you usually eat before a run of this length. Don’t change things up for your race, stick with what your body is accustomed to. A small bowl of oatmeal and fruit, toast and a banana, or a spoonful of peanut butter and a handful of Craisins… whatever’s clever, do what you do! Everyone is different. Oh, and COFFEE for those of us who need that jump start. Don’t forget to keep your hydration up as well. Just remember to taper that off about 30 minutes before your race or you may need to make a potty break a few miles in.
3. Check that list and pack accordingly. Don’t forget anything!
4. Get there earlier than required. If it says to arrive an hour early for check in, show up 15 minutes before that. Because first of all, parking can be tricky. And second of all, this is your first race! Getting there extra early well help you really absorb the whole experience, and it will relieve any anxiety you may have about getting there late. Lastly, it gives you one last chance to make sure you’re not forgetting anything, and a little extra time allows a little extra forgiveness for your forgetful ways.
5. Reflect on your training plan. What are your goals for your first race? Think about the course and the journey before you and get mentally prepared.
6. Shake it out. A little jogging, stretching, moving around… get your body prepped and warm to start your race.
7. Think positive! I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I know I can!