When you line up at the start line on race day, there are a few things you should know. You’ll read a million tips, of course, but we guarantee that ours are the only ones you really need. In our role as running ambassadors/obsessives, we’ve ran a lot of races over the years and learnt from our many, many mistakes to ensure that this advice is 100% foolproof.
You need to do some carbo loading in the days before your race, as this will give you handy glycogen stores to fuel your running on the day. DON’T make the mistake of simply eating a gigantic bowl of pasta the night before – this will do little more than make you feel heavy, bloated and blah.
Much better is to have carbs with each meal in the preceding days – cereal or porridge for breakfast, soup and salad with wholemeal bread for lunch, pasta or baked potato with steamed veg for dinner, that type of thing. Our Besto Pesto and Spicy Thai Bean Burger recipes are great for helping with your carbo loading strategy.
When the big day dawns, get up early and have breakfast between 2 and 3 hours before the start time. Toast and jam is the choice of most experienced runners – enough calories to fill you up, enough sugar to stop you feeling light-headed when you run. We’re big fans of porridge but we DO NOT recommend it on race day – in our experience, it sits like a rock in your belly until about 10 minutes before you cross the finish line. Absolutely horrid, for us anyway. If you’re a big porridge fan, try it before your long runs in the weeks leading up to the race to see if it works for you.
Also, if you usually start the day with a caffeine kick, do that. One cup of tea or coffee won’t kill you and you run the risk of getting a headache if you skip it.
You’re bound to feel nervous the night before the race – you’re not sure if you can do it (‘course you can!), you’re pumped full of adrenalin and your mind is racing, wondering where you’re going to park, how you’re going to meet everyone, what happens at the beginning, what happens at the end, and so on ad infinitum.
First, for us, it’s a no-brainer that you shouldn’t drink alcohol – it will dehydrate you, won’t help you sleep and will probably mean you’ll be up in the night needing a pee. AVOID.
Don’t worry though if you don’t sleep too well. Try and just relax, even if you’re not drifting off into blissful slumber. You’ll get at least a few snatched hours, plenty enough to see you through the race the next day. I know this for a fact: when I did a 96-mile run for charity, I made the mistake of using gels with caffeine in them on the first leg. I’d ran 24 miles that day and had another 24 to run the next. As I lay in bed, eyes on stalks in the manner of a cartoon lunatic, with my brain spinning wildly, I thought I’d never be able to run the next day. I could and I did though.
Our bodies are surprisingly resilient and mine simply got on with the task in hand once I pulled my trainers on in the morning. Yours will do the same. You’ll be able to run just fine on a few hours sleep. And one thing’s for sure – you’ll sleep like a log when the race is over!
Such a small, simple, natural act – such a nightmare if you time it wrong on race day! At big races there are sometimes portaloos on the route but not always and, anyway, do you really want to stop for a piddle along the way? No, is the answer to that – far better is to avoid the need to pee during the race by sorting that all out beforehand.
We have a separate post on this – To Pee Or Not To Pee… – which explains what can happen when you don’t get it right. In summary:
– Make sure you’re well-hydrated in the days leading up to the race.
– Drink water or sports drinks UP TO ONE HOUR BEFORE THE START OF THE RACE, then STOP. Ignore this at your peril.
– Join the lengthy queues for the portaloos.
– Drink water or your sports drink again at the start line.
– Run like the wind.
You won’t need to take in gallons of fluid during the race – however long it is – if you’re already well-hydrated. Use the drinks stations on the way round but if you take sips rather than great big gulps your bladder will give you no bother.
There you go – simple as that. Enjoy your race!