5 Race-Day Mistakes Every Runner Should Avoid

Follow these tips to bypass common race-day blunders

After months of hard work, it can take just one little mistake to ruin a great race. Beyond the sage advice of “not starting too fast”, avoid the following five mistakes to have your best race ever.

Mistake 1: Forgetting Layers
Energy is wasted shivering before the start, so save it for the race by always bringing a few layers that you can toss when the start line approaches. Avoid tying anything around your waist, the extra material on your body will become frustrating as the miles progress and you begin to fatigue. Eliminate this stress by always having a throwaway pair of gloves and a shirt ready for any race. Cheap gloves are available at many running stores, or you could explore a local Salvation Army; consider it recycling since that’s likely where the clothes will end up after the start line anyway!  In a pinch you can use garbage bags to keep warm and repel water if it’s raining!

Mistake 2: Chaffing
Though you might only rub a little anti-chafe skin lubricant on your thighs during long runs, on race day leave no stone unturned. Lubricate every toe, your heels, your legs, under your arms, around your waistband and for gents, those nipples! During an endurance event, your gait and stride begin to change due to the increased fatigue and your clothing may become more wet than normal from sweat, both of which can cause runners to experience chaffing in unfamiliar areas.

Mistake 3: Your Only Goal is Time-Related
While running for a PR may be the motivation you need to train hard for months, setting this as your only race-day goal can quickly lead to disappointment. Extreme temperatures, strong winds, or congestion at aid stations are unknown and uncontrollable factors that may impact your finish time. Having secondary goals about “feeling strong” or finishing uninjured can relieve some of the pressure around a time goal. This release often makes the time goal easier to achieve, but it also ensures that you can walk away from every race without disappointment.

Mistake 4: Neglecting to Eat Breakfast
Nerves can drive even the most seasoned runner to make the mistake of skipping out on breakfast, but proper fueling is a must for great performance. During training runs your body may utilize more fat for energy due to the lower level of effort. On race day your body needs easily available carbohydrates to keep the energy flowing, and if you start the race in a depleted state the feared “bonk” is much more likely to happen. Bananas often help to settle an upset stomach, so if nerves are an issue try eating a banana with a little nut butter prior to the race. During the race sip on a sports drink at every mile to continue taking in calories.


Mistake 5: Losing Focus
When the gun goes off it’s easy to get swept up in the crowd and lose focus on the pace plan you created for yourself. Using small mental tricks like telling yourself “I will speed up at the halfway point if I still feel good” will help you to keep your pace in check initially. In longer races, emotions may begin to pull your focus away as well, which is the perfect time to bring the focus back to your form. Focus on standing tall and breathing, this will help keep you moving when your mind might be telling you it’s time to stop.