Pre-race preparation is important. It doesn’t matter whether you’re lining up for a marathon or a 5K (although the marathon might require a little bit of extra planning), whatever distance lies ahead you want to make sure that every step will go as smoothly as possible.
From nutrition to gear there are a number of running-related elements that can totally throw off a race if you don’t plan properly. So, whether it’s your first race or your fifth, make sure to avoid these common pre-race mistakes before you line up behind the starting line.
1.) Foreign Foods
One of the most important rules of running involves practicing all of your race day techniques during the weeks that lead up to the big day. This includes experimenting with and making note of the foods that work best for you and your digestive system. Trust me; you don’t want to try that new superfood smoothie for the first time on race day only to find out that it doesn’t agree with your stomach 10 minutes into your race.
Experiment with timing as well. If you’re going to eat a full meal before your race it’s a good idea to make sure you do so about 2 to 4 hours beforehand. Digestion requires an increase in blood flow to your stomach and exercise requires an increase in blood flow to your muscles. If you run before your stomach is finished digesting, the two will be fighting for resources and your performance could be hindered.
2.) Safety Pin Scavenger Hunt
Maybe this one is a bit obvious, but don’t forget your safety pins, which you will need to pin your race bib to your shirt. I’m only making a point of this mistake because I’ve witnessed many runners make it before. You want to be relaxed and stress-free at the starting line; realizing that you forgot this important accessory and running around like a chicken with no head in an effort to find extras will totally ruin your pre-race Zen.
Related: 7 Ways to Get Your Mind Race Ready
3.) Under-dressed Outfits
General rule of thumb says that runners should dress for 10 degrees warmer than what the actual temperature is. For example if it’s 50 degrees outside, dress as if it were 60. That’s because running increases your core temperature and you don't want to overheat while you run. That being said, on race day you’ll likely spend a good amount of time standing around in your corral before the event begins; during the chillier seasons, avoid freezing your butt off by wearing an extra layer of old clothes that you can throw away on the sidelines right before the start. This is common race practice and most race organizers will collect the discarded clothes and donate them to charity.
4.) New Shoes
Never wear new shoes for the first time on race day. New shoes need to be broken in gradually and race day is not the time to start this process. Actually, this rule applies to all new running gear. If you’ve never tried it before, then you have no idea how your body will react to it. That means there’s huge potential for problems (like chafing or sizing issues) that you really just won’t want to deal with while you’re trying to run and hopefully enjoy your race.
5.) Adrenaline Overdrive
This is one of the most common racing mistakes and it’s made by everyone from beginners to some of the most elite runners. When the start signal goes off and the race begins your adrenaline will probably be sky high and it will be really difficult to keep your excitement in control. At this time many runners have an overwhelming urge to run as quickly as they can. Yes, running as fast as you can is the point of racing, but if you start out too quickly, you’ll burn out too quickly. Keep your excitement in check at the start of your race and pace yourself over the entire course so that you can finish strong and fast instead of stumbling over the finish line because you utilized all your energy too soon.