I recently created my race history, documenting all the races I have run since my first half marathon in 2011. I realized this year is the first year since I started running that I will not be running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. That was my first half and a staple on my race calendar every year for the last four years.
I became very aware of this fact when an old friend sent me a message to ask for tips in advance of this year’s race – happening this Sunday – which will be his first half marathon. While I’m certainly not an expert, I have close to 30 races under my belt, so I would like to think I know a thing or two about race day planning and execution. I quickly wrote back with some top tips and he responded that I should turn it into a blog post. An easy one to write AND great for SEO. Double win.
‘Tis the season for races, so far be it for me to hoard these tips to myself. Here they are, in no particular order:
- Lay out your clothes and shoes the night before. Prep everything so you don’t have to think in the morning. You can even pin your bib to your shirt the night before to save precious minutes in the morning.
- It’s cold in the morning in October so plan your clothes accordingly. Consider wearing an old sweatshirt you can throw away once the race starts, or try the old garbage bag trick. Lots of people wear a garbage bag as a way to stay warm while waiting in the corral and then rip it off once they get going. You don’t need to throw away a shirt AND you get to feel like Superman. #win
- Charge your phone, iPod, GPS watch or any other electronic device you run with the night before. Nothing sucks more than arriving at the start line with dead batteries.
- Anyone who has Googled “race day tips” will likely find this one but it’s worth repeating: NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY. I mean it. Nothing. Wear old shoes, old clothes, eat the same thing you always eat. Race day is not the time to experiment.
- Arrive early but not as early as they say. It’s chaos before a race so get there with enough time to check your bag, pee and warmup and nothing more. For me, this is about 30-40 minutes. If you can avoid bag check, do it. It’s a big time saver before and after.
- This is a personal preference but I would say that you don’t need to run with a fuel belt or handheld water bottle even if you trained with one. Usually, there are enough water stops along the course, that you won’t need your own. It’s just dead weight holding you up. That said, I did run with a fuel belt in the full marathon, but I would say half or less, it is not necessary.
- Smile and hold your arms up high when crossing the finish line even if you’re tired. Make your finish line photo epic. It’s the only one worth buying.
- Contrary to popular belief, I think one drink with dinner the night before is fine. Obviously don’t overdo it but a glass of wine or a beer isn’t going to impact your performance.
- For dinner the night before, don’t try anything new. Get some carbs and protein. I like whole wheat pasta with a chicken breast. Nomnom.
- Pace yourself in the first 2K. It’s easy to go out too fast, especially if it’s your first race. The adrenaline of race day will make you want to sprint. Hold back in those first 2K especially, and throughout the first half of the race. If you feel good, you can pick up the pace in the second half.
- Most people are right handed and therefore, go for water stations on the right-hand side of the road. Veer to the left and get your water near the end of the station to avoid the masses.
- Drinking while on the move can be tough if you haven’t done it before. You end up with Gatorade on your face and in your eyes and it’s sticky and it burns. When you grab a paper cup, crease it into a V shape and drink. It helps get the liquid in your mouth instead of on your face.
Good luck Shank, and to everyone else running STWM this year. I’ll be thinking of you!