Whether you're a beginner or experienced, here are some racing tips to get the most out of your next event.
Some runners thrive on the adrenalin rush, others get stressed out.
© Coleong | Dreamstime.com
Like many things good racing takes preparation, practice and a bit of luck. Sometimes we forget that racing is supposed to be fun as well as a challenge.
Racing Tips for the
During the Race
Set your Goals
Think about what you want to achieve. Maybe to finish, a specific time or placing. Give yourself a challenge but be realistic. Consider your fitness, time to train, experience, any injuries, etc. Write down your goal. Stick it on your mirror or fridge where you can read it each day.
Training to Race
Train on the surface you're racing e.g. road, track, hills or cross country. Maybe it's difficult to get to a track or you're not a big fan of hills. However, the more familiar you are with the conditions the more confident you'll feel on the day.
It's a good idea to know the race course. Study the layout on the website, in any race pack information or speak to other runners. Check out the uphills, downhills, narrow sections, any tight corners or turnarounds, the start and finish areas. Try to run some of the course a few weeks or days before the race.
You'll also want to know where to find the restrooms, packet pick up, drop off gear, water stations and mile/KM markers.
Many runners like to race in light weight racing flats. Slipping into lighter shoes after your warm up can give you a psychological boost. They can make you feel nimble, quick and raring to go. Wear what's most comfortable for you. Train in your racing flats a few times before race day.
In the weeks leading up to your race try this racing tip. You only need 5-10 minutes in a quiet place to do this. Close your eyes, relax and think about how you want to race. Dream up your success. See yourself running strongly, feeling good, passing others, crossing the finish line, hitting that time...
Try not to ignore this important racing tip. Cutting back your distance and speed in the 10-14 days before your race gives you fresh legs for racing. Many runners are reluctant to back off their training. They worry that they might put on weight or lose fitness. Relax, being well rested gives you the best chance of a good race.
Top of PageRacing Tips on Getting Ready
Remembering these racing tips in the week of your race will get you to the start line in good shape.
It's normal to toss and turn the night before an important race. So try this racing tip, get a good nights sleep 2-3 nights before the race so you'll be well rested. Set your alarm clock and double check it so you'll feel confident that you won't sleep in.
Off your Feet
Make an effort to keep off your feet the day before or have plenty of sitting breaks. Relax by elevating your legs above your heart for 10-15 minutes. Prop your legs on some cushions on the couch or bed. Or lay on the ground and place your legs up the wall.
Have a few test runs before your event, so you'll know what your stomach can tolerate. It's not wise to eat unfamiliar food or drinks the night before or on race day.
Click here for suggestions on pre-competition meals.
For longer races and warmer conditions drink plenty of fluids in the days leading up to your race as well as on race day.
Click here for more advice on hydration.
Lay it Out
The night before get together your racing clothes, socks, shoes, hat, sunglasses, warm up gear, pin on your number, etc. Even have your breakfast or any snacks ready. You'll save time and avoid any last minute panic searching.
If you need some quiet time before the race or like warming up alone, let those around you know beforehand. It'll save you having any awkward conversations on the day.
Top of PageRacing Tips for the Big Day
Stop the Burn
Moving faster, especially in the heat, can cause your skin to chafe. Good old Vaseline works wonders. Smear it where your skin and clothes may rub e.g. under your arms, between your thighs, on your feet or around your sports bra.
Another racing tip is to slick some Vaseline over your eyebrows to stop sweat and sunscreen dripping into your eyes.
So many runners forget this racing tip. Rushing around, trying to find a car park, standing in long lines for the restrooms only adds to your race day tension. Plan to get to your race at least one hour before the start time. You'll be surprised how quickly the time slips away.
The shorter the race the more important your warm up. Warm muscles will help you get into race pace soon after the gun goes off. For longer races you might hold back and use the first few miles to work into it.
Begin with some
warm up exercises
followed by some easy running (1 to 2 miles). Then run 4-6 strides (100m or 30-40 seconds) to increase your heart rate and breathing and get your legs moving quicker. Run them relaxed with good running form and without straining. Walk or jog easy between each one.
After your warm up put on some more layers of clothing. Keep moving with easy jogging or walking before the start.
Tension can creep into your muscles when you get nervous. Shrug your shoulders, roll your head and shake out your arms and legs. Think loose relaxed muscles.
Take some big deep breaths before the start. It's a good way to keep calm focussing on your inhales and exhales.
It's not Personal
Some runners are so nervous or focussed that they don't like talking before a race. Others are so wound up that you can't keep them quiet. Respect others if they want space and remember to think about your own needs. Excuse yourself and walk away if you need some time to gather your thoughts.
Have a Plan B
You might need to revise your race plans for a change in the weather (too hot, cold or windy). Or you might wake up not feeling so good. Start more conservatively and adjust your pace goals. Perhaps running strongly and finishing is more realistic that chasing a certain time.
Think back to all your training sessions to help calm yourself. You've done the work now it's time to have some fun and see what you can do. Making it to the start line is half the battle as injury and illness can get in the way. Pat yourself on the back for being there.
Enjoy the Atmosphere
Look around, notice other runners' excitement and anticipation. Let the pre-race music get you pumped. Have a laugh or chat with those around you and wish them a good race.
If you're experienced and go off fast no need to be shy, get to the front. Otherwise line up mid pack or further back if this is your first race or you plan on starting easy. Lining up in the right place saves you wasted energy dodging around slower runners or being frustrated if you're behind a group of walkers.
If there are thousands of competitors you'll need to be patient. It may take awhile to reach the actual start line. Most of these races are chip timed so your race won't begin until you cross the starting mat.
Top of PageRacing Tips for During the Race
The adrenalin is pumping, you're rested and ready to go. It's easy to blaze away at the start and get quickly into oxygen debt. Even experienced runners can fall into this trap and then struggle to finish the race. Realize that you'll probably run the first few hundred meters faster than you planned. Aim to settle into your race pace as soon as possible. It's OK to start cautiously, find a rhythm and then increase your pace.
Many road races have markers at every mile or at the 5K, 10K points. Use these to adjust your pace and reassure yourself that you're on target. The markers aren't always accurate so try not to panic if you're not hitting your times. Instead focus on how you're feeling and chasing down those in front of you.
Try to give your competitors space. If you want to sit behind someone, run far enough back or to the side to avoid clipping their heels. When passing try not to cut in too sharply. If the start is crowded shorten your leg and arm actions to keep from tripping another runner or being tripped.
Top of PagePost Run Racing Tips
It can be tempting to collapse on the ground or sit down after you've crossed the finish line. Try to keep moving, walk slowly and grab a drink. Have an easy jog or walk before your muscles get cold and stiffen up. Chat about the race with your running friends during your cool down.
Do some easy
before you jump in the car to head home. To help prevent muscle soreness spend some time later in the day to stretch.
Most races rely on volunteers who've given up their time so you can compete. Thanking course marshals, those at the finish line, handing out medals, food and water is a great way to show your appreciation.
ReFuel & Hydrate
Plan a post race snack or meal with family or friends. It's a good chance to talk over your race, compare notes and hear how others did.
Click here for more advice on recovery food.
Rest and Recovery
Put your feet up and take it easy, you deserve a break. Ice any sore muscles, have a massage or soak in a hot bath to relax your legs. Take a few days off or run easy to allow your body to recover from the stress of racing.
It's normal to feel emotional after your race. Sometimes you need a few days distance to appreciate what went right or wrong. It's all learning so give yourself credit for doing it.
Try out some of these racing tips and have fun in your next race.
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