Summer has come and gone, and many of us spent those lazy days of summer being not-so-lazy, training for our fall running races––and hoping it would finally get cooler! One of the most exciting fall races, and a must-do for many runners, is the upcoming Runner’s World Festival happening in Bethlehem, PA in just five weeks.
This is a weekend filled with lots of running and running-related events, along with a series of varying distance races that offer something for everyone. The Runner’s World Festival is one of those race weekends runners dream of: spending a whole weekend with other people just as obsessed with running is truly something special.
As race day quickly approaches––whether it’s Runner’s World or any other race––there are a few things to think about to make sure you’re ready for your big race. (And you’ll want to prepare in advance so your race weekend is a fun and relaxing time where you can fully enjoy the culmination of your hard work.) You don’t need to add any unnecessary stress when you should really just be focusing on your race!
1. Pack Smart
First things first. If you’re traveling a long distance for a race, you’ll want to be sure you don’t forget anything important. Start packing a few days before you leave for the race so you have some time to think and create a solid checklist of items you can run through a few times.
Avoid the stress of packing last minute, where you can risk leaving out something important, like your running shoes! Here are a few items you can put on your checklist:
- Regular clothes
- Running clothes (and a couple back-up clothes in case of weather changes)
- Post-race clothing
- Running fuel and post-race power snacks
- Vitamins (pack that Cal-EZ!)
- Foam roller (here’s a few foam roller benefits)
- A good book for your trip
- Any electronic chargers
2. Prepare for Recovery
Recovery one of the most crucial aspects of being a runner, and, if done right, you can be back to running in a shorter amount of time. Just be sure you take off the appropriate amount of time. Don’t push it. One day for every mile of a race is the usual recommended amount of recovery time.
Also, do whatever you normally do to recover after a long run. Start your post-race recovery routine after every long run during your training cycle, which should include stretching and appropriate fueling. It’s recommended to ingest 10-20 grams of protein as soon as possible after finishing a long run or race, no more than 30 minutes after you cross that finish line.
This is why you’ll want to have a well-rehearsed plan in place. Have your post-race fuel available, whether you carry it with you or have a friend give it to you at the finish line. Some runners also focus on wearing compression gear after races, due to studies showing it reduces recovery time. If this is something for you, then be sure to bring your compression pants, calf sleeves, or socks for post-race wearing.
3. Fuel Yourself and Hydrate
Carbs: we all love them and pre-race day is one of those times you can increase your intake of them. Stick to healthy, natural carbs such as those from potatoes, although pasta is also a common meal for runners preparing for a race. You should be increasing your carb intake during the week or so before the race, not just the night before. In general, you’ll want to stick to food you normally eat and what your body responds well to. Also try to eat some salty foods before the race, like pretzels, in order to bring electrolytes into your body.
Another key step is to start hydrating early on in the training cycle. Drink water consistently in the weeks leading up to the race. By then, your body will have sustained a healthy level of hydration to get you through those miles. Guzzling water right before a race is a mistake, and you don’t want to drink too much during the race (or you might need to make frequent stops to the restroom). Shoot for drinking between 4 and 8oz of water each hour as you run.
4. Don’t Overdo It Right Before Race Day
Tapering is hard, but it’s important. Rest those legs, and avoid any strength training the week before your race. Follow your training plan so you don’t over-exercise. It’s important to rest your legs as much as possible so they feel fresh on race day. Take the elevator instead of the stairs that week, and try to drive more rather than walking. Don’t beat yourself up if you think you’re being too lazy; during this time, it’s a good thing!
When you get to the race, explore the expo and enjoy it! Don’t overdo it; keep off your feet so you’re rested (and starting off tired) for the next day. Take this time to plan your schedule around your race, and include some sightseeing after the race. It’s actually a great idea to take a good walk after a race to keep your legs from stiffening. So, if you’re in a new city, stay an extra day after the race so you can explore and walk around. And what’s better, you can eat out without worrying how it will impact your digestive system and run––so plan to do all the most fun activities after your race!
5. Calm Your Nerves
Try your best to calm those nerves in whatever way helps you best. Use a mantra or visualization, deep breathing, or meditation. Watch a show to take your mind off the big race. Take a nice soothing shower.
It’ll be difficult to rest but try to get a good night’s sleep. Don’t try to go to sleep too early in the evening because you don’t want to find yourself waking up too early on race day. I was once told, and have always lived by this, that the most important night’s rest is the second sleep before the race. Most runners don’t sleep well the night before, but if you’re well-rested from your previous sleep, you’ll do just fine in the race.
Also, remember that you’re signing up for this race because you enjoy running. Unless you’re elite runner, you’re competing against yourself. Give yourself a break, take deep breaths, and just enjoy the race you’ve trained for!
6. Try Nothing New On Race Day
This is the single most important piece of advice you’ll hear as a runner. Please don’t be lured in by shiny new gear at the expo, and don’t be fooled into thinking that brand new shoes are best. It’s not a smart idea and not worth the risk. You should only wear shoes, socks, clothes, and gear you’ve tested out numerous times during training runs and have already broken in/worn.
New gear can cause unexpected discomfort, can cut into your skin in places you don’t want it to, or can ride up/fall down; if you’ve never tested it before you’d never know that until it starts messing up your run. The last thing you want to focus on after running for a couple hours is being uncomfortable or dealing with a wardrobe malfunction. I typically wear the exact outfit I plan to wear on race day during my second to last long training run, just to make sure it’s all working. That way, you have that last long run to try out something else if your initial gear plans didn’t work out.
7. Trust Your Training
Keep to your own training plan up until the very end of the training cycle––including a proper taper! During the race, stick to the pace in which you trained. When you’re excited about running and the race starts off, it’s easy to look around and fall into the trap of running too fast. People around you are running fast, so why not you? Well, they trained at that pace (supposedly), and you didn’t. Trust your body and your training. If you start off too fast, chances are the end of the race will be incredibly difficult, and it may impact your race time. Want to run your best race? Trust your training.
Also, remember to smile for the cameras as you run by. You may want those memories later!
Now that you know how to get ready for the big day, enjoy the end of your training and HAVE FUN! Explore the city or town you’re visiting, check out the expo, meet new people, and get in the runner mindset. Enjoy the moment that you’ve worked for for so long––you’ve earned it!