Racing this weekend? You may have been preparing for months but don’t get too bogged down with what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Here are six race-day rules you don’t need to stress about breaking.
“Don’t try anything new”
It is a great idea to try out your pacing strategy, your kit and your nutrition before you hit the start line. But what if your shoes fall apart the day before or you fall in love with a new pair at the expo? What if someone offers you half a Mars bar at the start and it seems like just the ticket? Sometimes, when you’re feeling anxious, changing things up a bit can give you a psychological boost – and without doing you any physical harm, either.
“Get there in plenty of time”
Obvoiusly, it’s a good idea to get there before the start gun fires. But don’t panic if you’re running late and arrive with just a couple of seconds to spare. Many’s the time the WR team have found ourselves sprinting to the start line at big races after the gun has sounded – with runners streaming across the line in front of us. It’s not something to be advised, perhaps, but it certainly makes for a great impromptu warm-up – and who needs to stand around for three hours in a toilet queue anyway?
“Save yourself for the finish”
Pacing well is key to a good race performance. We all know that. But it’s easy to be a bit too conservative. If you are feeling good, just keep up your speed – or if you feel certain you’ll suffer in the later stages no matter what you do, then there’s a school of thought that says why not make hay while the sun shines, banking a few easy miles while the going’s good. Just make sure you do still have the energy to smile when you reach the home straight!
“Eat a good breakfast”
It’s a great idea to eat something before you race – of course it is! Trouble is that stomach churning nerves and early starts aren’t the best for working up an appetite. Don’t stress – if you can stomach a few sweets then great, but it is possible to finish most races without any food, as long as you take it steady. You’l be amazed what your body can pull out of the bag!
“Make sure you warm up”
If you’re not late (see above) then you’ll have plenty of time for a good warm-up and, for short and fast races in particular, that can be great for gently raising the heart-rate, increasing your range of motion and helping you get into your stride. But guess what – if you don’t have time, or just don’t know what to do – then you will still be able to run the race! In fact, at many races, it will take a while for most people to get going so your first mile might be a bit slow anyway, allowing the perfect on-the-go warm-up.
“Stick to your race plan”
You can plan every race down to the last step, but everything from the weather to other runners to how you feel on the day will affect whether or not you can stick to that plan. Bottom line? Don’t sweat it. By improvising on the run you’re learning a valuable racing skill – and remember that the most important thing is to enjoy your race, whether it’s following a script or not.