You’ve prepared for this day for a long time. The long runs, the speed workouts, the healthy eating. You deserve some results. Here’s the Running Shoes guide to making smart decisions just before race day so you get the most out of your hard work and preparation.
You might feel tempted to pack in one last run before your race, but resist the temptation. If you happen to be registering for a larger race (e.g. one of the larger cities), grab your number and head back home. It’s easy to get caught up meandering through the booths trying Goo, Gatorade and PowerBars, but this is a day for rest. Stay off your feet and visualize yourself breaking through the finish line. Or you can always rent an old running movie.
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What To Eat
The general rule of thumb is that the night before your race, you need to carb load. About 70% of your calorie intake the day before a race should be carbohydrates. You should also double your typical water intake to make sure that you’re well hydrated and fueled on the day of the race. Overeating can create digestion issues and keep you from sleeping well the night before a race, so be careful not to overeat but fill up and prepare yourself fully.
When it comes to breakfast, a lot of people have different opinions on what’s best. Some people with very sensitive stomachs eat a carefully considered breakfast. Others are more liberal with what to eat on race day. Avoid fibers and fats and go with a smart choice like cereal, smoothies, bagels, almond butter, and other low fat alternatives. Also drink enough water before the race and you’ll be good to go.
Prepare a Kit
You might feel like all you need is your highly trained body for the race, but it’s actually smart to make sure you come prepared with much more. Most runners I know keep what they call their Emergency Kit. It includes everything they might need for the big day.
First thing first, you want to remember your race chip and running bib. Then grab your singlet or t-shirt to make sure all the spectators know who or what you’re running for. Also grab your bottoms (pants, tights, shorts, etc) running shoes, a couple pair of socks, and Gel, runner’s Jelly Beans, or whatever keeps you fueled if you’re running a longer race. Grab some water as well.
Runners also want to bring band-aids, Vaseline (or some other lubricant) so that they don’t experience chafing, an extra pair of shoelaces, and your watch to check your pace. Some races ban mp3 players for safety concerns, but if your race allows it, remember your perfect playlist. This might seem obvious, but keep the music off until you have received all of your race instructions and the crowd has thinned out a bit.
If you’re not running in a perfectly warm environment, you’ll also want to bring some warm clothes to the starting line. Your bag will have already been stashed in its respective cubby so you won’t be able to recover the items you shed last minute, so bring an old sweatshirt, gloves, or trash bag to cover you up and protect you from the elements until the very last minute. Then shed your extra items before the race. This is a perfectly common practice, and you’ll see the starting line of marathon races filled with ratty sweatshirts and more.
Last but not least, you’ll want to bring something to change into after the race. Some people change into flip flops or other shoes. Most people wear a sweatshirt or pants. Just remember that just because it’s race day doesn’t mean you won’t still need something to keep you warm when you’re all sweaty at your celebratory dinner.
After the Race
Grab those warm, after your race clothes and put them on immediately to prevent your core temperature from dropping quickly and then celebrate to your heart’s content. Just make sure to replenish. Most people recommend that you drink two cups of water for every pound of body weight that you’ve lost. You should also eat .5 grams of carbohydrate for every pound of weight that you’ve lost racing.
Eating within two hours of your workout will help replenish your glycogen numbers more quickly, helping you recover faster for your next run. Eat once within two hours after completing your race and again later on, making sure to replenish your protein and carbs as soon as possible. Enjoy your accomplishment but you’ll probably also want to take it easy. Most importantly, listen carefully to your body. You’ll thank yourself when you jump back into training for your next successful race.