Preparing for your first RACE DAY experience!

golden rulesIt’s March! And, although many of us are still buried in snow, spring race season is officially here! I’ve been busy getting my coaching clients ready for their big days, and I’ve compiled some race day advice.

(While you’re here, take a look at Golden Rules of Race Day, a popular post from last year.)

Take a look at these race day tips, and then share your tips in the comments.

1) Don’t waste energy at the start. The beginning of the race can get quite congested. Line up near your expected pace/finish time, and don’t waste a lot of energy the first half mile weaving in and out of people. Your first mile can (and should) be slower. Think of this as your warm up. You can pick up the pace after the first half to full mile.

 2) Run the race with “even effort,” meaning you can cut back on pace on the up hills and pick up the pace on the flats and down hills. You don’t want to waste energy working too hard on a hill… rather, you want it to all feel about the same effort. (If your race uses a Smart Pace team, this will sound familiar)

3)  Stick to a pace range you know you can finish with. If you’ve been following a plan, your training paces were likely based on a time trial or a recent race. Using the McMillan Calculator, you can estimate your race finish time. A person with a 30 minute 5K time would finish a half marathon in roughly 2:18:54, which is a 10:36 pace (weather, fueling, pacing, course conditions, course terrain, how you feel that day, would all affect the outcome, of course.)

It’s easy to get caught up in race day excitement and start too fast. Don’t leave it all on the course in the first half. There’s no reason to believe that you can suddenly run a half marathon at a 9:39 pace if that is your 5K PR.

It never works to push as hard as you can in the first half and see how long you last. Runners who do this always run out of steam in the last miles of the race and wind up with a slower time than if they had paced themselves based on what they’ve been known to do in training.

 4) If you want to push the pace, run negative splits. If you want to push the pace, plan to pick up speed the last half of the race. If you’re still feeling good near the end, that’s the time to kick it into full gear.

5) Think about music. Will you use it? Do you have a plan to carry it?

6) What about friends? Will you run with them? The whole race? Or just the start? Have you discussed what will happen if one of you “isn’t feeling it” and needs to slow down?

7) Fuel. Will you carry your own gels or fuel? Do you have a way to carry them? Will you walk through all the aid stations?

8) Extra clothes and gear. Does the race have a gear check? Will you use it? If you need warm clothes at the start, what’s your plan?

9) What will the temperature be like at the start and finish? (See my recent posts on race day attire and cold weather running for some ideas)

 10) Remember to have fun! We all have those races where, no matter how much we plan, things fall apart. Go with it. There will be other races, so keep it in perspective. I have a great friend whose big race didn’t go as planned. He cheered for other runners, socialized with spectators, stopped at a home for BBQ, jumped on a trampoline at a house on the route, sang happy birthday to an elderly woman, clowned around … yeah, with a clown. And he made sure his race day was still a fun experience.

What race day / first raced day tips to you have? What do you wish someone had taught you earlier?


Kimberly Peek is  a USATF, RRCA, Lydiard  and Newton certified running coach. Click here for more information on her coaching services.


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