Don't Choke on Race Day: Tips to Run a Better Race

Check out this list of things to consider when preparing for a marathon or other endurance race.

race day

You've spent many weeks training for your marathon. You've been eating the right foods, building up your mileage and increasing your speed. But whether this is your first or tenth marathon, there are still many things to consider and prepare for to ensure you are ready, focused and calm.

Running Packet

Get your running packet before race day. This way, you'll have all the information you need, including your bib.

Arrive Early

It's important to arrive early and become familiar with your surroundings. Find out where the start and finish lines are, especially if you've traveled in from out of town. Know where the bathrooms are, and make transportation arrangements once you arrive at the finish line.

Eat Breakfast

You will need fuel and energy for the big run. Loss of appetite may occur because of nerves, but eat a good breakfast at least an hour before the race. Bananas, bagels, and peanut butter are good choices. (See also 15 Healthy Breakfast Options for Your Marathon Training.)

Stay Hydrated

Every race has water stations. Do you prefer drinking fluids at the stations, or would you rather carry your own? That's a decision you will have to make. The important thing is to stay hydrated throughout the race. (Figure out How to Schedule Your Hydration.)

Have a Strategy

Running a marathon takes tremendous energy. Start out slow and run at an even pace. This will leave you with lots of energy for the second half when you sail past the other runners. Don't get caught up with other runners and their pace. Stick to your own strategy. Or, you can try to find someone to keep up with who is running at a pace similar to yours. Use that person as a focal point and take turns leading each other.

Dress For The Weather

Know what the weather will be on race day and dress appropriately. If it's cool at the start, dress in layers. As the race progresses, you will warm up very quickly. You may have to shed a layer or two along the way, which is a good reason to pin your bib to your shorts.

Break Up The Course

An excellent mental strategy is to break up the course into sections. Split the marathon into 5k sections and focus on one at a time. This will reduce your nervousness and anxiety and make the course seem more manageable.

Get Outside Yourself

There may be times during the race when you will start to feel overwhelmed with fatigue, nerves or stress. At such times, focus outside yourself. Pay attention to the crowd or the scenery and let the crowd carry you for awhile with their cheers and shout-outs. You can also amuse yourself by singing, chatting with other runners or playing mental games. (Watch Six-time Ironman World Champ Dave Scott's advice for getting your mind race-ready.)

Above all, have fun, enjoy the experience and finish the race! There will be many more races to come, and each one will leave you with cherished memories. If you are disappointed, learn from it and move forward by signing up for your next race. And may the wind be always at your back!

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