You have trained hard for weeks and months to arrive at the start line of your race. Depending on how well your training has gone, you are either ready to pull out all the stops, or just turn up and give it your best shot while enjoying the atmosphere. Either way, there are some common things all runners can do in the last week or two before the race to help prepare for a successful day.
1. Race Kit
Your race day kit should be something you are comfortable in. Ideally your running shoes should have been bought and worn in for a week or two with at least one fairly long run. Likewise all other running clothing should have been worn and washed at least once. Resist the temptation to try anything new at the last minute. If something worked in training, it will work in the race. Keep an eye on the weather forecast for race weekend and have a couple of options for a scorching hot day and a cooler windy day.
2. Know the Course
This sounds obvious but be sure to read your race details and have an idea what the course will be like. Where, if any, are the up hills, and down hills? Where are the longer flat stretches, and so on?
3. Physical Preparation
All the hard work has been done now and cramming extra training into the last two weeks is usually counterproductive. Eat, sleep, rest well and keep drinking plenty of fluids on the days before the race, but don't overdo it or you will just feel bloated and heavy!
Visualise the start of the race and trying to stay calm and relaxed. Think of landmarks along the route and how you will be feeling when you get there. If you don't know the landmarks, then think of 5km, half way or reaching the 20 mile point. Most importantly, visualise yourself crossing that finish line with a big smile on your face.
5. Relax at the Start
Large events generate their own atmosphere to get everyone ready to run. It is really good to enter into the spirit of things, but try and keep things in perspective and not get carried away, or you will risk going off too fast in the early stages.
If your goal is just to complete the race and enjoy yourself, then start off at a pace you feel you are comfortable with and resist the temptation to go faster when you are feeling fresh. If your training has gone well and you have a target time in mind then, note down the time you are aiming to reach intermediate mile or kilometre points. Be realistic, not over ambitious. Stick to this plan in the early stages, unless conditions on the day - like wind or heat - dictate adjusting things accordingly.
Take some time to work out what you might need to drink during your race. Everyone's needs are different but most runners, if well hydrated before the race, should be able to cope with a 5k or 10k event without much fluid. A half marathon or full marathon will certainly need a simple drink strategy. Read the race instructions to find out where and how often the feed stations are, and what will be provided. Gels and energy drinks certainly work for most people, but try and avoid using anything for the first time in an event. If you have a favourite gel that you know works for you, then look at buying a small lightweight gel belt to carry them.
Plan with family and friends where you will meet afterwards. Also have a post race bag ready with dry and warm clothing to change into as soon as practical.
Plan your travel well and remember on race day at a large event there will be road closures and your journey could take longer than normally. Do you know how to get to the start?
Remind yourself that recovery starts as soon as you cross the finish line, but it is not good to stop immediately. Try and keep walking for a minute or two and once you have settled down, then try and drink something and eat a little something to help speed the recovery.
Many experienced runners already have the year planned out and the next event pencilled in. if you haven't, then take a few days to recover, but don't leave it too long before planning your next race. It will help keep your motivation going.