1. Know your stuff
What time does the race start and where is the race start and finish?
Whether it is a large-scale race with thousands of participants, or a smaller race with less than one hundred runners, there is always race information provided giving you the key details you require to take part in the race.
It is a good idea to read all of the information you are given, so you do not miss any vital details such as where the race starts, at what time it starts and where the race finishes. The race start is not always the same as the race finish, and when this is the case it may be necessary for you to make the appropriate arrangements in terms of where you need to travel to and where you will need to get home from.
If you need to use public transport it is a good idea to check that trains/buses will definitely be running at the required time, as a lot of races fall on Sunday mornings, it cannot always be assumed that there will be transport early in the morning! It can be a good idea to travel with others who are doing the same race, just so you are more relaxed about getting to the right place at the right time.
2. Are there changing facilities provided and a place to store your belongings?
A lot of races will provide a changing area and an area to store baggage, however, this is not always the case. If there is not a dedicated changing or baggage area then make sure you turn up to the start ready to race.
If you need to take belongings and there is not going to be a safe place to leave them then try to work out if there will be anyone spectating at the race who you know and might be able to look after your bag for you. If you do this, just make sure you have arranged a meeting place for after the race!
3. What is the weather forecast for race day?
By checking the weather forecast in the lead up to race day you will be able to prepare as best you can in terms of what to wear and whether you will need to carry fluids with you while you are running. If the weather is set to be particularly warm, for example, it can be appropriate to alter your expectations for the race accordingly, i.e. the time you are hoping to complete the race in.
4. Do you have a change of clothes for after the race?
Depending on the race distance and on the weather forecast for race day, it is often a good idea to have a change of clothes or some warmer clothes to put over your racing gear for after the race. If it is a shorter race in the height of summer this may not be necessary, but certainly in cooler weather you will cool down pretty quickly after crossing the finish line and it is important to stay warm and not risk catching a chill.
5. What will you have for breakfast on race day?
One of the most important things to practice in your training is what works for you in terms of what to eat before your run. There is no set formula to follow that will work for everyone, so it is a case of trial and error in order to find out what works best for you.
You should consider how long you need to leave before eating and running, whether you have breakfast well in advance and then have an energy bar or banana closer to the race, what exactly you will have for breakfast ensuring you don't have anything that may upset your stomach as this will be more likely when you are nervous!
6. Will you need any water or gels for during the race, are these going to be provided?
Depending on the race distance, you should consider (from what you have learnt in training) whether you are likely to need water during the race and whether you may need any energy gels or bars. If the race is longer, then check with the organisers what they are providing, as usually there will be numerous water stations and sometimes they will also have an energy station en route as well.
If there is an energy station en route then another thing to check is what exactly will be provided i.e. what type/brand of gels or drinks. If you plan to take on the energy products provided, then make sure you practice with the particular brand in training. It is not usually advisable to take an energy gel or drink you have never tried before during a race, as it may not agree with you.
7. Have you worked out how long it will take you to get to the race start?
Do you need to allow time to collect your number? Allow plenty of time to get yourself to the race start and check well in advance whether your race number is going to be sent out to you or whether you need to allow time to collect this on the day. If you are going to have to collect your number on race day it is worth considering approximately how many people will be taking part in the race and therefore the likelihood of having to queue for your number.
If your race number is sent out to you in advance then remember to take safety pins with you on race day to attach your number to your top! It is also worth trying not to arrive too early, as you don't want to be hanging around for too long, especially if you are a bit nervous.
8. Do you have time to warm up and cool down?
When planning how much time to leave in advance of your race, work in plenty of time for a good warm up. This is really important if you are to perform to your full potential as your body needs a chance to prepare for what you are about to put it through, no matter how short or long the race!
Giving yourself a good warm up is also a good way to ease your nerves before the race. You can practice your warm up routine in training, and again it is good to stick to a warm up that works for you. Some people give themselves a longer warm up than others as this allows them to feel more prepared, this is personal to the individual though so as long as you do enough for you to feel your body is ready to race!
Likewise, it is just as important to cool down and stretch after the race. When making plans for after the race, factor in enough time to do a cool down jog and some stretches. You may regret it the next day if you do not make time for this as your muscles will become tight and sore. Doing a good cool down and stretching will lessen this reaction. Sometimes it is difficult as you get caught up in the excitement of finishing the race and achieving your goals, but it is worth doing your cool down and stretching and putting your celebrations off for just a short time!