The Do’s and Don’ts of Race Day Success

Hello readers, first, I would like to take a sentence or two to introduce myself. My name is Matt McClintock, recent graduate of Purdue University, and current long distance runner for the Soleus sponsored club ‘Reebok ZAP Fitness’. I am writing this blog to not only give you a little insight into how those of us who make a living preparing and packing for races have made a science of the process.

Packing for race day can be one of the more (emotionally) confusing steps towards your personal best, I myself am a textbook ‘over-packer’, by which I mean a person who brings WAY more items than they are ever going to need to the start line. However, packing just the right combination of items can make your race day go just a little bit smoother.

Packing ‘do’s’

Always check for your racing shoes (and then check again) – The number to times I have seen teammates unzip their bag before warm up and realize what they forgot is actually verging on unfathomable. Always, ALWAYS, check before you leave the hotel that your shoes are in your bag, and once you get to your car in the hotel parking lot, check again.

Your bib – Just re-read the entire last paragraph and sub in the word ‘bib’ when you see shoes.

Extra clothes you don’t mind losing – Any seasoned racer knows two things. You need to be at the start early, and the best running conditions are in the cold. That combination can make for several miserable crack of dawn hours waiting in your corral. While I want to reiterate you won’t be able to get these clothes back, it never hurts to keep on an old long sleeve or pair of ratty sweatpants until the final moments before the gun.

A Trusted Snack – As I stated above, there can be a lot of down time between when you arrive at the race course to the time that you start competing so I would recommend at least having some kind of pre-race snack. My typical morning consists of a pre-race meal three to three and a half hours before my race (bagel or English muffin w/ butter and jelly and a banana) and then a pre-race snack (well I guess technically a drink) of Generation UCAN approximately one and a half hours before the start. Be sure that whatever you choose as a snack is something that you know will not upset your stomach. I would recommend giving your snack a test run during a workout prior to your actual competition.

Toilet Paper – This one took me 21 years to figure out. Road races often have tens of thousands of runners and a very limited number of, shall we say, private places to relieve one’s prerace nerves, and an even more limited supply of a certain bathroom essential, do yourself (and possibly your fellow runners if your generous) and grab a personal roll before you leave for the course.

Packing ‘Don’ts’

Do not bring anything valuable, or anything you don’t want stolen – The running crowd is awesome we all know that, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone that will make off with your wallet or phone if you have the chance. I personally make sure to leave my wallet at the hotel, or in the car. If I am going anywhere immediately after the race, I will make sure to hid just enough money in my bag to get what I need. One thing I risk is my cellphone. Personally, the absent minded action of scrolling through twitter is something I use to calm my pre-race nerves and pass the time before I race.

That new “cool” pair of running shoes you got yesterday – Just don’t do it. Break them in first. Nothing is worse than a post-race foot full of blisters. Don’t tempt yourself. Don’t even put them in your bag.

Your Pet – Trust me, no one loves a good running buddy more than I do, mine is named Cooper (see right) but, especially for the newbies out there, I’ll save you the heartache of getting to the line and trying to find something to do with your companion. Outside of a few races, the vast majority will not let your four legged friend to the start line.

Race Day ‘Do’s’

Meet your fellow competitors, make some new friends – If you’re in a bad mood getting ready to race than you probably shouldn’t be participating in this sport. Enjoy one of the few moments when you are surrounded by thousands of individuals just as crazy as you are! Try striking up a conversation with someone during your warm up, or an individual standing next to you in the starting corral. Work together with others during the race as well. You’re all there for the same reasons. To have fun and PR!

Do a proper warm up – I know it can be hard in some of these massive races, but a warm up will not only help you feel better, but help you run faster. My warm up consists of a 20 to 25 minute jog followed by dynamic stretching and mobility drills and strides. Experiment, find out what works best for you and make it your own.

Always be on the lookout for people taking pictures – What better time to appear your most photogenic than in the middle of a 5k?

Share the toilet paper you expertly brought with you – You’re a race day genius, prove it to others and become their hero all at the same time!

Race Day ‘Don’ts’

The night before, don’t try out that ‘new Indian restaurant’ – Stop it.

Don’t sneak into a corral or seed group you aren’t assigned to – The corrals are there to make sure everyone gets a fair and orderly start with runners of similar capabilities. Don’t be that guy.

Don’t ‘bandit’ the race – For those of you who don’t know the term ‘bandit’ refers to an individual who does not pay for and is not entered into a race, but sneaks onto the race course and competes. Obviously this person will not be included in the results or be eligible for prizes, but especially where a lot of races contribute to charity, it’s just not a good thing to be doing. As I said above, “don’t be that guy”.

Don’t go out too fast – Physiologically, the easiest way to run a personal best is to run as even splits as possible. If your goal is to run a 45 minute 10k (which is 7:15 per mile for those of you that don’t have your pace chart handy) don’t go out and run 6-flat your first mile.

Don’t get greedy with the post-race beer – There are thousands of other people who, just like you, need a drink to forget about what they just did to their bodies. CHEERS to them being behind you!


Thank you all for taking the time to read, best of luck with your future races and remember, as Soleus says, “sedentary sucks”!

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