Preparing for an in-real-life running event can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. Whether it’s your first race or you’re a seasoned runner, the excitement and anticipation can sometimes lead to a mix of emotions.
In the latest of our ‘Top 10’ blogs to celebrate Virtual Runner’s 10th anniversary, here are our top tips for making your race-day experience as enjoyable as possible:
1. Consistent training
Kind of an obvious point but, when it comes to training, consistency is key in preparing for a running event. Make sure your training program is tailored to your fitness level and the distance of the race. Overstretching yourself during training can risk injury, sap your confidence and mean you’re not in top form come the day of the race. Training at a steady, consistent pace will not only improve your stamina and performance but also boost your confidence on the day itself.
2. Plan and visualise
Familiarise yourself with the course if possible. Visualising the route and preparing for potential challenges such as hills or turns can remove some of that on-the-day anxiety. Knowing what to expect means you can mentally prepare for your race. Try to visualise yourself successfully crossing the finish line and imagine how good that will feel.
3. Get your gear in order
A key part of your preparation should be ensuring that your running gear is in top condition. Break in your running shoes beforehand and wear clothing appropriate for the weather. Double-check that you have everything you need, from your race bib to safety pins, and any gadgets or gear that you regularly use while running. Race day is not the time to try new clothes or gadgets – stick to those you are familiar with.
4. Nutrition and hydration
Maintain a balanced diet leading up to the race and when it gets closer to the time avoid trying new foods. Stick to things you know your stomach can tolerate easily – nobody needs last minute loo dashes on the morning of the race!
The evening before, try to eat a meal that contains complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, and have a light breakfast a few hours before your start time.
It’s important to stay hydrated, but don’t overdo it on race day.
It can be a good idea to practice your pre-race nutrition plan during your training to avoid any surprises.
5. Rest and recovery
Adequate rest is crucial before race day. Aim for quality sleep in the days leading up to the event but try not to stress if your nerves make this difficult. Avoid over-exerting yourself during training and plan for light training or rest days in the run-up to the day to allow your body to recover and be in tip-top condition for the race.
6. Get there early
Arrive early on race day to avoid any last-minute rush or stress. This allows time for parking, picking up your race pack (although sometimes this can be done in the days before), using the toilet, and warming up. It’s far better to spend a bit of time hanging around waiting than it is to be making a last-minute dash to the starting line.
7. Make sure you warm up
A proper warm-up routine is essential. It doesn’t have to be fancy – some stretches and a short jog to gradually elevate your heart rate and prepare your muscles for the run should be enough.
A good warm-up can improve your performance, calm you mentally, and decrease the risk of injury.
8. Pace yourself – don’t get carried away
On race day, stick to your planned pace. It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement and start too fast. Going all out at the start could jeopardise your chances of finishing or, at the very least, make the race far harder than it should be.
Find a comfortable pace that you can maintain throughout the race. Remember, it’s not just about the start but also finishing strong.
9. Practice a positive mindset
Mental preparation is as important as physical readiness. Stay positive and focused during the race. Embrace the challenge, enjoy the experience, and celebrate your achievements along the way. Encourage yourself and others, and remember, it’s about the journey as much as the finish line.
10. Post-race recovery
After crossing the finish line, make sure you remember to cool down and stretch. Rehydrate and refuel your body with a healthy snack or drink.
However the race went for you, take time to celebrate what you’ve achieved and reflect on your experience, noting what worked well and what you might improve for future races.
If you’re currently training for an event and would like more advice and race day tips, check out Virtual Runner’s Facebook community where you can chat to hundreds of fellow runners who’ll share their race day stories with you. You might even find a new running buddy to join you on the day!