Whether you're signed up for your town's Turkey Trot 5K or a much longer distance (like this weekend's NYC Marathon!), you don't want to do anything on the big day that might cause discomfort while running — or worse, an injury. To ensure your best race, here are mistakes to avoid on race day.
Wearing Something New
Train in your race-day outfit during the weeks leading up to the race. I'm talking everything from your undies to your sports bra and your wicking socks to your hat. You want to make sure that what you're wearing is comfortable, breathable, and won't cause any irritation. Be sure to practice longer training runs in this outfit; sneakers that feel great after three miles might cause painful blisters by mile 12.
Eating Too Much or Not Enough
Your nerves might have your stomach in knots, but don't skip out on your prerace fuel. A few hours before the race, eat a meal of familiar foods that are easily digestible. Avoid a meal that is laden in fat and sugar — it won't give you sustained energy and may also cause stomach cramps. Like your outfit, food is something you can play around with during training. Find a meal that works for you by testing it out before going on a big training run. Hydration is key too. Drink 14 to 20 ounces of fluid two to three hours before you run rather than chugging an entire Nalgene 10 minutes before. Make sure you stay hydrated throughout the race, too.
Continue reading for more tips on what not to do on race day.
Showing Up Late
Don't compound race-day jitters with the added stress of running late. You may end up losing time trying to find parking, signing in, having to use the bathroom, or looking for your running buddies. Give yourself enough time — and then some to spare — for breakfast, getting dressed, a warm-up, and anything else you may need to do before the race.
Static Stretching Before the Race
If you're suffering from tight hamstrings, sore calves, or an aching lower back, avoid stretching cold muscles because it may lead to injury. Instead, warm up by taking a hot shower and dress in layers to maintain your body temperature. Before you run, do five to 10 minutes of brisk walking to warm up muscles before stretching them out.
Starting Like a Bat Out of Hell
The energy of the group is insanely high at the starting line, and when the gun or horn goes off, some people sprint like it's a 50-meter dash. Take the first part of the race at a comfortable speed to save energy, and then pick up the pace toward the end.
Being Unfamiliar With the Route
From the hills, turns, flat sections, and landmarks, knowing the intricacies of the course is essential. If you're faced with a steep incline, you'll be better able to push through if you know the next two miles are downhill. It's also important to know mile markers in order to conserve your energy. You don't want to run at top speed thinking you're almost done, and then realize you have two miles to go. If you're allowed, stay motivated by tracking your time, distance, and pace using a heart rate monitor or iPhone running app (I love the Nike+ GPS).
You worked so hard to train for this day that you're determined to cross the finish line — no matter what. There's a huge difference in dealing with a little stitch in your side versus running on a twisted ankle. If faced with an injury or pain, see if walking for a short while helps. But, if you're still hurting, don't push yourself — not only can this sideline you from the race, but it could also create a long-lasting injury that benches you from running altogether. Know when it's time to throw in the towel and take care of yourself.
Source: Flickr User Bob Jagendorf