If you’ve put in months of training, scaled back your social life in favour of early nights and endured excruciating sports massages to ensure your muscles are in tip-top condition, don’t risk messing it up on the day itself by committing these common racing crimes. Here are nine pitfalls of a big event and how to avoid them, so you’ll feel like a pro on the start (and finish) line
Failing to read the race pack information
Race organisers usually send out information well in advance of the race, to help you plan and prepare. If you’ve shoved this in a pile of unopened post, meaning to get round to it another day, dig it out NOW!
Arming yourself with knowledge of transport arrangements, the race start time, road closures and the course route will help you feel calm and in control. Plus, turning up late and in a fluster when everyone else is already heading into mile 2 is a big no-no.
Wearing new kit
If you’ve been saving that new running vest and box-fresh running shoes especially to wear on your big day, DON’T wear them! Opt for your tried-and-trusted kit and well worn trainers… you know, the ones that have seen you through miles of training runs and have never caused problems.
There’s nothing than having to hobble to the finish line on race day, because you didn’t realise those new shoe gave you blisters the size of ping pong balls. Fore more on blister prevention, click here!
If you usually eat toast with jam before a long training run, eat toast with jam the morning of your race, too. Don’t switch to a big bowl of porridge, just because you’ve heard that’s what the elites do. In short, keep everything the same as a normal training run, to avoid unwanted tummy trouble.
Starting too fast
The crowds are cheering, the atmosphere is electric, the gun goes… and off you shoot out of the start pen at a pace that would rival the frontrunners. SLOW DOWN! Running too fast is one of the most common mistakes out there, as you get caught up in the excitement.
It’s best to start slowly, stay calm and – if you still have energy left in the latter stages of the race – pick up your pace towards the end.
Drinking too much
Just because there is water on offer every few miles, it definitely does not mean you should drink water at every available opportunity. Drinking too much water can dilute your salt levels, leading to a condition called hyponatremia, which can result in headaches, dizziness, fainting, vomiting, and at its most extreme it can even be fatal. Instead, drink according to thirst. For more hydration tips click here
Trying new gels
It’s not just water that’s handed out along the course: if you’re taking part in a long-distance race, energy drinks and gels will be on offer, too. But unless you have practiced taking that particular brand during your training runs, avoid them!
Gels affect runners differently – race day is NOT the time to discover exactly how they will affect YOU. Find out which gels will be on offer in advance, so you can practice taking them beforehand, or bring your own supplies.
Not adapting to the conditions
It’s all very well having a race pace in mind, but if it’s particularly hot on the day, you will need to adapt your plans accordingly. Don’t stick rigidly to a plan if conditions are unfavourable, unless you want to be left feeling exhausted and uncomfortable. Instead, run to feel, to ensure your own safety. That PB can wait.
Planning your race strategy is one thing, but once that gun goes off, wishing you were at mile 20 when you’re only at mile two is going to feel utterly daunting. So, be mindful of your surroundings, don’t look too far ahead and mentally stay within the mile you’re in.
Forgetting to smile!
OK, we appreciate the last few miles of a race can be tough, but even if you’re gritting your teeth while slugging it out towards the end, keep an eye out for the race photographs and be sure to flash them a big, cheesy grin, so you have the perfect memento of your day. Similarly, make sure you perfect that photo finish as you cross the line. Good luck!