The week before
1. Taper your training
Although there is a temptation to try and cram extra training into the last week before your race – don’t! You can’t make any fitness gains in the week before, and you’ll run faster by giving your body more time to recover. Reducing your training by about half will help you regain a spring in your step. Don’t drop your speed too much though as some faster running will help to keep you sharp.
2. Get some rest
Don’t use your reduced training load as an excuse to redecorate the house. Especially in the last few days, don’t do anything too strenuous. Try to get at least 7-8 hours sleep per night as research has shown that how well rested you are in the week before the race is more important than the shut-eye you get the night before.
3. Plan your attack
Being prepared is key to preventing disaster. Familiarise yourself with the course if possible, and check the weather forecast. If you need to travel to the race, make sure you have your route planned out in advance. You'll be able to find all the information you need by using The Running Bug's events search engine.
You should have your race strategy in mind too; setting yourself a goal pace will ensure you don’t go too fast in the first half. Visualising your race isn’t just for the elites, taking some time to ‘see’ yourself running well and feeling strong will help you stay calm.
The day before
4. Fuel Up
Research shows that one day of very high carbohydrate intake is sufficient to maximise your muscle stores. While this isn’t so important for a 5k or 10k, for the longer distances it’s key to ensure you start with a full tank. Consume high-carb foods and beverages with each meal in the 1-2 days before a race and stick to familiar foods – a curry the night before the race is not the best idea.
5. Put your kit out
Make a list of what you need for the following day and lay it out ready. Set out the clothing you are going to wear (tried and tested – this isn’t the time to try those new shoes). Remember to lay out gels, sunglasses, Vaseline, tissues and spare safety pins. Don’t forget warm clothes for after too. Race number and chip are key.
On the morning
6. Pre race meal
What you eat before an event can heavily influence how your race goes. It’s important to wake up in plenty of time to have a pre-race breakfast. Aim to consume 75-100g of carbohydrates about 3 hours before your race, or at least 50g two hours in advance. It’s a good idea to practice your pre-race breakfast before a long run.
Now isn’t the time to try something new - have your usual breakfast.
7. Prepare your body
For longer races you should conserve precious energy and a five minute jog will suffice. However for shorter distances such as 5K or 10K you might want to consider a slightly longer jog, some dynamic stretches and strides to make sure your body is primed for action. Here’s our perfect runner’s warm up.
8. Clear your mind
You won’t run well if you are too jittery with nerves. Take some deep breaths and reassure yourself with the thought that all the training is done, this is the fun part!
Similarly, a half asleep runner will never get their best times. A cup of coffee can work wonders if you are feeling a bit sleepy and has also been shown to improve endurance if taken 1-2 hours before your race.
9. Get in line
Don’t risk having to sprint for the start with one shoe on and your number in your hand. Plan to get there in good time and find your place on the start line early. That way you won’t risk getting stuck behind slower runners or walkers if you are aiming for a time.
Weaving around people can add significant amounts of distance and waste valuable energy. Some races have different pens for those with different target times; check this before the race and get into position with time to spare.
10. Have fun
It's important to remember when you get to the start line that unless you happen to be one of the elite runners, chances are you're doing this for fun. During your training things can start to feel a bit serious. Now is the time to recall why you signed up in the first place and embrace the day. Yes running races can be tough, but they're also great fun, so smile, get stuck in and enjoy yourself!