Race Day Strategies: The Starting Chute

Starting Chute

My least favorite part of race mornings is killing time once I’m actually in the starting chute.

I’m not a fan of the starting line area, hurry-up-and-wait, killing time thing as a whole, but before we are all lined up in our corrals and penned in, at least I can wander around.

Once I’m actually in the starting chute though, not only am I having to (still) kill time, but I also feel penned in and my people claustrophobia kicks in (I don’t mind small spaces, but I get tense if the small space is created because of a mass of humanity).

I often spend those last 10 minutes vaguely annoyed by having to listen to other runner’s small talk and getting a bit nauseous at the stench of Bengay (side note: it thankfully seems like the slathering on of Bengay is becoming less common – yeah!)

Killing Time in the Race Starting Chute

Most large races recommend you enter the actual start line/starting chute area about 10 minutes before the race starts.

Lining up a bit early is a good idea.

There are often final announcements and the singing of the national anthem (remember to take off your hat for the anthem!) and you don’t want any last-minute panics or delays to frazzle you before you run.

But 10 minutes is a long time to be standing around.

What to do?

Starting Chute

Confirm You Are In The Right Spot

If your race has corrals, are you in the right one?

Does the start area have signs or pacers marking the approximate place you should be? If so, are you by the right one?

If there are no signs, look around at the other runners around you. Do you get the impression you are at about the same level of fitness? While this is far from an exact science, I know if I look around and am surrounded by dudes with 3% body fat, I know I’m way too far forward.

Starting too far forward may seem like a good way to beat race congestion in the first few miles, but you’ll usually end up starting out too fast and burning out too soon.

Meet Other Runners

Personally, I’m the classic introvert and therefore am not a huge fan of small talk, so this usually isn’t high on my list unless I’m acting a race pacer (in which case I’ll chat up fellow runners with the best of them).

If you are so inclined, get to know your fellow runners. Are they local? Have they done the race before? Is that hill at mile 7 really as bad as they say?

If you will be part of a pace group, say hi and introduce yourself to your fellow pace group members. Say hi to your pacer and find out their strategy for pacing so you know what to expect from them.

Read MorePace Group on Race Day

Final Clothes Check

Most obviously: Are your shoes tied securely?

Tighten your ponytail and/or check your hat is firmly in place.

Make sure your bib number is pinned securely.

Adjust your clothes so no seams are laying funny or in a way that could cause chafing.

Adjust anything that needs adjusting before you start running.

Gadget Prep and Check

If you are using a GPS watch, have you gotten a signal?

If you got a signal too long before, has your GPS watch gone idle? On more occasions than I’d like to admit, just as the gun goes off, I realize my Garmin has gone idle and I have to reestablish a connection in the first mile.

If headphones are allowed at your race, are yours set up and in place? Is your race playlist ready to go? Have you wrangled the excess length of cord?

If you are using a phone run-tracking app, have you set it up?

Is your phone stashed securely?

Read AlsoRace Start Line Time Management

Focus, Visualize, and Breathe

Take a few moments and be still, focusing on your breath.

Focus on where you are at that moment.

Focus on and visualize the race ahead.

Visualize yourself running, being happy and strong as you cross the finish line.

Picture yourself successfully accomplishing your race plan.

If you’ve had any pre-race dramas, either in your training or on the morning of the race (waking up late, parking or traffic issues, stressing out at the length of the porta potty line), put them out of your mind. You’ve survived the dramas so far and have made it to the start line.

Be present in that moment at the start line.

Read MoreMinfulness and the endurance athlete

Review Your Goals

Mentally review your race plan and your race goal(s).

Review your circumstances. Adjust your race goals, if necessary, based on the circumstances of race day. If the weather, yesterday’s dinner or some other factor isn’t on your side, adjust your goal(s) and re-set your race plan.

Adjust and Calibrate Your Energy

You are likely in one of two pre-race states: way too hyped up, or way too not-hyped up.

If you are too chill, pump yourself up. Do a few jumping jacks to get your heart pumping. Have a high-energy song you can listen to to pump up the energy.

If you are too hyped up, cool yourself down with focused breathing or a brief meditation.

In either case, also have a mantra, inspiring quotes, or self-pep talks ready to go.


What about you? What do you do in the last few minutes before the race starts?

Starting Chute

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