But even the most perfect plan only works if you follow it.
Sabotaging Your Race Day
The temptation to stray from your race plan can be strong.
- Maybe you don’t feel particularly hungry in the morning, so you skip your planned breakfast.
- Or you get to the start area and see the elites doing these fancy bounding warm-ups and think it looks like a good idea.
- Or you are feeling strong as you approach the starting chute so you move up a corral to start with a faster crowd.
Any one of these things is only one little change.
How much harm could it do?
Due to nerves, excitement, optimism, panic, or enthusiasm, these ‘minor’ race day tweaks can create major problems.
Trying New… Anything
You’ll hear this over and over again for a reason: don’t try anything new on race day.
No new foods, no new gear, no new warm-ups. Nothing.
Have a routine and stick to it. Know what works for you and do (only) that.
I’m continually amazed by how many people wear the race shirt for the run. Don’t!
Not only is it bad luck and a bit of a jinx, who knows what chafing issues may arise.
The race shirt from my last marathon is made of a fairly heavy material. It’s not a bad shirt, but it’s more appropriate for hanging out in or wearing during warm-ups. It’s not a great shirt to run in. Yet a shocking number of people still wore the shirt for the marathon.
I don’t know if there is enough skin balm in the world to protect for those potential issues.
Not Having (Or Not Following) A Race Plan
Having a good race plan means you know what you want to accomplish on race day.
A race plan is your chance to consider your goals, consider how you are going to make those goals happen (for example, what pace you are going to run, what warm-ups you are going to do), and plan out the timing and logistics of race day so nothing gets left behind or forgotten.
This doesn’t have to be a formal written document (although I recommend writing down at least your goals), but you should take some time to consider and visualize your race day before race day.
Moving Up A Corral
This is related to having a race plan, but it’s important enough (and common enough) to justify it’s own shout out.
Run the pace you planned on running. If your race has assigned you a corral, they did so for a reason, don’t sneak up to a faster one. If your race simply has signage indicating where to line up, pay attention.
Do not call an audible and change up your goal pace on race day.
If you have multiple race day goals (for example a best case and ‘I’d be happy with that’ goals), go ahead and run with the faster of the groups if you are feeling strong, but nothing more.
For example, in my last batch of marathon trainees, several runners couldn’t decide if they were going to run with the 4:45 pacer or me (the 5:00 pacer). Based on their training, both were realistic and doable, but they left the final decision to how they felt on race day.
Not Being Prepared
Do not get to the start area and only then remember you forgot to pack a key piece of gear.
At my last marathon, a runner from my running club forgot his bib number at home and had to go back and get it.
Layout what you need the night before.
Race mornings arrive very early and chances are, even if you are an early bird, you will have enough other stuff on your mind that it can be super easy to forget something.
Have a packing list (and follow it).
I’m a bit type A, so I have a packing list AND I prepare everything (at least) the night before race day.
Letting A Pre-Race Snag Send You Into A Spiral
Things can happen on race morning.
The weather is less than ideal, there was a parking or traffic snag, or a longer line at the porta potty than you anticipated.
Don’t let those snags worm their way into your mind and increase your stress level.
Whatever it was, it happened. You survived and are now at the start line.
Be in the moment and focus on the race at hand.
Justifying Potential Bad Outcomes
It can be common, especially amongst newer runners and racers, to begin justifying a potentially bad race to yourself or others in the days and weeks before race day.
‘I’m just going to run for fun’, ‘I feel a little cold coming on’ or ‘I didn’t train as much as I should have’, and the like, are ways you begin to discount your race before it is even run.
These excuses (and talk of doing less than stellar on race day) will worm their way into your brain and can impact your confidence on race day.
Now, if you really are just running for fun, great. Go for it. But if you know you have a specific goal that you want to accomplish, admit it (at least) to yourself. Own it.
If you really are catching a cold (it happens), you should adjust your paces accordingly, but if you are just saying that in case you fall short of a goal on race day, stop it.
While you should consider what you will do if things go wrong on race day, the majority of your pre-race energy should be focused on positive outcomes and positive visualizations.
Don’t make excuses in advance.
What about you? Have you ever sabotaged a race before you started running?