Unless you have an iron-clad stomach, changing up your morning meal before your race could be devastating. If you’ve followed a training schedule then you should have already been experimenting with your long run meals and hopefully found one that works. If you have to change your morning meal for some reason make it a minimal change such as an energy or protein bar.
Race day is not the day you want to change up any of your food, especially any fuel you consume during a run. I’ve seen too many runners get sick during a race because they tried something new during a race. Again, training time is the time to experiment with your fuel sources such as gel packs and sports drinks.
Stick to the strategies you developed during your training. When it’s time to fuel remember that all energy gels need to be taken with water so that your body can assimilate the gels quicker and with more ease. When you’re training with a hydration pack it’s much easier to fuel at consistent times because the water is on your back and easily accessible. If you race without a hydration pack then you will have to wait to eat your gels before a water station. If I’m not racing with my hydration pack I will slow down to a brisk walk about 1/10 mile before the water station and eat my gel and drink a cup of water to wash down the gel. Most half marathon races will provide you with a map that shows you the location of each water stations along the race route. Click here for race fueling strategies for half marathons.
This is a common mistake that a lot of new half marathon runners make. Run at the pace you trained for and you will get to the finish line. Sometimes at the beginning of a race, especially much larger races, you won’t have a choice to go too fast because there are so many racers you can’t speed up due to lack of space. This could actually be a good thing to help you control your pace at the beginning of the race. The race will eventually thin out so that you don’t have to be stuck at one pace.
Rest might be one of the biggest physiological factors of having a good race. If you aren’t well rested, both physically and mentally, you won’t have a good race. I won’t even bother to tell you how many hours of sleep you need as an adult because we all have seen the magic number over and over again. What I can tell you is that you will more than likely get better sleep two nights before the race instead of the night before your race. What normally happens the night before your race is that you are nervous and anxious about your race which will cause you to get less sleep.
Wearing new shoes on your half marathon race day could be disastrous. I recommend that your shoes have at least 100 plus miles logged before race day. If the choice is between new shoes and old shoes, the best choice might be your old shoes because your feet are used to wearing them. Obviously, if there are holes in the bottom of your old shoes you might not want to use them.
If it’s cold outside, naturally, you want to wear something warm. The trick is to layer up with inexpensive clothes so that if you have to remove clothing because you get hot, you won’t have to lose a lot of money. Remember that if you need to remove an article of clothing during a race make sure that you put your name on the clothing so that you can attempt to locate it after the race. You could also ask a family member or friend to stand at a certain mile point, one at which you know you will be warmed up, and you can discard the clothing to them to hold onto until the race is over.
On race day, as soon as you wake up, you need to eat. Why? Your body needs to go through the process of fueling your body before you hit the race and give your digestive system enough time to digest the food. Also, this gives you more time to take care of bathroom issues before you hit the race instead of having to stop at a port-a-potty unit on the course.
You want to drink 8 to 12 ounces of water before your race. Continue sipping water up until race time. Make sure that you don’t drink too much water which causes your stomach to slosh around.
Drinking the night before the race does three things that can hamper your race. First, your body won’t properly hydrate while alcohol is in your system. Secondly, alcohol has known to disrupt your sleep. Third, you very well could be hungover which leads to other things such as vomiting. It’s simple –> Don’t drink the night before your race! Save your beers for after the race. 🍺 🏅
Scott Morton is the author of, Beginner’s Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3) which has become an Amazon #1 bestseller. To sign up for a FREE half marathon training schedule, log sheet, and pace predictor click here.
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