Getting Ready for a Race

August 12th, 2011 | Posted by Alison Spath in Fitness

I’ve got a 5K road race tomorrow morning, so all of my usual pre-race rules are on my mind. If you’ve got an upcoming race on your calendar – here are a couple of things to think about before you toe the line.

Nothing New on Race Day

Let’s say that again.


Race day is not the day for brand new clothes, brand new shoes, brand new food or brand new crazy ideas. Stick with tried and true gear and grub.  No new theory or hypothesis testing today either.

no new gear

If you’ve got new some sneaks or new shorts you’re excited to wear to your race, go for it – so long as you take them out for at least one trial run.  You want to be sure nothing is going to pinch or ride up or rub the wrong way.  We don’t want those cute new running shorts you got on sale falling apart at the seams just as you’re getting your picture taken at the photo finish.


no new food

The night before the race is not the time to try prunes, go out for Indian food or load up your salad with dulse if you’ve never eaten these food items before.  It’s a bit safer to wait until after the race to try them out and save yourself the potential for any digestive upset.

no new ideas

And save the crazy experiments for an ordinary run on an ordinary Monday.  Try out your theories for windmilling your arms down hills when no one is around to point or laugh or cover their mouth and say “what on earth is that chick/dude doing?”  This is not the day to figure out if you run faster backwards than you do forwards.

No Running Two Days Before the Race

Going into a race with rested legs can make a HUGE difference.  Not only with how you feel during the race, but also with how you perform.

In my experience, rested legs run faster and feel better than non-rested legs.  At the very minimum, take the day before the race off.  Two to three days is even better.  Any running you do in the few days before the event is not going make a significant difference on race day.  You can’t successfully cram for this kind of test.

A couple of days off isn’t going to decrease your fitness either, so don’t feel like you have to get out there because you’re worried you’re going to fall out of shape or forget how to run.  It took you weeks or perhaps months to build up to running this far, you will not undo all your hard work in a matter of days.

Ride your bike or walk if you must, but save the running for the race.

(For the record – my race is on a Saturday, I last ran on Tuesday.)

Eat a Salad

Big shocker coming from the Queen of Green, I know.  Given that daily greens made running more enjoyable for me, it should go without saying (but I’m saying it anyway) that a giant salad is always on the menu the day before a race around these parts.

Body Glide

I discovered Body Glide during marathon training in 2008 and I have been singing its praises ever since.

Body Glide is chafe prevention.  Although I usually only deal with chaffing issues on really long runs, I still apply it to the most likely suspects before a race. Just in case.

Those “likely suspects” I target would be the soft skin under my upper arm – that area that brushes against the side of my body when my arms swing.  I also apply it *ahem* in the inside of my upper thighs. I would call this spot “unmentionable”, but no – we need to mention it.  It’s important.

Running with chafing nearly your girliest of girly parts (or manliest of manly parts) is no fun. Trust me.

In short, rub this stuff on any place where skin meets skin (yes my thighs touch, SHUT UP) and/or where skin meets clothing seams.

(Body Glide is especially great if you are just starting to run, well before you mail in your first race registration form.  If you are still in the process of learning how to run, when to run and what to wear – Body Glide can save you from being rubbed the wrong way while you’re putting all the pieces of the running puzzle together.)

What to Eat Right Before Your Race

This one takes some personal experimentation and can vary widely depending on the time of day and the distance of your race.

(My 5K starts tomorrow at 8:30, so it will only be coffee for me before the gun goes off.)

If you typically eat something before you run, then eat something before your race.  Remember, nothing new on race day – that includes running on empty stomach unless that’s what you usually do.

In Thrive, Brendan Brazier recommends a pre-exercise snack that is 90% carbohydrates, 7% fat, 3% protein for high-intensity workouts lasting one hour or less.  A 5K race easily falls into this category.  For me, that might be a Direct Fuel Bite, a Mamabar, some Banana Nut Balls or the easiest way – a small handful of dried fruit and nuts before you run out the door.  Aim for about 45 minutes to an hour before the start to digest what you’ve eaten.

Energy requirements of course vary from person to person.  Physical makeup, general lifestyle, dietary habits and fitness level all of factor in to the way your body converts food into energy. This is it’s important to test out different food strategies yourself and figure out what works best for you.

That’s what I’ve got!

Good luck to all you racers out there!  Whenever I start to feel nervous on the start line, I just pretend everyone else is running in their underwear and/or tell myself all I have to really do is run fast enough to not come in last.  Whatever it takes to get to that finish line.

P.S., while tomorrow’s run is really just for fun with friends, I do hope to beat last year’s time of 24:34 and better yet, come in under 24:00.  (Ran a 22:57 in 2009.)  I’ll update this post with my time on Saturday when I get back!

Post-race update: 24:24 (avg. pace 7:51/mile)  No PR but faster than last year – I’ll take it!

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