Running Long Distance Race Day Tips for Your First Race What to Expect From Arrival to the Finish Line By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT Christine Luff, ACE-CPT LinkedIn Twitter Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach. Learn about our editorial process Updated on February 22, 2020 Reviewed Verywell Fit articles are reviewed by nutrition and exercise professionals. Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by John Honerkamp Reviewed by John Honerkamp LinkedIn Twitter John Honerkamp is an RRCA and USATF-certified running coach, celebrity marathon pacer, and recognized leader in the New York City running community. Learn about our Review Board Print After spending weeks and months training for your first race, the last thing you need is any stress to detract from the excitement of the day. To ensure your race day goes smoothly, here are a few handy tips that can help from the moment you register right through to the crossing of the finish line. 1 Go to Packet Pick-Up Early Caiaimage/Martin Barrau/Getty Images Get off on the right foot by picking up your race packet early, ideally the day before the race. When you do, you'll be given your race bib, goody bag, and printed pre-race schedule. Some races will also provide runners with a timing chip to accurately clock their "net time" from start to finish. Early registration will also ensure that you get your correct T-shirt size before stocks run out. If you aren't provided a route map in the race packet, ask a volunteer for one or download a copy from the race website. This will come in handy when planning for water stops. 2 Don't Overdress Robert Daly/Getty Images Overdressing has tripped up many first-time runners. As a rule of thumb, dress as if the weather is 15 degrees warmer than it is since that is approximately how much you'll heat up once you've hit your stride. So if the weather report says that it's going to be a comfy 75 F, pretend that you're in Florida, where it's a balmy 90 F. If it's cold outside, wear a few extra layers of clothing that you can strip off as the starting time nears. Many races will offer a gear check counter to store your gym bag until after the race. If hot temperatures are forecast, spend a few extra dollars to buy running gear made of cooler, moisture-wicking fabrics. Alternately, opt for looser-fitting clothes along with the appropriate sunscreen and sunglasses. Take time to time to trim your toenails. Doing so will save you a lot of discomfort (and a case of black toenail) if one happens to be too long. What to Wear Running: The Best Clothes & Gear for Beginners 3 Choose Your Pre-Race Food Wisely pabradyphoto/iStock/Getty Images It is best to have a high-carbohydrate breakfast four hours before a race to ensure you have enough stored energy in the form of glycogen. Think pancakes, waffles, or a nice bagel with peanut butter. But avoid overeating or indulging in rich, fatty, or high-fiber foods. While you may assume this will provide you with extra energy, all it will likely do is cause stomach upset or a case of the runner's trots. If you must have coffee in the morning, limit yourself to no more than one regular cup. Anything more may promote urination. Sip a large glass of water before the race. Some people find it best to hydrate an hour or two before the race, while others run better if they hydrate 15 to 30 minutes before the starting gun. This should provide you with ample hydration while reducing the risk of unexpected pit stops. 4 Pin Your Bib Correctly Gary John Norman/Getty Images Don't make the rookie mistake of pinning your race bib on the back of your shirt. Pin it to the front with a safety pin on each corner. This will help officials know that you are a part of the race. If photographs are being taken, they will usually be listed on the website by bib number, allowing you to locate yours quickly. If there is a timing chip on the back of your race bib, make sure that it is not bent or covered with clothing or a running belt. Be sure to arrive early so that you will not only get a great parking spot but can speak with a volunteer if there's a problem with your bib or timing chip. 5 Line Up Properly Hero Images/Getty Images Runner's etiquette dictates that novice runners allow faster, seasoned competitors their place at the front of the starting line. As much as you may want to be in the center of the action, standing too near to the front can interfere with active competitors and cause frustration. Some races will organize runners in corrals based on their estimated or posted pace time. If unsure, ask runners around you about their anticipated pace. If it's faster than yours, do yourself and others a favor by positioning yourself further to the back. By the time the race is fully underway, you'll experience the excitement of the run whatever your position. 6 Prepare for Water Stops Cultura/Frank and Helena /Getty Images One of the reasons for getting a map at registration is to anticipate the location of the water stops. Doing so reduces the anxiety of wondering when you'll next be able to hydrate. While you may not need to hydrate as often during a 5K, a 10K is long enough that all runners, no matter how fast you are, need to take in some water during the race. Take advantage of the water stations on the course. If you've hydrated properly in advance of the race, you should be able to take in enough water to keep going without having to look for the nearest porta-potty. Water Station Tips If you see a water stop approaching, don't go to the first set of tables where all of the congestion is likely to be. Instead, head for the next set, veering to the right table if you're right-handed and the left table if you're left-handed. In this way, you can snatch a cup easily without breaking your stride.If volunteers are handing out cups of water, look the volunteer in the eye so that he or she knows you're coming. As you grab the cup, be sure to say, "Thank you," and toss the empty cup into a receptacle when finished. Should You Bring Your Own Water During a Race? 7 Pace Yourself Avoid starting too fast, particularly if your first race is anything longer than a 5K. It's tempting to start out at a fast pace, especially if you're used to running short-distance races. But you'll pay for it later in the race if you push it too much in the beginning. Focus on running the first mile of the race at a deliberately slower pace. Then keep a comfortable pace as the race goes on to ensure that you have enough left to finish. Don't be tempted to try to keep pace with the fast runners on the course. A handy rule of thumb is to run the first 10 percent of the race at a slower than normal pace. What Is a Pacer? 8 During the Race Race day isn't the time to experiment with new things, whether it's your running routine, your hydration habits, or your diet. Tackle a race the same way you'd deal with a regular run. Some more tips that can help you during your run: Slow your pace: If you feel like you're getting tired, dial back your speed and try a slower pace for a while. Take it easy and focus on finishing strong.Try distractions: Use mental strategies to deal with any discomfort or boredom, especially during those middle miles. Try distracting yourself by looking at the sights along the course, other runners, and spectators.Break it down: Focus on getting to the next mile marker, not the finish line – the race will feel more manageable if you break it down into smaller pieces.Choose a mantra: It also helps to have a mantra or short phrase that you keep repeating to stay focused and strong. 9 Prevent Chafing and Blisters You may have not had a problem with chafing or foot blisters when you ran shorter races, but it may be an issue when you're running longer during a 10K. Make sure you take steps to avoid chafing, such as using BodyGlide or Vaseline on trouble spots (nipples for men, bra-line for women) and wearing technical fabric (not cotton) running clothes. To avoid foot blisters, wear synthetic blend (again, not cotton) socks. Make sure your running shoes fit properly. You should be wearing running shoes that are at least a half-size bigger than your street shoe size. Never wear brand new shoes on the day of a race. 10 Finish With Flair (but not the T-Shirt) Hero Images/Getty Images Don't pressure yourself to achieve a swift time for your first race. Finishing is an achievement unto itself and one worth celebrating. If anything, consider it part of an initiation into a larger order of enthusiasts. As you get closer to the finish line, there's no holding back—if you feel good, go for it. Keep pumping your arms and looking up. Try to focus on runners in front of you and see if you can pass them before the finish line. If you know a photographer is at the finish, make sure you smile for your finishing photo. Post-Race Rituals Being part of a group means learning their habits and rituals—chief among these is a long-held superstition that you should never wear your race T-shirt until after the race. For reasons no one can ever quite explain, doing so is considered bad luck. (If you do so, the stares and smirks you'll receive will undoubtedly make you feel unlucky.) The more you relax and enjoy the spirit of the race, the more likely you will be to come back for more. 11 Know Your Post-Race Plans It's easy to be so focused on the finish line that you forget to make plans for after the race, like how you are getting home or where you will meet up with friends and family. The last thing you want to do after a race—especially a marathon—is to scramble around looking for your family. While your plan may simply be to text or call each other after the race, it's best to make concrete plans if a phone battery loses power or you can't hear the ring or alerts over the crowd. Making post-race plans in advance can help you avoid chaos after the finish line. 2 Sources Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Fujii N, Aoki-murakami E, Tsuji B, et al. Body temperature and cold sensation during and following exercise under temperate room conditions in cold-sensitive young trained females. Physiol Rep. 2017;5(20). doi:10.14814%2Fphy2.13465 Ormsbee MJ, Bach CW, Baur DA. Pre-exercise nutrition: the role of macronutrients, modified starches and supplements on metabolism and endurance performance. Nutrients. 2014;6(5):1782-808. doi:10.3390%2Fnu6051782 By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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