The 10 Commandments of Race Day For Runners
1. Thou Shalt Not Carbo-Load to the Extreme1 of 11
Let's start at the beginning. It might not be race day yet, but what you do the night before will directly impact how you feel when you toe the line the next morning.
You can try as hard as you want to justify consuming heavy fettuccini Alfredo or a large four-cheese pizza, but you're ignoring the most important rule of carb-loading: quality over quantity.
It's not a bad idea to add a few extra carbs in your diet the day before a race, but focus less on binge eating your guiltiest pleasure and more on strategic fueling. A simple spaghetti dish with marinara will get you a lot further than anything heavy and cream-based.
2. Thou Shalt Layer2 of 11
If you've been maniacally checking the weather report for weeks, you might think you have a pretty good idea of what to expect on race day. But weather can always change, so as you get dressed that morning, think layers.
Even if you always run in your favorite hoodie and swear it ventilates just fine, race day brings a certain adrenaline, and as you decide to kick it into high gear during the final mile, you'll be surprised how overheated you get. Have something underneath so you can shed layers as you go.
You may think the temperature looks okay, but did you check the humidity? Is the sun out? What's the wind chill factor? There are several variables for weather—including unpredictable rain showers. Layers ensure you're prepared for anything.
And consider wearing layers you don't mind parting with in case you don't see them again after you toss them to the side.
3. Thou Shall Not Wear Your Race Shirt on Race Day3 of 11
While we're on the topic of attire, don't wear that year's race shirt on race day.
Aside from the immediate marker that you're a newbie runner, there's actually a much more important reason: you shouldn't be wearing anything new. Yep, not even a T-shirt.
No matter what cool gear you scored in your registration bag or at the race expo, you have to resist the temptation. This goes for socks, running belts, body glide, compression sleeves—anything. Unless you've tested it during training, race day is not the time to try out new things.
Lastly, whatever you do, don't you dare put on a new pair of running shoes.
4. Thou Shalt Not Arrive Late4 of 11
Be early. Wait, actually, be really early.
It's almost guaranteed something will come up that you didn't plan for. It could be unexpected traffic, limited parking or a ridiculous line at the Porta Potty.
The point is to arrive to the race site early. There's nothing worse than using precious race-day energy sprinting to the starting line before the gun goes off.
5. Thou Shalt Know the Course and Elevation Map5 of 11
No one expects you to memorize the course, but it's important to at least be familiar with what lies ahead, even if you're just running the race for fun. You're much more likely to make it up that monster hill at mile two if you know it's coming.
Knowing the course is especially important if you've signed up for a race with a small number of participants, as it's easy to get lost when the pack spreads out. If you plan ahead, you won't spend any time wondering if you should've made that turn a mile back.
6. Thou Shalt Not Be Intimidated6 of 11
Running is as much a mental game as a physical one.
It's easy to let other runners get in your head, especially as everyone gets to the starting lines and starts sizing each other up. Try to avoid these urges, though, and remember that running is a solo sport.
Even if you're looking to break into the top five in your age bracket, analyzing everyone around you will not help. This is your race. Focus on that—not the guy doing the impressive frog leaps to warm up.
Not that we've noticed him or anything.
7. Thou Shalt Not Take Off Like a Bat Out of Hell7 of 11
It's all too easy to get caught up in the race-day hype, but sprinting across the starting line like it's the 100-meter dash is one of the biggest mistakes you can make on race day.
No matter how good you're feeling during the first mile, stick with your normal pace. Not only do you want to avoid depleting all your resources too soon, but you also don't want an injury from overdoing it before your muscles are warmed up.
Additionally, don't join the wrong corral. If you run a 10-minute mile, don't join the 9:30 group to push yourself. Stay with your pack—you can always move up later when the crowds dissipate.
8. Thou Shalt Not Feed or Hydrate Differently During the Race8 of 11
Trying new gels, eating new food or downing a new sports drink are all big don'ts on race day.
Just like wearing new gear, fueling differently is an unnecessary—and often disastrous—risk to take. If you don't drink much water while you run, don't gulp down a full cup at every aid station.
There's no telling how your body will react to something new, even water. Play it safe, and stick with what you know.
9. Thou Shalt Make a Post-Race Plan9 of 11
Your post-race moments should be spent basking in glory, not frantically calling your family members, making a scene and shouting that you're at the bagel stand farthest to the right.
Make a plan before the race for where to meet and when, and avoid the family drama and endless phone calls.
10. Thou Shalt Not Forget to Have Fun10 of 11
The best race commandment of them all: Have FUN.
Running is about bettering yourself, and in many races, bettering your entire community. You might be working towards a new PR, but don't make yourself miserable in the process.
Enjoy your ability to move and don't forget to smile for the race photos along the way.