Put Your Best Foot Forward
You've logged the miles and worked your butt off—or at least tightened it up. Now it's time to own this thing.
Virginia Brophy Achman, executive director of Twin Cities In Motion, a race series in Minneapolis, offers tips to help you start and finish strong.
Read Before You Run
Review the race materials, whether it's a participant guide e-mailed to you or details on the race's website. When you know in advance where you can drop your gear on race morning, which miles have water stations, and where the hills are on the course, you'll feel prepared and relaxed.
More: Race-Day Running Guide
Out With the New
"Stick with your normal routine," says Brophy Achman. "Don't wear anything new, and don't eat anything different the night before, morning of, or during your race."
The tried-and-true that worked for your training runs is your best bet to help you avoid issues like chafing, blisters, and GI distress.
Pick Your Pace
Line up with people who run at your approximate speed—look for pace signs at bigger races—so you don't get jostled by or impede speedsters. You may be able to race at a slightly faster pace than you trained at, but don't expect to suddenly fly. When in doubt, play it safe and head toward the back of the pack.
More: How to Race Faster With a Pace Group
Control Your Inner Rabbit
"Going out too fast is the biggest pitfall for any runner," says Brophy Achman. "It leaves you without enough gas in your tank to finish strong."
Adrenaline will fire you up and tempt you to surge ahead. But 13.1 miles is no short trip, so consciously try to slow your roll.
Run Your Own Race
If the race is chip timed—you have a little electronic doodad on the back of your race number or attached to your shoelaces—you'll get your accurate net time, how long it takes you to go from start to finish. So even if you're in the Porta-Potty when the starting gun goes off, your clock doesn't begin ticking until you cross the starting line.
More: Half Marathon Pacing Strategies
Don't come to a sudden halt at a water stop—you'll cause a pileup behind you, plus your muscles will stiffen. Instead, run to the second or third table—to avoid the crowds hitting the very first one. Listen to what the volunteers are yelling—like "water" versus "Gatorade"—and point at a volunteer to let him know you're coming in for one of his cups. Then walk as you sip.
After you cross the finish, you're spent, yes, but sitting down immediately will hurt your recovery. Stroll along slowly to let your heart rate and blood flow regulate as you refuel and revel in what you've just accomplished.
More: How to Recover After a Half Marathon
It's your time to shine. Sign up for your first race.