Excitement, nerves, and anticipation are just a few words to describe what you feel the last few days before your goal race. It’s finally here. That day you only imagined and have been picturing in your head for months. Now what?…We have previously talked about tapering and the lead up to race day and race weekend, but there are some things specifically for that weekend and day that we should cover. It’s more than just lining up on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Packet pickup and race morning are what get you on the line, so let’s talk a little bit about what those may look like and some pitfalls to avoid.
Packet pickup is like checking into a plane flight. Your bib is like your boarding pass. It is what tells everyone that you are running the race and should be there. Depending on the run, your bib may also be the “chip” that lets the race record your exact time for the event. This part is very important: make sure you know when you can and can NOT pick up your bib. Some races offer race morning pick up and some do not. I always advocate picking up your packet the day before if you can. Waiting until race day just adds more stress than you need for race morning if you can avoid it. Some of the really big races will have a multi-day expo and packet pick up where it’s less imperative to go the first day, but try to go earlier than later if you can.
Depending on the race you are running, some will have a little table that you pick up a shirt and bib at and others will be at a giant expo center with vendors, samples, and all sorts of other things. If this is the day before your race, do not go crazy. Consider the amount of time on your feet. Consider passing on the samples of the crazy new granola bar or recovery drink. You don’t know how your stomach might respond to those things. I have seen, and been guilty, of spending too much time at the expo of larger races and wearing out my legs just standing and walking on the day before the run.
T’was the afternoon before race day and all through the house (or hotel), not a runner was panicking, not even you. Your meals were planned and thought through with care, in case a port-a-potty wouldn’t be there. Your feet were propped up and resting in bed, while visions of finish lines danced in your head.
In all seriousness, after lunch the day before you should be taking it easy. My personal favorite is laying on the couch watching football (fall) or basketball (spring). Know what you are going to eat for supper. It should be very familiar to you and something you have had before a long run. I lay out my clothes then pack my race bag to take with me. I always have a plan for “what if it’s 10 degrees warmer/cooler?” A weird quirk of mine is that I always have a full backup with me for clothes. Extra socks, shorts, shirt/tank, and even shoes. Why? Because I just trained for 6 months and am going to run dadgummit. Laying stuff out the night before also allows you to be more efficient and calm the morning of. If it’s your first race at a new distance, you will be nervous. I’m still nervous every single time.
RACE DAY IS HERE!
Get to the race early. I aim for an hour early for anything over a 10K. Size of the race is going to matter a lot here. Before the Austin Marathon in 2019,, I got stuck in traffic on I35 trying to get into downtown for my wife to drop me off at the race. I got out of the car 15 minutes before things started, had to run to the start line, skip my pre-race bathroom stop, and got to my corral with just 7 minutes to spare. That was the single most stressful pre-race sequence of my life. To be ready for race morning, I drive to the area day or two ahead of time if I can or have never been there before because the world looks different with nerves and at 5-6am. Check your race maps to see if there is a “starting line” or “finish line” map. These may also show the best places to park. Honestly, once I park the car I stop stressing about getting to the race but not until then.
Run the race. Execute your plan. Crush it.
Then, CELEBRATE! Almost every run will have water and some fruit at the end. Enjoy it. Bask in the glory of your accomplishment however big. Take photos with family and loved ones, if there’s other food, enjoy it, and enjoy being with other people who just went through the same thing you did. Some pretty cool moments come after races when runners talk with each other and celebrate what they did. Sometimes the post race gets overlooked, but it’s a great time so enjoy it!
There are a lot of components that work together to make race weekend happen. It takes planning, experience, and some deep breaths to know it will be alright and you are going to do great. Enjoy the experience and the camaraderie you get from spending this time with loved ones and other runners. You can do this. The start is insight and from there, you just run!