Your bag is ready, you have your bib and you are ready for your first race. If you feel nervous and are not sure what to expect, keep reading our guide for the day of the race.
IT IS NORMAL TO BE NERVOUS
The first thing you should know is that no matter your experience or skill, all runners feel nervous on race day. They trust you. Whether you are an experienced runner looking to improve your personal best or a first-time runner concerned about completing the race, every runner heading to the starting line will be as nervous as you are. Your nerves are a sign that you are mentally ready to go and as soon as the race starts, you will forget about them and concentrate only on your run.
FIND THE SLOGAN IN TIME
The first thing to do when you arrive is to go and get the luggage room to leave your belongings. The organizers may have set up a tent, or at events where the race ends in a different location, it may be a bus. Sometimes they are assigned according to the race number, so make sure you leave your bag in the right place. Make sure your bag is clearly labeled with your race number and bring warm clothes and a snack for the finish line. Be careful not to leave anything in the bag that you need for the race, such as your GPS or sunglasses.
AVOID QUEUES IN THE TOILETS
The queues for the bath at the start line will be immense. Make sure you go to the bathroom before leaving home and resist the urge to drink a lot of water on the way out. If you need to go before the race starts, get in line well before the start time – the last thing you want to do is stand in line to go to the bathroom and panic that the race is about to start without you.
YOU WILL FEEL COLD AT THE START LINE.
No matter what time of year you’re running, the early start of most races means the starting line is always cool – and it can also be raining depending on the location. You’re likely to stay for a while at the start, especially in mass participation races like the Valencia Marathon, so take something to wear over your gear and don’t mind leaving it behind. It can be an old sweater, a plastic poncho, a piece of aluminum foil or the classic runner’s bag.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT POSITION
In the larger races you will be assigned a position according to your time schedule. It is important that you make sure you are in the right position to avoid congestion and that the race runs smoothly. If no positions are assigned, it is a good habit for the fastest runners to start in the front and the slowest in the back – check last year’s results to see where you will need to position yourself.
DON’T FORGET YOUR TIMING CHIP
No chip, no time! Make sure you have it, you can attach it to your bib or to your laces. Check the rules of the race before you leave to see if you need to hand it in at the end of the race.
SOAK UP THE ATMOSPHERE AT THE START LINE
The atmosphere at the start of a race is unparalleled. The emotion makes the atmosphere intense and full of camaraderie. Usually, most runners feel like chatting, sharing a smile or a joke and wishing each other luck, especially if they are running alone. Friends gather at the start line, so don’t feel nervous about talking to the person next to you – they will most likely appreciate it.
DON’T START TOO FAST
All runners have done this once and all have regretted it. The excitement and adrenaline of the start means that you will be tempted to get out as soon as you hear the shot, and the pace is usually fast at the beginning of the race. This is the way to ruin your race plan when you run out of strength later on. Let the faster ones go and concentrate on your own race.
LOOK FOR HYDRATION STATIONS, KILOMETRE MARKERS AND VOLUNTEERS
The pre-event information should tell you where these stations are on the course, but the excitement of the race can make you miss your hydration station, or the volunteer pointing out the route, so it is important to stay alert and focused on these points. In particular, be careful with water bottles on the ground as you may trip over them. It is also very easy to miss the KM markers, these are important to make sure you can keep up.
YOUR GPS MAY NOT BE ACCURATE
You will often find a mismatch between the distance displayed by your own GPS and the route markers. This is usually because during a race you can meet other runners when you pass them, and while you do so, your GPS measures this extra distance. So, even if your GPS tells you that you have reached kilometer 4, it is possible that you are only 3.7 KM away from the course. Keeping an eye on the mileage markers will help you accurately track your pace and distance, so don’t just rely on your GPS.
YOU CAN WALK
There is no shame in walking, most of us have done it at some point when we have started to feel tired, many people run using the run/walk strategy. The important thing is that you finish the race. If you need to walk, for whatever reason, be sure to move to the side of the track to allow the other runners to run.
SMILE FOR THE CAMERA!
Warning – there may be photographers in the race. If you see one, be sure to smile. Your photos from the race are your memories and you will want to try to avoid facial expressions of pain, looking like you are trying not to cry (we have all been there).
FEEL THE SUPPORT OF THE PEOPLE
Crowd support at the race will always have a positive effect, whether you are an elite athlete or a beginner – and especially when you are tired. There’s nothing like a high five or hearing your name to give you a mental boost when you’re tired and things get tough.
YOU PROBABLY WON’T FINISH LAST (BUT IT’S OKAY IF YOU DO)
The fear of all runners is to finish last. It is important to know that a) it probably won’t happen and b) the running community is the most supportive. Every runner understands the journey you have made to get to the finish line. So, whether you are first or last, you will be encouraged to get to the finish line no matter what.
YOU HAVE TO BE PROUD
When you cross the finish line, you have achieved glory, whether you have run 5 KM or a marathon. Pick up your medal and your gift bag and go meet your family and friends, proud to know that you have achieved your goal.
Pick up a finalist water bottle, rehydrate, and if it gets cold, wrap it up as soon as you can in tin foil or warm clothes in your bag. If you can, try to have a small snack as soon as possible. Where there are a large number of runners at the finish line there is often no cell phone reception – so organise your meeting point with family and friends before the race.