TGIF, party people!
I’m linking up with the DC Trifecta’s Friday 5 Link-Up. Please check out the Trifecta’s individual blogs: Courtney at Eat, Pray, Run DC, Mar at Mar on the Run, and Cynthia at You Signed up for What?! And If you’re a blogger, please consider linking up.
Today’s theme is “5 things about race day,” so I’ve decided to focus on 5 race-day taboos, things no runner should do on race day when running 5K or longer distances.
5. Don’t start in the wrong area.
If the race you’re running has corrals, start in the corral that matches a pace you can probably sustain for the length of the race. So, for example, if you’re confident you can run 9-minute miles for roughly 13 miles, by all means start in the half-marathon corral for people who intend to finish in 2 hours. But you shouldn’t line up with the corral for those running the half-marathon at 1:40 or faster.
If the race doesn’t have pace- or finish-time-based corrals, which is usually the case in smaller races, don’t line up at the very front of the pack, toeing the line, unless you think you’re capable of running 6:00/mile or faster for the entire race. Don’t even line up close to the front unless you think you can finish in the top 10%.
Why? If you start in with people who run a lot faster than you, it could hurt how you feel for the rest of the race (see below), you may get in people’s way, or you could end up getting trampled.
This rule also works the opposite way. If you’re confident you can run a 1:40 half-marathon, don’t start with the 2:30 corral (unless you don’t care about your time) or too far back in the starting area. You’ll end up weaving in and out of runners as you pass them, expending a lot of unnecessary energy.
4. Don’t run too fast at the start of the race.
If you run too fast for your fitness at the start of the race, you will probably end up crashing and burning at some point on the course. No matter what the distance of the race.
You don’t have to run a marathon to hit the infamous “wall.” You can also bonk in shorter races if you run at an uncomfortable, unsustainable pace for the first part of the race. I did this several times in 5Ks and once in a 12K before I learned my lesson. In the case of the 12K, I ran the first mile faster than 6:30. The rest of the race was very hilly, with the last mile completely uphill. The last mile was basically a death march–I could barely run because I felt horrible.
Now, I hold back for the first mile of the race and don’t freak out even if I’m running a pace 30 to 60 seconds slower than my goal race pace. Even if you’re pursuing a time goal, you can usually still make up for that slower first mile during the rest of the race.
3. Don’t be a jerk to your fellow racers or the race volunteers.
Play nice! Don’t knock into people even if the start area or course is tight. Don’t spit or blow a snot rocket without first checking all around you to make sure you’re not going to hit someone with your spit/snot. Don’t throw your half-full cup at or after the water station unless you’ve first checked to make sure you’re not going to throw it in someone’s path or–even worse–at someone. Don’t forget to say “thank you” to volunteers when they hand you water or anything else at the water stations. Don’t make a mess in the portapotties (I’ve twice had the ultimate displeasure of reaching for the hand sanitizer dispenser only to note POOP on the button that I was supposed to push to dispense it–thank God I noticed before I actually touched it). Don’t listen to music when you run unless you’re using headphones or earbuds. Don’t listen to music so loudly that you’re unaware of your surroundings. Don’t stop to walk when you’re in the center of the course–run off to the side of the course and then walk. Don’t walk more than 2 people abreast.
Phew! Okay, I think that pretty much covers the common assholish race behaviors.
2. Don’t try anything new.
Anything. No new pre-race food, race fuel, clothes, or shoes. (Okay, maybe I went a little too far by saying “anything,” because I think you’ll be fine with a new Garmin, for example.)
You’ve probably heard this advice before, and that’s because it’s sound advice. If you try something new and untested on race day, you’re gambling on how you’ll react to that new thing. You could end up having an adverse reaction on race day, which you probably want to avoid.
New food pre-race or fuel during the race? You don’t know how it’s going to affect your stomach, and you could end up experiencing some sort of gastrointestinal distress on the course, which is pretty much my idea of hell on earth. As far as new fuel goes, you also don’t know whether it’s going to give you the boost you need.
New clothes and shoes? Speaking from personal experience, wearing new clothes is a recipe for disaster. I never had a problem with leg chafing until I decided to wear a brand new running skirt–having never even worn a running skirt, ever–at a half-marathon. As luck would have it, I ended up chafing terribly in my inner thighs.As far as shoes go, if they’re brand new, they’re not broken in. This may not be a deal-breaker for a shorter race, but you could end up running into trouble if the race is a half- or full-marathon.
1. Don’t forget to have fun.
Unless you’re a competitive (i.e., professional) runner, your career doesn’t rest on the race you’re running. You may be shooting for an important goal you’ve set for yourself, such as qualifying for the Boston Marathon, or finishing a half-marathon in under 2 hours, but ultimately you’re running the race as a recreational activity. Recreational activities are supposed to be fun. Yes, it may not be super fun to gut out the last few miles of a full-marathon, but try and find some joy–no matter how minute–in what you’re doing.
What do you think is the most important thing to avoid on race day? What’s the worst mistake you’ve made when you ran a race?