Tips for A Successful Race Day

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Getting ready for race day is just as important as the training itself. A successful race day involves planning proper fueling, logistics, traveling, and gear.

Race day logistics can feel overwhelming—especially if you are running a course in an unfamiliar area. These race day tips will set you up for success.

Stick to your usual meals and timing.

You may be tempted to change things up on race day, but that often leads to digestive distress on the course. Stick with your typical dinner and breakfast, as well as timing, on race morning. The night before, aim to eat dinner at your typical time. Keep your post-dinner snacks or dessert minimal to allow your body enough time to digest and process especially if the race starts early. In the morning, accept the fact that you will likely have to wake up earlier than normal, which means you’ll have to plan ahead with your meal times.


Prioritize hydration several days before the race. Try to avoid any alcoholic or caffeinated beverages until the celebration after the finish, and swap them out for some water the day before. Waking up on race day with your body well hydrated will help you feel your best and compensate for any dehydration you might experience while running.

Maintain your usual bathroom schedule

One of the greatest stresses on race day is whether or not bathrooms will be readily accessible before the start of the race. There are often long lines for the bathrooms, and many runners find that the nerves or change in schedule can cause intestinal distress. Try your best to stick to your normal routine. If you typically start a run without making a stop, you can plan to do the same on race day.

Map out the start

If you are traveling, check the maps ahead of time so you’ll know where to park and which streets will be closed. You don’t want to get stressed by arriving at the race site only to discover that you can’t get to where you need or want because of road closures.

Don’t Overstress

It is tempting to think back through your training and wonder “Did I do enough to hit my race goals.” However, the best thing you can do at this point is remind yourself that your training is behind you and there’s nothing else you can do.

You have trained, prepared, and are ready to run. It’s going to be a great day!

Celebrate—regardless of the results!

One of the best reasons to run a race is simply to accomplish the goal. Whether you hit a new Personal Best or struggled continuously, completing the training and the race is certainly worth celebrating. Reward yourself after the race—whether that means calling your friend/spouse/family, enjoying the post-run finisher swag, partaking of the post-race festivities, or heading out to enjoy your favorite meal.

You’ve earned it!

Race Day Mistakes to Avoid

Some common mistakes you’ll want to avoid making on race day:

  • Not trying clothes/gear ahead of time. Always do a few training runs in the clothes and shoes that you’ll be racing in. Never use new shoes for a race.
  • Dressing for the race start temperature. It is generally accepted that a runner should dress for a temperature that is about 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. Remember that your body temperature will rise as you complete your race, and if you have on too much clothing, you can easily overheat, which will affect your race outcome.
  • Starting out too fast. It is very easy to start the race at a pace that is too fast. Try to stay relaxed and listen to your body. You don’t want to use all of your energy early in the race.
  • Consuming caffeinated beverages. Using caffeine during an endurance race is common, but try to avoid caffeine before the race. You should practice using caffeine during your trying if you plan on using it during your race.
  • Over-doing the carb-loading. Carbs are a good thing for endurance runners, but too many carbs at the wrong time can be a bad thing.
  • Changing your pre-race routine. You have probably developed a routine that works for you. Don’t try something new. Stick with what got you to the starting line.
  • Ignoring post-race recovery and fueling. This is one of the most important aspects of race day. It is extremely necessary to get adequate rest, rehydrate, and re-fuel following any endurance event such as a half marathon. Proper recovery sets you up for optimal return to training and moving on to that next big race.

In the Christie Clinic Department of Physical Therapy, Eric Woodard, PT, DPT, provides comprehensive care for patients who require treatment in all phases of physical therapy. He provides preventative injury education, conditioning, and training, as well as treatment and rehabilitation. Eric is an avid runner, having competed in every edition of the Christie Clinic Illinois Race Weekend, other marathons including Chicago, and numerous triathlons including the Ironman distance. Throughout his PT career he’s had the opportunity to work with recreational and competitive runners including middle school and high school state champions, D1 athletes, professional runners, Ironman world championship qualifiers, and world marathon majors qualifiers.