Whether it's your first or hundredth half marathon, it's always a little nerve wracking getting ready to run 13.1. Between the nerves associated with achieving a personal best or just making it to the finish line smiling - here's my recipe for a perfect race week.
1. Stop Stressing.
You're nervous and that's going to play in your favor, I PROMISE! I give you permission to stop reading every "My First Half Marathon" or "(Insert name of half marathon here) Race Day Recap" you find online. By all means familiarize yourself with what's to come but no two race day stories will be the same so embrace the unknown! What's going to happen already has so plaster a smile on that terrified face and buckle up!
2. Plan Ahead.
This comes to you from the girl who won't plan to save her life. PLAN AHEAD! The fact that I haven't missed a race due to my lack of preparedness is beyond lucky. Sit down and figure out where the expo is, where the race starts and ends and where you're going to meet people after (if you plan to meet people after). Half the time there's no cell phone reception at finish lines or phones die so PLAN AHEAD.
Want more planning advice? Here are 10 race day essentials to bring to the start line.
3. Don't Wait Until The Last Minute.
Do you want to know how many times I have woken up on race morning and realized I forgot to buy English Muffins and bananas? More times than I can count. (Writing this now I realize how embarrassing that is.) This is especially important for those of you traveling for races, make sure you buy your pre-race breakfast the day before your race. Races start early and the last thing you want to do is scramble at 5 in the morning trying to find somewhere to get a banana or oatmeal.
4. Don't Stress About the Weather.
Check the weather 5 days out ONLY to see if there's extra steps you may need to take for race day. For example, say there's rain in the forecast -- you may want to explore what to do with electronics if you bring them or possibly running in a waterproof jacket. Otherwise don't look at the weather until Race Day Eve Eve. That's right, 2 days out. And if there's extreme heat, rain or snow, don't worry about it! So it's not a perfect weather day, it's OK! Make the most of it!
5. Don't Spend A Million Dollars At The Expo.
Everything at the expo is available online. EVERYTHING. Hang out at the expo, walk around and try new things. But don't get carried away and buy everything bright and shiny while riding that race expo high.
6. Know The Course.
Sit down with the course map and familiarize yourself with the following:
- The start line. For obvious reasons it's important to know where to park or be dropped off, where the bathrooms are, where baggage check is and where the corals are.
- Where the bathrooms are on the course. Do you need to memorize where they are? No. But having an idea will put your mind at ease if disaster strikes during the race.
- Where the Medical tents are. Again, this is just a precaution. It's always smart to know where the Medical Tents are.
- Water and Sports Drink Stations. Runners get really excited when there's fluid on the course. Stick to how you trained, if you only took in fluids every 3 miles, don't stop every 2 miles for Gatorade.
- Know where the energy gel is. Most races offer an energy gel on the course. I always bring my own but sometimes I drop it while playing with my phone. It's good to know where it is so you don't panic at mile 6 when you realize it's at mile 9. (Or if the race doesn't offer it all together. Then you're left screaming, "DOES ANYONE HAVE AN ENERGY GEL I CAN HAVE!?!?! Which I've done...)
7. Eat Healthy the Two Days Leading In To The Race.
Don't go overboard with the carb loading. Remember, everything you eat before and on race day should have already been tested on a dress rehearsal long run(s). Stay away from fried foods the two days before the race. Will it kill you if you eat it? No. I ate my body weight in calamari the night before the NYC Marathon like an idiot. Did I run into any problems? No, I got lucky. Should you eat a loaf of bread or 5 servings of pasta? Probably not. The day before the race have a bigger lunch and a smaller dinner. The morning of I will eat a whole wheat English muffin with some peanut butter and a water bottle right when I wake up (About 2.5 hours before the race). Then I bring a banana with me to eat about 45 min before the gun.
6. Don't Feel Rushed.
If you're someone who is always scrambling at the last minute just add 30 minutes to your race morning timeline. Your adrenaline will be pumping and it's really easy to go into panic mode. Don't panic and do your best to stay calm, cool and collected. Remember, you're there to have fun. If you're running late then you're running late! It's OK! You'll just hop into one of the last corrals and take off when you take off. It's OK. I promise, it's OK!
7. CHAFING CREAM.
I cannot stress how important this is! If there is one thing you take from this I hope you go out and buy chafing cream and then rub it EVERYWHERE. I MEAN EVERYWHERE! Between your legs, really between your legs (you know what I mean), your chest, if you where a sports bra rub it all over! Rub it everywhere! EVERYWHERE! I'm even so paranoid I buy the little ones and take them with me to the start line. Hell hath no fury like a bloody nipple or chafed nether region.
8. Get There Early...But Not To Early.
I say 45 minutes is the perfect amount of time to hang out at the start line. It's enough time to walk casually, use the bathroom once or twice and then get into your corral. I don't like standing still. I get antsy and nervous. But when you time it just right and you walk into your corral about 5-10 minutes before the gun (at smaller races), everything is smooth sailing. (Some races this is impossible. At the NYC Marathon we were there about 3 hours before we started. That was rough.)
9. Introduce Yourself To People.
This goes for pre-race and mid-race! Turn to your neighbor and introduce yourself. I promise you won't regret it. I've met some seriously groovy people before or during a race. And there's been countless times strangers have helped me through really tough parts of races. If you're struggling or even if you see someone struggling, say hi. Ask them how they're doing and if they'd like to run with you. You may just find a new best friend. (Or if you're lucky a new SINGLE best friend...wink wink...nudge nudge...I just ask that you let me officiate your wedding if you fall in love mid race.)
10. Running Etiquette.
Always be aware of what or who is around you. If you feel tired and need to walk, don't just stop running. Just like driving, look over your shoulder and see who's around. Then get to the side of the road by pointing where you are going. Once safely on the side, make sure there isn't anyone behind you before stopping to walk. The same goes for water stations. Water stations are a huge pileup spot, keep your head on a swivel, be polite, say thank you to the volunteers, and gesture where you're headed. Then throw the cup in a trash can! Don't throw it on the floor. If you're not trying for a world record you have no excuse to toss it on the floor. NONE. UNLESS there isn't a trash can for 10 seconds. Then by all means throw it on the ground.
11. Race Selfies.
Here are my steps to taking the perfect race day selfie. (JUST REMEMBER TO ALWAYS LOOK AROUND YOU BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER! Only you can prevent race day collisions.)
12. SMILE AND HAVE FUN!
Dear god, SMILE! Whenever you start to feel doubtful or pain SMILE! Whenever your legs start to feel heavy smile and count to thirty. Smile at the cameras, smile at the spectators AND SMILE AT YOURSELF! Never forget that first and foremost you are there to have fun. Take it seriously but find the balance. If you can't take a second to stop and smell the energy gel than what the hell are you doing. Enjoy the race. Enjoy the experience. Love every painful second. Then, cross the finish line like a boss.
13. It's OK To Spend A Million Dollars On A Race Day Photo.
Does it suck to have to spend $30 on a digital download of you crossing the finish line? Yes, yes it does. But it's 100% worth it. That's a moment you shouldn't regret and you invested in it. You worked for it. It's OK to buy the photo. I give you permission and if anyone tells you otherwise, send them my way.
Otherwise dig deep, believe in yourself and have an amazing time. Remember to use the hashtag #RunSelfieRepeat on your race day photos! Have an amazing race. Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.