Tips to Make it a Great Race

You've picked your race, booked your flight, made your hotel reservations.  You've put in all the training and your eager and ready to head out and travel to run the race you've been looking for.
So what can you do to insure that everything else will go as planned?

I've compiled a few suggestions and my own tips to help anyone who is thinking of traveling out for a race, to help you be prepared for a great race and great trip.

*  Before you pack, make a list from head to toe on what race gear you want to use and bring with you.  Then as you pack your bag(s) cross each item off the list.

*  Don't wear new running shoes or new clothes on race day. Run in what you've already trained it and what you already know will be comfortable!

*  When packing for your race think about where you are going and plan to dress for ANY weather! No matter where I go, I always bring rain gear, warm layers, etc..  No matter what the weather man is saying, it's always smart to plan for anything!  Because the one time you think it won't matter, it will!  (Learned this the hard way myself a few times!)

Anchorage, Alaska Marathon Start
*  If flying: Pack all your race gear in your carry on.  Do not put it in checked luggage!

*  When you arrive at your hotel, take a minute to unpack your race gear before you head to the expo and do another run through it to make sure its all there.  That way if by chance you did forget something, you can pick it up at the expo.

*  Make sure the week leading into the race you're paying extra attention keeping your body fully hydrated.

*  Don't forget the most important aspect of the taper process, don't do anything the week leading into the race that could harm or injure your body in any way! Don't try any new workouts or stretches.

*  If it's a big race, get to the expo early or go on the first day.  You'll avoid the crowds and enjoy walking around it quite a bit more!

*  Whether you are driving to the race start or walking to it race morning, take yourself in advance and get familiar with the route.  Decide where you are going to park etc...  Plan it out ahead of time, so you'll know how much time to give yourself race morning.

*  The day before the race DON'T eat anything new!  Stick with foods and liquids that your body is already used to. This also means skipping any fancy restaurants you aren't sure of.

NOTE:  Carb loading ONLY the night before the race really won't help!  Correct carb loading should begin about 3-4 days leading to the race.  It takes time to correctly build up the carbs to fuel your body.  Also, if you're not used to eating pasta's the night before long runs, now is not the time to experiment with them!  Well that is, if you want to avoid spending lots of time before or even during the race in the fabulous port-o-potties:)

*  Dinner before the race, eat it earlier.  (I like to be sitting down and eating no later than 5-5:30)  Don't wait until 7pm or later and don't overeat just because you think you'll need to. Otherwise it may not digest fully by morning and you'll be running with a heavy gut, or hey you may even be running with the runs.. ewe you don't want that!

*  Night before the race, lay out all your race gear.  Put your bib on your shirt.  If you are using any race belts or packs, get them all filled up and ready to go.  If you use or plan to take a tracker, plug it in to fully charge. Set your alarm, and then set up a back up alarm or ask the hotel to give you a wake-up call.

IMPORTANT to NOTE:  It's always smart to write a little information on the back of your race bib.  (Even if they don't ask you to!)
I always put my name, any medications or supplements I may be taking, allergies or list no allergies to medications, emergency contact person and emergency phone numbers (it also doesn't hurt to list the hotel you are staying at.)  I hope they'll never have to be used, but if something ever did happen I feel far more comfortable with that on me.

*  As you go to bed, make  2 race plans for the next morning and go over them in your mind.
Plan A, everything goes great, you feel great, it's going to be your best race ever or the race you trained for and what you'll do when you know your doing great and can push it more without risking ruining your great race!
Plan B, what are you going to do when things go wrong?  Maybe the weather, maybe it's raining, maybe when you start running you just aren't feeling it.  We all hope these things don't happen, but they can and if you run enough races they will happen.  So it's better to have your mind prepared ahead of time so you'll be able to fight through it and have the mind set and motivation to get through anything!
New York City Marathon Finish Area

*  Race morning get up, eat and drink.  (Not too much, you should already be hydrated, you don't need to over hydrate before the race.  Well unless you like to spend time in those lovely out-houses:)  I personally like to eat about 2 hours before the race starts. I also don't drink anything about an hour leading to the race. That gives what I did drink with my breakfast time to run through and less potty time!

*  Make sure you have everything you're going to need before you leave your hotel.

*  I like to get to the race start about 30 minutes before they start (in smaller races).  But 1+ hours in the larger ones.  And then there are some larger races (like NYC) that require 2-3 hours.  No matter what time you arrive, if it's cold make sure you do what you can to stay warm.  If it's windy or rainy find somewhere to stay out of it as best you can.  (Note, if your not sure on when to arrive, its always best to go early!  That way you can relax, and make your way through the bathroom lines before it starts.

HINT:  I always bring a large garbage bag with me to the start.  If it's cool I can stick my head through a hole in the bottom and cover myself in it.  You might not think a piece of plastic can do much good, but it's the BEST thing to use, REALLY!  As you walk around or even start your race in it, if it's cold or freezing out your body warms up much faster in the plastic.  As you get warmer you can stick your arms out and then eventually loose the whole bag!  It's a very cheap way to keep warm!
**  But if you do need to stay in the bag when you start the race, make sure once you start to sweat to get out of it!  If you don't you'll be covered in sweat and when you loose the bag, you'll end up just freezing!

*  If this is your first race or especially your first marathon.  Don't get caught up in the first mile and go out too fast.  It's better to start out a little slower and let your body warm up and get used to the race.  The biggest mistake any new runner (and even experienced runner) can make is starting out to fast.  It can ruin the rest of your race!
Atlanta George Marathon Start

**** Because I am a marathon runner, here are a few tips to help those who are going out for the longer distances. ****

*  Keep hydrated, but not over hydrated during the race.  Although you may not feel you need the liquid early on, you do!  What you drink or don't drink in the first 8-10 miles of a marathon will set you up for the rest of the race.  In a long race, once you get the feeling of thirst it's really over, there isn't going to be anything you can do to make up for it.  It's also highly important not to overdrink So drink smart! Drink how you did in training.

NOTE:  Some races have water stops every mile.  You don't need them each mile!  I like to start drinking water at mile 2 or 3 and then only every 2 miles or so.  I go with an odd and even miles method.  I only stop at water stops at say even numbered miles.  That way I can make sure I am getting the correct amount of liquids and not too much!
If you drink at every stop there is too much risk of other problems and even death if you over-hydrate.

Connecticut Marathon Finish
*  In the higher miles of the race, play mind games.  I have several pre-determined things I am going to think about or play in my head whenever I have moments of need.  Sounds funny, but if you are having a hard time and struggling and you already have a list of things to help you through it, you will get through it!

*  Remove all moments of doubt, if you feel one coming on just start talking to yourself.  You did this, you trained for this, and you are going to finish no matter what!

*  If you're feeling good after miles 16-18, then pick it up, push a little harder.  At this point of the race and especially after mile 19, there is NO point of conserving energy!  You came to run, so run, push yourself if you can!  You'll love yourself/your race even more if you do!

Most importantly no matter the race or distance, HAVE FUN!  You run because you can and you love it, you trained for this, you deserve to enjoy all of it, so do!  There is that saying, pain is only temporary but the pride of finishing is forever!  (It's true!)

Those are a few of my tips!

So tell me what are some of your race tips?  
Or what are some great ideas for race preparation you use?


  1. Great tips, so important to remind on the carb loading. My other tip is to have all race day stuff in your carry on so it is in your control and won't get lost.

    1. Thanks! I totally agree on the race gear in your carry on!!!

  2. Great list! I love that you said bring clothes for any weather... my last marathon had a downpour at the beginning, and thankfully it was near home so I had the flexibility of changing my gear that morning. You never know what will happen!

    1. Oh ya, the clothes for any weather thing is something I learned the hard way a couple of times before I smartened up:) Glad you were able to be close enough to grab a quick fix for your race that morning!

  3. I am going to bookmark this for my next race. Great tips Thanks

  4. Great tips! I NEVER pack my running stuff to be checked. Always in my carry-on! It took me forever to realize the importance of removing doubt and actually doing it. It's amazing what we can convince ourselves.

    1. So true, the mind is such a powerful tool on what we can and can't accomplish! I always wonder if I was able to remove all doubt on everything I do, what amazing things in life I might be able to do!

  5. Should I ever run a race, this will be the list I come back to. Totally comprehensive. Weird question, I have one of those plastic sweat suit things. Would that work? As I'm typing this realize no. The trasbag can be thrown away and you don't need yo look after it. Catching on. :-)

    1. Ya the only problem if you spend money on throw away clothes then it gets expensive after a while. If your interested in full body stuff, most races at the expo will have a booth selling throw away jackets and pants (kinda a one size fits all), I usually see them for $5. But to be honest, I have had people who also use the garbage bag method and try out those clothes, say there isn't much difference and the garbage bag does the trick just fine:)
      I hope you run a race one day, you'll love it!!!

  6. Love this list especially the words: CARRY-ON! Learned from experience! :)

    1. oh ya, it only takes a runner once to learn the "Carry-On" lesson:)

  7. GREAT tips!!!! I've only traveled for a race once, but forgot my all important knee brace. Thank goodness for a Walgreens close by!

  8. I have not run in a race far enough away I had to fly there, but am noting these great tips for the future! I always revel in the planning and packing before a trip for some reason, so I especially appreciate these strategies you share. Thank you!

  9. This is a great list! Very comprehensive. I like the reminder about writing information on the back of the bib. I've been forgetting to do that recently. Thankfully it hasn't been needed but it's safest to have it on there.

  10. Love your lost Kristy! I have learned the hard way not to pack any valuable race info in my checked luggage bag! I love your tips for race day, esp if you are feeling good by mile 16-18- GO FOR it! I totally play mind games too- and I say over and over certain mantras that really help!

  11. Great advice!!!

    I never knew this:
    Correct carb loading should begin about 3-4 days leading to the race

    I usually don't carb load but I think it would have helped me in my triathlon...that was a totally different use of energy for sure!!

    Ahhh-the garbage bag...I have seen it at races before but never got it...thanks for that!!

    My best tips:
    -getting enough sleep
    -hydrating the week leading up to the race
    -your pace...your race..enjoy it!!

  12. Thank you! Oh no, well thankfully it was one you could pick up at Walgreens!!

  13. Thanks, yeah its probably the most overlooked but if we ever have a bad day or something happens on the course it could actually save our lives.

  14. Yeah there is an entire science behind carb loading, I have done a lot of research on it in the past. I'll have to find one of my past articles and re-run it. I actually find that kind of stuff facinating, LOL Yup, I'm a running nerd!
    Oh yeah, the garbage bag is seriously the most awesome and cheapest thing, my dad swore by them and now I do too!
    Getting enough sleep is seriously key, especially the week leading to the race, since rarely do runners get much sleep the night before, right!

  15. Even my lists have lists! I have to resist the urge to spend too much time at the expos and exhaust myself

  16. I am such an over packer when I travel for a race! I have to have an outfit for every condition there is. I also always pack my gear in my carry on. There is no way that stuff is getting lost! I just recently started using the garbage bag tip and I love it! It makes a huge difference! I also pack Zip-Lock bags of all sizes because you never know when you are going to need them. I really like to use the snack size to put my phone in if it is raining.

  17. These are great tips! And I love the idea of traveling to seems to add in a whole other level of adventure.

  18. Great tips! I definitely packed my race gear into my carryon yesterday traveling to DC for the Marine Corps Marathon. Having a race hydration and nutrition strategy is important. My biggest tip there is to follow whatever you practiced in training!

  19. lisarunsforcupcakesMarch 8, 2017 at 6:45 PM

    Great advice! Race travel and Ragnar certainly force you really focus on what you need to bring for a race. I haven't had any major issues - thank goodness.The worst has been forgetting to bring warmer gear for a random change in temperature but that wasn't something I could entirely forecast.

  20. These are all great tips!! I always like to follow never try anything new on race day or eat anything new before the race. My sister tried something new on race day and she regretted it afterwards.


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