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Race Day Do's and Don'ts

by Brandi Gilbert
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It is the week of the Pittsburgh Marathon! Wow, where have the past few months gone?!?! All the long runs and countless miles are done and now the “taper crazies” are in full effect.  Whether you are getting ready to lace up for your first marathon or your 100th 5K, it is completely normal to have some race week anxiety.

There are a lot of things to remember throughout the week leading up to race day. Over the past few years, I have lived and learned a lot through my race day experiences. While I cannot tell you everything to do during race week, a few “Do's and Don'ts” are always a good thing to remember while prepping for your big race.
 
The Days Before
Do Set Up Runner Tracking
Believe it or not, people want to cheer for you. Whether it is your family and friends on the course this weekend or your friends on Facebook that have seen your training posts and silently cheered you on from afar, people want to know how you are doing on race day. 

Setting up runner tracking not only allows family and friends to track your progress via text message, you can also have progress posts to social media automatically at checkpoints along the way. For more information about runner tracking for the Pittsburgh Marathon weekend, go here to learn more and sign up.

Do Know Expo / Packet Pick-Up Info
It might sound silly, but please be sure to double check the dates and times of the Expo. Find all the details about packet pick-up and Expo here for the Pittsburgh Marathon weekend.

Do Eat a Good Dinner
Your body is like a car — it needs fuel to go. While proper "carb loading" for a marathon starts the days leading up to the race, the meal you have the night before the race is also pretty important. Be sure to get a good balance of carbs and protein to help you power through to the finish line, but don't go too crazy. You don't want to overeat, or worse, try out that new Indian cuisine restaurant that opened around the corner (unless that is what you trained on).  

Do Double Check Your Gear
The night before a race, I always lay out a “flat runner”. Not only does this allow me to photograph what I am wearing so my friends and family will be able to find me on the course or after the race, it also allows me to double check my gear.  After all of my race gear is laid out, I am able to quickly identify what I might be missing. 
Once I have everything together, I charge any devices and place everything in a pile together so I can quickly get ready in the morning. This helps reduce stress on race morning of trying to locate my socks or find my left shoe. The less stress you can put on yourself on race day, the better.

Don't Be On Your Feet All Day
While it is important to move the day before your big race, you don't want to be on your feet all day. Yes, this is a difficult balance to find. This really comes into play when you are traveling for a race and have a long list of things you want to see and do while you are in town. Try to take it easy and avoid activities that involve you standing for long periods of time.  
 
Race Morning (Pre-Race)
Do Arrive Early
You will have enough going through your mind on race day, so don't add extra stress by showing up "late" to the race. Be sure to be familiar with where parking is permitted and any parking fees that might apply. You will also want to check for road closures that might impact your commute to the race as well. Obviously, mass transit it is always a great option (if available), but sometimes driving and parking is the only option. 

I am a firm believer of arriving early. You never know what traffic might bring or other things that are beyond your control. It is better to arrive early and have time to relax a bit before heading to the start than to be stressed out over making it to the race in time.  

Don't Eat Anything New For Breakfast
You always hear the tip of "nothing new on race day" — this especially goes for pre-race fuel. I cannot think of many things much worse than eating a breakfast that totally jacks up your belly either before the race even starts or just a few miles in. Don't do it. Stick to what you have been eating for breakfast while training.

Do Use the Port-a-Potty Before Starting
I am a self-proclaimed over user of port-a-potties before the race. Weird? Yes. I would rather use the port-a-potty several times pre-race than to have to stop at mile 6 and stand in a 5 minute line and add minutes to my race time.  

Obviously things happen and you have to stop sometimes. Any time I pass a bank of port-a-potties on my way to the start line, I always like to go "one last time" to make sure that my bladder is empty. That my friends is your TMI for the day. 
 
Race Time
Don't Start Out Too Fast
There is a lot of excitement as that starting gun goes off. Between pure adrenaline and even some butterflies in your belly, it is easy to get caught up in the moment and go out too fast. This is one that I am personally guilty of doing at times. 

My best word of advice here is to find the pace group that best mirrors your pace when you enter the starting corral and keep them in sight — especially during the first few miles when it is easy to just GO. You have a long way to go, so don't burn out your legs in the first two miles of the race.

Do Be Confident 
You trained. You worked hard. Remember all the reasons why you started this journey. You GOT THIS!

Do Thank Volunteers
Volunteers play such a vital role in race day success — working the Expo, directing you on course, handing you water along the way, putting that medal around your neck, and the list goes on. Be sure to acknowledge the volunteers and thank them when possible for helping make the race happen. 

Yes, you might be out of breath as you get water from the final station, but you don't have to say "thank you" directly. A nice nod or little wave will do the trick. Remember, they are giving up their morning (and woke up at a ridiculous time) to be here for you.

Don't Take Any New Fuel
I have been guilty of this one before, so please listen to my advice here - NO NEW FUEL ON RACE DAY!  I have taken chews from another runner; it was something new to me and it completely destroyed me. Less than a mile later, I was completely sick to my stomach.  

Stick to what you have trained with, including fluids. I am one who cannot drink Gatorade, so I always have to check races ahead of time to see what the hydration will be. When in doubt, carry your own fluids if you have a sensitive belly.

Do Stay Hydrated
Even if it isn't toasty out, make sure to stay hydrated. Drink and take fuel before you feel like you need it. If you start to feel thirsty, your body is already getting dehydrated, so plan your hydration accordingly. Be sure to check out the course map for locations of water stations along the way.
 
Post-Race
Do Take Time to Celebrate
You just conquered 13.1 or 26.2 miles, so CELEBRATE IT! When you cross the finish line, there are some amazing photo opportunities right there. Capture a few pictures and selfies with your bling and shout your accomplishments all over social media. I mean, it isn't official until it is on Facebook, right?  

You worked hard to get to this moment, so enjoy it! Hang out in the park for a bit with fellow runners. Share stories with complete strangers about your race. Go out for a celebratory lunch with family and friends. Whatever you choose to do, just celebrate being awesome — you deserve it!

Don't Remain Idle
Probably one of the worst things you can do after a race is lay around the rest of the day. Make sure to keep your legs moving throughout the day. No, I don't mean go run another marathon.  Simply take a few walks (even around your living room) for a few minutes throughout the rest of the day to keep the blood moving and help with recovery. Get those legs elevated, soak in a cool bath and recover well my friends!

Do Refuel / Rehydrate
It's pretty much a well-known fact that runners love to eat. Heck, some of us run just so we can justify a tasty post-run meal. Your body has worked hard and you have burned a lot of calories getting to that finish line. Make sure to get some carbs into you as soon as possible after crossing the finish line. 

I have to wait a few minutes before I can get anything down, but once you can, start getting some energy back into your body. Doing so will really help your body recover better.  

Personally, I cannot wait for the Smiley Cookie that will be waiting for me in the finish line chute.  This is probably not the best form of refueling, but it is something I can only have in Pittsburgh (unless Coach Jeff sends me some). No fear though, I will have real food shortly after.  

Do Thank Your Supporters
Please be sure to thank all of the wonderful people that have supported you along this journey.  They have been there for you through months of training and probably dealt with a few "taper crazies" moments. A little "thank you" to them could mean the world.

Do Get Ready for Your Next Race
Now that you have crossed that finish line and tasted the sweetness of a half marathon or marathon, get ready because you are probably about ready to sign up for your next race. You might not think you are going to, but trust me, history shows that most runners are ready for more shortly after race day.

We have all worked so hard to get to this point. Each runner has made their own story getting to race day and now it is time to take your victory lap and celebrate the months of training that lead up to this week. I wish each and every runner a great race (or races) this weekend. May the wind be to your back, your legs feel light and the smile be as big as possible when you cross that finish line! I cannot wait to see all of the pictures this weekend and hear about all of your experiences!

Visit the ‘Burgh Blog each month for more training tips and tricks from Brandi Gilbert and the other 2019 Official Bloggers! You can also follow along as Brandi trains for the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon on her blog Funner Runner

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