Just read this hilarious and long article about everything you need to know about racing. Since I have done a few races *cough cough 80-something* I thought I might weigh in on the topic.
Lesson One: Make sure you train.
Boy if I had a dime for every time I heard “I didn’t train for this” or “I just figured I’d wing it” Yeah ok. See you in the med tent. Depending on your physical background you might survive. Heck you might even do ok. But I can guarantee you when you try to get out of bed the next day you will be in a world of hurt, if you haven’t managed to hurt yourself already. Even experienced runners blow things when they train. It is way worse when they don’t. No one says you have to go crazy and make spreadsheets and sticker calendars but at least pretend like you know what your doing and lay down some training. Especially if it is for any thing over a half marathon. For the love of Oreos don’t try to wing a 30K or Marathon. It just won’t end well.
Lesson Two: Be Flexible
We don’t mean do yoga (although it might not be a bad idea). This is more about your expectations and schedule. If you miss 3 weeks of training due to the flu and your dog being sick and, you know, LIFE. Then rearrange your schedule and adjust your expectations. Let it go and move on. Drop to the 10K or the half. Do a few more 5 milers instead of the 12 you were planning. Realized that magic probably won’t get you the PR you were hoping for, but there is always next time. There are always more races.
Lesson Three: Hotel Room, get one.
I’m at odds on this one. If you have a hard time getting up for something you paid $40-$150 for, then get a hotel room. One less step to take to the race start. However if you can count on the adrenaline spike and hole in your wallet to get you up, then stay home and drive. That way you have complete control over coffee, food, and hopefully, your morning pit stop. Plus you save money for even MORE races *insert insane laugh here*.
Lesson Four: Flat Runner
Lay out your gear. Just do it. It will take you 10 minutes and you won’t have to obsess about forgetting anything. Until it is time to go to sleep…
One neat trick for a race you have to travel for: Make your flat runner at home then just fold it up and put it in a bag. I do this the week before so I have time to add anything I forgot and then I don’t have to remake it in my hotel. It is already done. I can just pin the number on and pretend to sleep instead.
Lesson Five: RTFM (read the frickin’ manual)
New city? Your city? Doesn’t matter. Read the race manual or instructions. Nothing screws you up more than a 4 mile traffic jam because nobody looked at the race route and discovered you can’t make it to the spot you were hoping to park in. Plus you get the info on the water stops, fuel stops, porta-potties, and what fabulous things await you at the finish (free massages anyone?)
Lesson Six: Weather Check
I will admit. I am terrible at this one. I regularly show up to races without checking the weather. Apart from stealing a pair of cast-off gloves at my first marathon I have been pretty lucky. Don’t be like me. Look at the weather. Bring an extra layer in the car. Especially if it is raining. Or at least keep garbage bags in the trunk. They work as a handy Maid-of-the-Mist style poncho to keep you dry and warm in a pinch.
Lesson Seven: You aren’t the banana.
Run your own race. Don’t measure your success by passing people-looks can be deceiving.
Until the end, then all bets are off. I am perhaps most known for my punishing finishing sprints (seriously, one time I heard a friend tell another friend, “aw here it comes” as I entered the final stretch). I was told once that if I don’t finish feeling like I want to puke I didn’t sprint hard enough. Now I have never actually puked, but I do make it my mission to pick off and pass as many people as possible in the final half mile. If you have enough juice to dust people at the finish then go for it. Just don’t be rude or knock people over. It makes you feel strong and fast. I also heard it flushes the lactic acid, but I don’t have science to back that up.
Lesson Eight: Distraction tactics
Nothing crazy here. Not the day to try spicy Thai food for breakfast or new gels or new clothes/shoes. But maybe take your headphones out and talk to some other people. It eats up the miles pretty quickly. Play games with yourself. Recite poetry. Count the number of funny signs you see. Most people don’t need a boost on race day but if you do then try these tricks to make the miles go quicker. When all else fails….you can always sing 99 bottles of beer on the wall. Loudly.
Lesson Nine: The race will end.
Probably the most important lesson. It will end. You will finish. Think of how quickly time flies when you are watching a Netflix marathon. I constantly tell myself when I am knee deep in “this sucks” that it will be over before I know it. In x amount of hours I can say “I did it”. For x more minutes of pain I get a lifetime of living with this accomplishment. There is always an end. And bananas. Lots of bananas.
Lesson Ten: You will definitely do this again.
Racing is kinda like childbirth in that way. You forget the pain in a wash of exhilarated triumph. You see a cool new medal. Your friend tells you about this awesome new course. You look slowly at your feet and say, “I bet we can go a little bit faster next time”.