How Runners Can Best Roll With the Race-Day Punches

Molly Hurford
by Molly Hurford
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How Runners Can Best Roll With the Race-Day Punches

Racing requires a nimble outlook — we’re there to put out our best effort no matter what comes our way. Sure, running on a new course or different distances can feel intimidating, even to veteran runners. There are many logistical hurdles to conquer the days before the horn sounds and the race starts, but it shouldn’t stress you out.

Here are six ways to prep for race day:



Even the smallest local races often post routes online. Start with the race website, where you’ll often find maps, elevation profiles, course descriptions and race day information about parking and the full schedule of events. From there, search for race reports from the event to see what people have to say about the course and things you may not have considered. Finally, check MapMyRun for any routes uploaded in the area.



You may not change clothing options if it’s raining, but you may want a poncho (or garbage bag) for the hour before the race starts. For early morning races, note how low temperatures will be as you’re getting ready to race, and consider wearing a jacket and sweats over your tank top and shorts as you walk around and get race-ready; consider choosing gear you don’t mind losing, just in case.



If this is your A-race of the season, plan to show up the day before and allow enough time to get to the course. Usually packet pick up is the day before anyway, but take the time to preview the course as well as figure out where parking is and take care of any directional issues you may run into on race morning. Investigate parking, for example, and how far you’ll be from the parking area to the start corral. It can vary greatly between events and can be a major stressor on race morning.



While you’re waiting in line to get your bib number ask the people around you if they’ve done the race before, and, if they have, get their best tips and advice. Most runners are happy to share. If there isn’t a huge line at packet pickup, ask the volunteers for course intel — is there a major obstacle that catches people off guard? If the volunteers at packet pickup don’t have much info to offer, look around for people who are setting up the course. They can often offer great advice about the course or logistics — like the best time to arrive for optimal parking.



At the race site, check out the start and finish areas. Make a note of whether the two are in different spots, see if the start has corrals for different waves (and where the entrances are, if it’s fenced off), and scout out any other information that may make the start run smoother. There’s nothing more annoying than showing up and seeing the start line, but being caught behind two layers of fencing and not knowing how to access it. (Don’t forget to take note of where bathrooms are!)



You can often run a bit of the course the day before your race — just don’t do the whole thing. Whether you run, jog or walk, try to cover the first mile, paying attention to turns, weird corners or curbs, and how the road narrows or widens. This is a lot more important on a trail versus a road race, but even road races can have abrupt turns that cause a traffic jam in the start, and knowing what’s ahead allows you to scoot through those sections easily.

About the Author

Molly Hurford
Molly Hurford

Molly is an outdoor adventurer and professional nomad obsessed with all things running, nutrition, cycling and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing and podcasting about being outside, training and health. You can follow along with her adventures on Instagram at @mollyjhurford.


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