The days leading up to a race are filled with excitement and anticipation. After investing months of work toward an event, it's easy to succumb to the pressure of performing well when racing is ultimately intended to be fun. So how do we set ourselves up for success on race day? Here's a list of actionable tips from San Diego Track Club’s Coach, Meriah Earle. Injinji is proud to partner with the San Diego Track Club (SDTC) to make running more accessible and community-oriented in our hometown of San Diego.
Preparing Your Body For A Race
In order to race at our fullest potential, we need to be fit. A good training program is a precursor to race day success, but getting physically ready is about more than just logging miles and running fast. Throughout your training blocks, be sure to include rest days and down weeks to allow your body to properly recover after hard training days. Get consistent sleep, averaging 7-9 hours a night so your body can rest and rebuild. In my opinion, quality sleep is the number one most neglected aspect of training. You will also benefit from incorporating a strength and mobility routine into your running will help prevent injury and increase your speed. Balancing running, strength, and recovery can be challenging. Opt to explore an online coach and training program that will provide you with an organized training routine that works around your lifestyle.
Race Day Nutrition
How you fuel throughout training and on race day matters. For those running races less than an hour in duration, fueling is less crucial, but you certainly want to make sure your body is primed to perform. I often hear from runners that they can’t eat breakfast before morning runs, but I believe that anything can be trained. Going into race day with an empty stomach is putting yourself at an immediate disadvantage. Practice pre-run fueling in your training so that when the race day comes, your body is already accustomed to taking in calories first thing in the morning.
If you’re running a longer race and expect to be taking in fluids and gels during the race, I suggest practicing your fueling strategy during easy, long runs and more intense efforts so you can get used to absorbing nutrients and water when it’s in a state of high exertion. Oftentimes, fuel hits differently on race day when we’re going at full throttle and demanding high output.
Race Day Gear
Similar to nutrition, we want to set ourselves up for success by being comfortable in our race day gear. From your running hat and polarized sunglasses to your moisture wicking Injinji socks, limit surprises on race day by testing your gear during training runs with some race pace efforts. While few races ever go perfectly, we can do our best to control what we can.
Mentally Preparing For a Race
At this point, training is in the bank, fuel is dialed in, and race day gear is vetted, but how do you mentally prepare yourself for the battle that lies ahead? The universal truth of racing is that no matter what the distance or what your ability level is, things will get hard. What will you do when the demons come calling and you’re midway through your race? What will you tell yourself as you strive to push through the increasing discomfort? How you talk to yourself during the race matters and needs to be practiced.
Many runners have mantras to help them get through the sticky parts of races and workouts. It can be something as simple as “you are strong" or "dig deep". When things get hard, I like to say, “this is your home," and I use it as a way to remind that this is a feeling I have felt repeatedly in workouts and it’s nothing to be afraid of. It tells me to settle in and embrace the discomfort, rather than look for an escape. If a thought isn’t helping you, then it has no place in your brain on race day. Let the negative thought pass and replace it with something productive. Whatever words help you get through it, practice them in your workouts and visualize yourself saying these words as things get more and more challenging during the race.
Find The Joy
Above all else, remember that racing should be fun, hard, but still fun! Whether you’re out on the course or logging training miles, be sure to take some time to smile and appreciate what your body can do. Embrace the challenges that lie ahead knowing that you have prepared to the best of your ability!
About Meriah Earle
Meriah is a former D1 collegiate middle distance runner turned masters marathoner. Her PRs post age 40 include a 16:53 5k, 34:04 10k, 1:13 half marathon, and as of June 2022, a 2:34 marathon qualifying her for her second Olympic Trials as a masters runner. She lives in Escondido, CA and is a proud coach for both the San Diego Track Club and assistant cross country and track coach for UC San Diego.