Racing this weekend?

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The weekend is just about here and there are plenty of races on the calendar. Which one are you gearing up for? Here are our top tips on how to get to the finish line in the time and condition that you are aiming for.

Wake up raring to go

When race day arrives you want to wake up feeling fresh, alive and excited about your race. You may think that this will only happen if you have had a good night’s sleep the night before but this can be difficult if you are nervous about the race. Don’t worry too much about the amount or quality of sleep that you get the night before the race. It is the night before that that is important so try to plan for this by ensuring you get your full quota of sleep when there are still two sleeps to go (tonight?) so that you don’t need to worry about the night before.


You may have to get up earlier to eat breakfast and leave plenty of time for it to digest. Your digestive system works at a slower pace when you are nervous so, although you may be able to eat within two hours of a training session, you may need much longer before a race. Some runners like to leave 4 hours although 3 is more common. You should have breakfast unless the race is very early. Your evening meal the night before will be well and truly gone before the race so a light breakfast can stand you in good stead and prevent your stomach from rumbling on the start line. Cereal and white toast and jam makes a good pre-race meal. Avoid anything too sugary, including fruity and sugary yoghurts, and stay away from a greasy fry up as these are likely to want to make a re-appearance later!

What to wear

Many races have limited changing facilities so it will be easier to go ready and dressed for the race. Put your racing kit on underneath a tracksuit or similar and make sure your clothing is warm enough and waterproof enough for unexpected showers or a chilly wind. You can always take layers off if the weather is warmer than expected. If it is too warm to travel in warm clothes make sure you pack these in your bag.

List of things to take:

  • Warm clothes for before and after the race including spare socks
  • Map and race information
  • Racing shoe suitable for your fitness and experience
  • Number and pins
  • Timing chip
  • Money for bargains offered by the local running specialist (they often take a van and tent to a race and have ‘race day offers’.
  • Money for entry fee if you haven’t entered (or in case there is a problem with your entry)
  • Towel
  • Light pre and post-race snack
  • Water in drinks bottle
  • Vaseline and other medical items that you may use
  • Mobile phone
  • Blister plasters, supports and bandages as required

Arrival at the race

Ensure you are at the race at least an hour before the start. Traffic and parking can be very challenging for runners arriving later than this. You will need that time to park, find the toilets (and use them before the queues build up), collect your race number and chip if they haven’t been sent out and find the baggage storage. Once you have done all of this you should pin your number onto your race top and attach your chip to your shoe (or wrist depending what the system is) so that you don’t forget to do this before getting onto the start line.

Warm up

This should be similar , if not the same, as your normal warm up routine for training. Ten minutes of slow running followed by a few ‘pick ups’ and then some of the dynamic stretches that you enjoy doing and make you feel good will ensure that you elevate your heart rate, warm up your muscles and get your mind ready for the challenge ahead.

Feel nervous

If you don’t feel a little bit nervous you probably won’t perform as well as you can. Pre-race nerves are essential for a good performance as long as they are controlled. You should feel excited and eager rather than scared or full of dread so convert your feelings of nervousness into positive feelings and take some time to visualise yourself running well and finishing strong.

The start

If the weather is cold you should avoid taking your outer layers off too early. If you strip off a few minutes before the start you will avoid cooling down too drastically before you get going. If you have to take your things to a baggage area and need to be in your racing kit before this you should keep an old t shirt or a bin bag over your race kit and then discard it to a spectator either before the gun goes or after you have started running. Once you have taken your kit off you should position yourself on the start line with a few minutes to spare. Take some time to establish where you should be. Be realistic. Unless you expect to be in the leading pack don’t stand on the line. You will put yourself and others in danger if you go off more slowly than the runners that make up the top 20 or so. Look around for others that you know are around your pace and put yourself alongside them.

When the gun goes off

Start at a steady pace that you know you can increase. You will run a much more positive race if you are passing other runners along the way. If you go off too fast it is more likely that they will be passing you and that can have a negative effect on your mental state. Once you have settled on a pace that you are sure you can maintain you can relax, enjoy the experience and start planning when you will make your run for home.

When you get home

Don't forget to check your handicap score after the race. Every runner who has raced in a runbritain registered race since 2010 is on there. You have a profile page that includes your position on the National Running Ladder and details your overall position, position by postcode area and five-year age band. Check it out to see where you are ranked in the UK, in your area and in your ageband!

Make sure you are up to speed on your profile page as well as in your races this weekend!