Top tips for your big event

Couple hug Half Marathon

You've done all the training, you've tapered well and now the big day is here. 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 or three sleeps to go 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 shoes
  • 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
  • Sunscreen and glasses if the sun is out
  • 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. If it is a very hot day you may reduce this as you will warm up quicker in the heat.

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 key 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. If it is a big city race there will be time guidelines to let you know but if it is a smaller race you should 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. And remember distance markers may be a few metres out if there is not a lamp post at exact mark, organisers often to to the nearest one, that could be 10 or 20 seconds difference, but they will average out for the next ones. You may also have a GPS watch that will help too.

Good luck! Go out there and let all of that hard work pay off!