Whether you are a first-timer or a race-day regular, it’s always nice to have a few tips and tricks up your sleeve before reaching the start line.
- 1 1. Stick to What Your Body Knows
- 2 2. Prepare As Much As Possible
- 3 3. Dress Appropriately
- 4 4. Show Up Early
- 5 5. Hydrate
- 6 6. Eat or Don’t
- 7 7. Warm-Up
- 8 Half Marathon Tips: The Final Word
1. Stick to What Your Body Knows
The day of your race is not the day to try out new things. Stick to things your body is already familiar with. Avoid changing any of the following on race day:
- Running shoes
- Food i.e. gels
- Sports drinks
- Your target pace
Break your shoes in during training runs beforehand to avoid blistering or other discomforts. For clothes, you have a little more wiggle room, but give your outfit a test run at least once before the race to avoid unknown riding or chafing.
2. Prepare As Much As Possible
Some races allow you to pick up your race pack the day prior at an ExPo. Always take advantage of this option if available, as it will reduce time on feet beforehand.
Layout your racing outfit the night prior, too, and pin your number to top or singlet.
You will be thankful you took the extra 10 minutes to do so the night prior and save yourself that extra time the morning of. Some additional steps to consider doing the night before include:
- Attaching your bib to your outer layer
- Adding your timing chip to your shoe
- Prepping one quart of water or an isotonic drink
- Throwing extra bandages and Vaseline in your bag
- Charging your running watch
Preparing your clothes the night before also helps to avoid forgetting essential pieces as you are not as rushed.
3. Dress Appropriately
Check the weather and dress appropriately by adding approximately 15 degrees to compensate for your body heat once you begin to warm up from running. Dressing in easily removable layers, like a tracksuit, is a good idea too.
It’s also a good idea to bring a change of clothes for after the big race, particularly something warm or dry. Your body temperature will likely drop post-race and sweaty running gear is unpleasant.
4. Show Up Early
Much like any big life event, plan to arrive early for several reasons. Specific to racing, some potential time killers that might arise on the day of your race might include:
- Traffic and parking issues
- Race day or Expo check-ins
- Porta-potty lines
- Mental preparation
- Proper warm-up
- Bag checks
- Queues for the Porta Potty
- Not having enough time to warm-up
Depending on the size of your race and the venue, parking can take up a good chunk of time you don’t want cutting into your warm-up. Leave yourself plenty of time to go to the restroom before you race and factor in time for queues.
When you wake up the race morning, drink 4-6 ounces of water every 30 minutes to ensure proper hydration. You should have your last portion 30 minutes before the start of the race.
Any new foods or sports drinks could also lead to unwanted surprises. Stick to the same food you prepped with and if they offer a sports drink at the race, avoid it unless you know how your body responds.
A Word About Caffeine
- Mobilizing free fatty acids and triglycerides to utilize energy in your blood
- Providing a boost in concentration before your race
- Activating your digestive system before your race to avoid last-minute potty breaks
While there is a lot of evidence backing caffeine’s positive effects before a big race, don’t overdo it. Drink one cup of coffee one hour before your race.
Too much caffeine can lead to dehydration and even an abnormal heart rhythm, and some energy gels include caffeine in them as well.
6. Eat or Don’t
Fueling appropriately is an important part of any training plan. Hopefully, you’ve already practiced your race day breakfast during your training runs. Porridge, brown bread, a wholemeal bagel or a banana are all popular options with half marathoners.
Remember to eat the same breakfast, allowing plenty of time for digestion and a bathroom break.
If you regularly have stomach issues, you could skip this meal and fuel up the night beforehand with carbohydrates e.g. pasta, cereal.
Start your warm-up 30-40 minutes before the start of the race. By now, you should have your warm-up locked in from your training plan or via your running coach. If not, some runners like following a general warm-up like:
30-40 Minutes Before the Race
- Walk for 5 minutes
- Jog for 1-2 minutes
- Walk for 1-2 minutes
- Jog slowly for 10-20 minutes (start slow then increase to warm-up pace)
- Stretch, but be careful*
- Walk another 3-5 minutes
There is a lot of debate about the effects of stretching before a big race. The bottom line is, make sure you are following the warm-up that worked during your training.
If stretching helps you, by all means, incorporate it into your warm-up but don’t try complicated lunges on race day.
10-15 Minutes Before the Race
- 5-10 x 50-100 yard accelerations (start slow then increase to race pace then back to slow job)
- Walk for another 3-5 minutes
5-10 Minutes Before the Race
Lastly, the follow may help calm your nerves:
- Walking around
- Joke with other marathoners
While it might seem counterintuitive to do all that warm-up just to relax right before the race starts, this is a crucial part of the process.
Hitting the start line with tense muscles runs you the risk of injury early on. Start your race with a calm and cool mentality to help ease your body through the entire race.
Half Marathon Tips: The Final Word
Whether it’s your first half marathon or your fiftieth, it never hurts to prepare. By following these half marathon tips for race day, you can reach the start line fresh and confident.
A personal best awaits! You might also be interested in our explainer on is a 30 minute 5K good.