Common Race Mistakes (plus how to avoid them)

When race day arrives, runners seem to forget everything they’ve done in training. Nerves interfere with their normal thought processes and causes people to overthink and doubt their abilities. Understanding that if you trained smartly and effectively, there is no reason to freak out on race day; it’s the fun part! However, race day mistakes are so common that recognizing the issue and dealing with it before it sabotages the race entirely is key. Here are some common problems and how to prevent them:

  1. Forgetting something essential.
    It’s really important to lay out all of the essential items you’ll need on race day the night before. Make sure your outfit is washed, dry and ready to go; your race bib is secured with safety pins onto your top; and you’ve set an extra alarm to ensure you wake up in time. Plan a few different outfits in case of changing weather. Prepare any other pre-race necessity, as it’s calming to have everything sorted out the day before. This will help your race morning go smoothly and you’ll arrive to the startline on time.
  2. Arriving late.
    This can be related to problem #1. Scrambling on race day and not being organized the night before can lead to a delayed departure. If you wake up late, can’t find a sock, or any other minor disaster occurs, it can make you late for the race start. While most races have a small window from when the gun fires for the race start until they close off the start line, many other components of the race are time-sensitive. Bag checks, port-a-potty lineups, traffic, and the hustle and bustle of a race can all take time. Be sure to get up with plenty of time to get to the race start efficiently.
  3. Not having a race day plan.
    Having a plan for race day is important for a successful race, but it also needs to be flexible. Many runners will line up at the start knowing the exact kilometre splits they want to hit, but may not account for terrain, weather, or race day mishaps. Have a pre-race plan: know how you’re getting to the race, what time you need to leave, the race day schedule, and your racing details. Always account for issues such as traffic, line ups, and unexpected weather changes. For the race, have an understanding of the race course to help set realistic time goals, and inform you about where to ease off/pick up the pace. Adjusting your goals based on the conditions of race day and the course will leave you satisfied at the end of the race, instead of being disappointed.
  4. Not warming up.
    It may seem counter-intuitive to run before a race even starts, but it’s a good idea. The shorter the race distance, the more important a warm-up becomes. Anything from 5-10 mins before a marathon, to 2-3 km before a 5 km is enough to lubricate the joints and loosen your muscles. It allows the body to warm-up, move efficiently and reduce the risk of injury, especially on cold weather mornings.
  5. Starting the race too fast.
    At every race there will be a runner than will sprint off the start line like a bat out of hell at a pace they can’t maintain. This not an effective way to race. Tapering before a race leaves your legs recovered making it easy to feel good right from the get-go so race pace may feel easy at the onset. As the race progresses, especially if you’ve run the first few km at a ridiculous pace, that speedy start can come back to bite you in the butt later on. Adrenaline will carry you through the first section of the race, but make sure to reign yourself in so you can finish the race strong and not hit the wall halfway through.
  6. Abandoning race nutrition plans
    Any training runs that were compromised due to taking in the wrong type or flavour of fuel and caused you to hit every bathroom for the rest of the run is the reason why we practice. These mishaps are what you want to avoid on race day. Knowing what flavour/brand of fuel works best, whether you should drink water or a sports drink, and the timing of your intake is key to a great race. If it’s left up to fate, your GI system isn’t very forgiving. Don’t abandon your practiced energy intake plan and solely rely on on-course fuel as it may not be available when you need it, or be the flavour/brand you’re used to. Implement the regime you practiced throughout training for fueling success; no one wants to race with GI issues or bonk and hit the wall.
  7. Putting too much faith in the pace bunny
    Pacers are great tools for staying on pace, but they aren’t robots. Utilize the pace bunnies to keep you on track, but don’t forget to have faith in your own abilities. Keep an eye on your watch just in case, and be willing to let go of the group if you feel you need to change your pace.

It also helps to go over the event details before showing up on Race Day. Know where package pickup is, how to get to the start line, how gear check works – simple stuff, but important to have all that info. Race Weekend details for the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon & 5k are here so make sure you read them before the big day in June!