So you’ve completed your training and think you’re ready for the big day? Congratulations! However, before you pack your running shoes and head off for the starting line, check out these five pre-race mistakes to avoid to ensure your race goes smoothly.
Over or under hydrate
As you know, drinking enough water before a race is very important for your performance and health. However, it is also important not to go overboard, as this can be equally dangerous. Overhydration can lead to a dangerous condition called hyponatremia as the water dilutes the sodium levels in your body. This can lead to nausea, vomiting and cramps and, in extreme cases, can even be fatal.
Not only is making sure you achieve an optimal level of hydration essential for your health, monitoring your fluid levels will also help to improve your run. Make sure you are properly hydrated before your run (you can do this by checking the color of your urine, which should be pale yellow) and drink throughout the race when you are thirsty, opting for sports drinks which contain small amounts of sodium.
Make changes to your routine
One of the worst things to do before a marathon is make any changes to your normal routine, including wearing new running gear, particularly running shoes. Everything you wear should be tried and tested in the weeks before the race.
It is also important not to make any changes to your breakfast routine before the race. Many people opt for breakfasts and snacks that have been recommended to them by other runners, or sample something new if they are staying in a hotel before the race, but it is important to stick to your usual pre-run breakfast, rather than risking an upset stomach. Likewise, make sure any energy drinks or gels you use on the day have been trialled in previous long runs.
Eat too much fibre
While we are always being told to eat more fibre, this rule doesn’t apply in the hours or days before your marathon. Eating high-fibre foods, such as broccoli, cauliflower, legumes and multi-grain breads can cause you difficulties when running. This is because these high-fiber vegetables are difficult to digest and during your run you might find that these foods are causing you some serious discomfort.
Instead, for a few days before your race, swap high-fibre foods for simpler carbs such as white-flour pasta and bread. As pre-race nerves can also cause stress for your digestive system, it is important to try to take in foods that are easy to digest during this time.
After all those months of training and with race day only hours away, it can be hard not to get excited the night before and the morning of your race. However, it is important to try to stay calm and reserve all that energy for the big day ahead. Try doing some deep breathing, meditation or reading a book to help you relax and sleep well the night before your race.
While difficult, it is also important on the day of your marathon that you don’t get too swept up in the atmosphere and excitement of the crowd and start off too fast. You may feel ready and raring to go, but it is important to control your pace and discipline yourself at the beginning of your race so that you don’t tire yourself out too fast.
Just show up
You may have been braving early mornings, eating perfectly and tirelessly following a strict schedule for months, but your race-day preparations can still make all the difference to your performance. Don’t try to squeeze in a few extra hours of sleep and then show up just in time to begin the race. Your body will function much better at the starting line if you have been up and moving for two to three hours, so set your alarm early and start your day with a light breakfast and plenty of fluids.
It is also important to arrive at least an hour before the start of the race as this will allow you time to check out the start and go for any last minute toilet trips which may be required. Traffic is always bad on race day so take this into account when setting off. Remember also to warm up. This will help focus your mind better and get you ready for the race, as well as relieving some of your pre-race anxiety. Your warm-up should be simple and not too strenuous. Easy jogging for about 10 minutes followed by light stretching should suffice and is key to your race day preparations.
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