Are you preparing for a half marathon? If so, now that most of your hard training is in the bank, you need to ensure that you maximise your performance on race day, and that means taking care of the little things that can make a big difference. With that in mind, here’s my race day checklist to ensure that you’re ready and raring to go for 13.1 miles!
Have you collected your race number & timing chip?
If you’re taking part in a mass event then it’s likely that your race number and timing chip will be posted out to you beforehand. If that’s the case then don’t leave the house without your number pinned to your vest or T-shirt and your timing chip securely fastened to your laces! If you need to collect your number and chip before the start then make it the first thing that you do when you arrive at the race venue. Remember, no number and chip means no result!
Have you tried and tested your race day kit?
Runners tend to be creatures of habit and there’s good reason for that. If there’s one race day rule to swear by then it’s stick to what you know and don’t try anything new. It sounds obvious but make sure that your race kit is tried, tested and comfortable! Many runners fall into the trap of saving new kit until race day, only to find that it chafes or is restrictive. Test run all of your kit in training beforehand, including your shoes and socks to ensure that they don’t cause you any problems. Apply Vaseline to any areas that are prone to blisters or chaffing before the race and check the weather forecast to ensure that your race kit is suitable for the conditions.
Have you perfected your pacing plan?
Good pace judgement is crucial in a half marathon and is something that doesn't happen spontaneously, so you'll need a pacing strategy. Once you've set a time goal, you'll need to work backwards so that you can calculate your split times to ensure that you're on track during the race. If you’re unsure of how to establish a time goal then you can use a recent race result over a shorter distance to give you an indication of your current fitness and your potential over the half marathon distance. However, remember that your plan should be flexible. You may need to adjust your time goal and pacing strategy to take into account the weather conditions or simply how you feel on the day.
Have you got a fuelling strategy in place?
Your body can only store enough carbohydrate for around 90 minutes of exercise, so if you're going to be running for over 90 minutes, you'll need to consider a fuelling strategy that will enable you to top up your glycogen stores by eating and/or drinking on the run. You can do this with sports drinks but energy gels provide concentrated carbohydrate that is easily digestible on the go. Pop the gels in your pocket/drinks belt or pin them to your shorts and take one every 30 minutes.
Even in cold weather you'll need to have a hydration strategy in place. It is vital to take on fluid in the early stages of the race, even if you don’t feel as if you need it. Drinking little and often is the best strategy to ensure that you remain hydrated and prevent any gastrointestinal issues.
Are you ready for rapid refuelling and recovery?
Recovery after a half marathon is paramount as whether you’re an elite or a casual runner, there’s no question about it; a half marathon is a substantial effort. Within the first 24 hours after racing, your highest priorities in terms of recovery are initiating muscle repair and replenishing your muscle glycogen stores, so post-race refuelling is crucial if you want to enhance recovery. The window immediately post-exercise is when your body is most able to absorb nutrients which are critical for the body to repair and regenerate itself. Aim to consume a snack or recovery shake containing a blend of carbohydrate and between 10 and 20g of protein within 30 minutes of finishing. Ensure that you have plenty of post-race snacks to hand in your kit bag, particularly if you have a long journey home.
Good luck and happy racing!