For the best race day possible, follow these 10 tips that veteran runner Hungry Runner Girl uses to cross the finish line strong!

janae brooke

I love reading about other runner’s race day/week tips and tricks so I thought I would share mine. You can share yours in the comments!

1. Don’t let the taper fool you.

Every time I taper, I get freaked out the week of the race thinking that there is NO way I will be able to run x amount of miles. I feel tired, sluggish, and question my training. This happens to me during every taper, but magically I am able to run the race and finish because I have done the training. The taper tries to mess with our minds. Trust in your training. Know that it is normal to feel tired  and we all question ourselves. Go into your race confident knowing that you have done the work. The race is the celebration of all of your training.

2. Have your favorite mantras ready.

Mantras are huge for me. They get me up the toughest hills and through the last few miles. Simply repeating them over and over again helps me so much. I always like to choose a few to use before each race. The two that I used during the St. George Marathon this last Saturday were:

  • I can do hard things.
  • I am stronger than I think.

3. Start fueling early on.

There have been many races when I didn’t start taking in fuel until it was too late. This resulted in me hitting the wall hard. By the time I started taking in fuel, my glycogen levels had already tanked and it was too hard to catch back up. My races go SO much smoother when I start taking my Gu’s  early on (salted caramel is my favorite). For the marathon, I start taking them about 50 minutes into the race. I try my hardest to stay on top of keeping my tank full so I don’t bonk. Even when I am racing and do not feel like eating anything, I do it anyway because I know that I need the calories to keep going strong!

4. Save your music for a little later on in the race.

I love to start my race off music-less so that I can really focus on not going out too fast. It is important to pay attention to how my body feels during the beginning miles. I like saving my music for when the race starts getting hard. It is the extra motivation that I need to get through the tough spots in the second half. It gives me that second wind that I need.

5. Walk through some or all of the water stations.

I never used to do this because I was so worried about the clock. I would try to run and drink at the same time. The result was drinking only about 20 percent of what was in the cup while the rest got on my face. Turns out I am way faster overall when I take the time to walk for a few seconds to make sure that I get enough water and/or gatorade at the aid stations. After a nice drink, I have an extra boost of energy to push hard again until the next aid station. Added bonus: I don’t end with red Gatorade stains all over my shirt like I do when I try to drink and run at the same time.

6. When your legs get tired, just pump your arms harder.

I love this trick. Try it out next time the fatigue is setting in your legs. It is nearly impossible to slow down when you are pumping your arms fast. It also makes me focus on my arms, so that I forget that my legs are so tired.

7. Always plan something fun or special for after the race.

For this marathon, I went a little over the top and planned a Disney trip for my two year old daughter and I after the marathon. During those final miles of my race, I kept thinking about how excited I was to go to Disneyland when I finished! Having some sort of reward after a race (usually just an apple fritter and diet coke is enough for me) helps me to really book it in the last few miles.

8. Let it go.

Let go of the things that you cannot control. At the St. George Marathon, my wireless headphones would not turn on. I was extremely frustrated because I need my tunes when climbing hills. I decided after a few minutes of being a downer about the situation that I just had to let it go. I had accept it and get to work on climbing those hills without music. There was nothing I could do to control the situation so I just had to make the best of it.

9. Negative split.

For the first time in my racing history, I had a negative split in last weekend’s marathon. I felt better at the end of this race than I ever have. I held myself back from going out too fast in the beginning, and that resulted in me being able to have enough gas in the tank to push it the last few miles to finish strong. I usually ‘fly and die’. This means I have killer mile times in the beginning, but by the end I am a complete mess and pretty much crawling over the finish line- which is not much fun.

10. Get outside of your head.

Sometimes you just have to start thinking about other things when racing gets hard. I like to look at/covet all of the awesome running outfits on the other racers. Sometimes I count steps, try to catch up to random people along the way, high five the kids on the side or start up conversations with other racers to distract myself from being tired. Just remembering to have fun and enjoy the journey makes the whole experience so amazing.