So you’ve committed to jumping in your first race, you’re all trained up for the big day, have the shoes, the watch, the hat, and the anti-chafe stuff that your best friend said is vital. But now what?
Race day can be daunting. Looking at the scene when you pull into the parking lot can be overwhelming with fast looking runners jogging about, and hundreds of people all milling around a collection of brightly colored pop-up tents. Where are you supposed to go? What are you supposed to do for the next 15 minutes before the gun goes off?
Here’s how to navigate race morning stress free…
- Pick up your bib number – The first thing I do when I arrive at a race is pick up my bib (if you picked it up at a packet pickup the day before you can ignore this step). Aside from your racing outfit that you arrived with, your bib is the most important thing. I then take my bib and head back to the car, and pin my bib to my shirt in the exactly right, OCD measurements I prefer.
- Find a bathroom – You’ll be surprised how many times you’ll want to use the bathroom before the gun goes off. It’s best to get in line early and get one trip out of the way. Plus then you know where it is. Sometimes races have “secret” bathrooms: a lone porta potty that’s tucked behind a tree left over from the golf tournament the day before or construction on the neighbor’s house. These are gold. No lines = no stress. Get the lay of the bathroom landscape early, especially in big races.
- Warm-up and/or make friends – Racing is about community. Nothing calms me down before a race quite like a warm-up with friends. Fortunately in Missoula every race has a bunch of people you will recognize, and if you don’t there are a bunch of people who want to be your friend. Ask someone to go on an easy 5-10 minute jog to get those muscles warmed up. OR find your friends, tell jokes, tell stories, make new
friends, and generally talk about anything except the race for a while.
- Get to the starting line – About 5 minutes before the start of the race (10 minutes in massive races) starting getting into the starting corral. This is your last chance to check and make sure you have everything: shoes tied, bib on, sunglasses, socks you haven’t washed since middle school, etc. I like to find my lucky “spot” in the corral where I am comfortable. Defend your space.
- Bang! – When the gun goes off, just have fun! Run or walk like you’ve trained. This is the easiest part of the day. When you cross the finish line, have more fun
- Enjoy the day – Congratulations! You just finished your first race. Now it’s time to hang out, cheer on other finishers, and tell valiant tales of your time out on the course. This is what makes races fun: the community afterwards. Some of my dearest friends I met after races. Set up a running date for next week, then sign up for another race before you have time to question your judgement!
If you are considering signing up for your first race I would highly recommend the Run Like a Mother 5k (for women), or the Mountain to Meadow 5k, 10k, and 1/2 Marathon. Both are very laid back and have a fantastic post-race vibe (meaning food!).
See you out on there,
Forrest is a manager and race director at Runner’s Edge, and coaches local adults. He has been racing competitively for the last 18 years and often struggles with remaining calm before races.