Be a better runner: get prepped for race day

Be a better runner: how to prep for race day

Pinning on a race number and toeing a start line can bring a flutter to your stomach, no matter how many times you’ve raced before. And if it’s your first race ever? That’s an awesome challenge.

MEC Ambassador Jim Willett takes you through all kinds of things to think about when you’ve signed up for a race. From training and race-day goals to tapering and carb loading, learn how to make it to the finish line with some high-fives along the way.

Race day training and strategies

How to prep for a running race

  1. Find a race you want to run. Make sure you choose a race date far enough in the future that you have enough time to train. Small, local races are great for newer runners; check out the MEC Race Series to find a start line near you.
  2. Start training for the distance you’ll be running. Running clinics and run crews are a great way to stay motivated through your training schedule. To give you an idea of how long you need to train for running races, here are some estimates:
    • Four to six weeks of training for a short race, like a 5K.
    • Six to ten weeks of training for a 10K.
    • At least 12 weeks of training for a half marathon, and even more for a marathon (there are many 16+ week marathon training plans out there).
  3. Set some race goals – it’s good to have more than one goal so that you can be flexible on race day. Your goal could be as simple as finishing with a smile on your face, or maybe you want to improve a previous race time.
  4. Taper your running a few days or weeks before your race, depending on the race you’re training for. By cutting down the amount of running, your body gets a chance to recover from training.
  5. Visualize your success. Picture yourself throughout the race and how you’ll feel when you meet your goals.
  6. Carbo-load two or three days before your race – but don’t overindulge – and remember to stay hydrated the week leading up to race day.
  7. Create a race day plan. Know what you’re going to eat, what you’re going to wear, how you’re getting to the start line, where to pick up your race number, where the bathrooms are, and where the race route goes.
  8. Don’t do anything new on race day. Wear running clothes you know feel good, and eat and drink things you’ve had on your training runs. Tip: Find out what kind of fuel will be at the aid stations so you can try it out on training runs (or bring your favourite along).
  9. Pace yourself during the race. Start slow and steady, and aim to finish the second half faster than the first half.
  10. When you finish, celebrate! Walk around a bit before you sit down (your muscles will thank you), do a bit of stretching, and refuel with snacks and liquids.

Find races near you:

  • MEC races across Canada, trail and road, distances from 5K to full marathons
  • Run crews and run clinics help you connect with other runners and stay motivated

Watch more in the be a better runner series:

Special thanks to Canadian Running Magazine

Karen Benson

Editor, trail runner, nature nerd. Lauded for leading cheer squads everywhere, she’s also an outspoken advocate for eating burritos daily.