The Final Countdown: How to Prepare for Your Upcoming Race

I will use any reason to include a Beyonce music video in a blog post/

With race season upon us, some of you may already be preparing to run in various 5Ks or half marathons in the coming weeks. No doubt you’ve got a training plan to help you schedule your runs, cross-trains, and tapers, but what about a plan to help with all the other aspects that go into running a race?

Have no fear, Fab Fit Chicago is here. Keep this countdown on reference as you prep for your race, and get ready to rock it:

Two Weeks Out: Start your taper for longer races, like half or full marathons. At this point, the bulk of your training is done. Now, it’s more about maintaining your conditioning and preventing injury than pushing yourself for long stretches of mileage.

Ten Days Out: Check out that weather forecast and start pulling together possible race day outfits. A good rule of thumb is to dress for 15 degrees warmer than the projected temperature; if it’s going to be cold at the starting line, wear clothing you can throw to the side as you start to warm up. Many races will donate this clothing afterwards- a plain old garbage bag can even work in a pinch! If you’re going to wear something new, take the outfit for a test spin to see if it rubs you in any weird places, what temperature it’s best suited for, and if it rides up or sags uncomfortably. Personally, I’d recommend that you go ahead and wear something you’re already pretty comfortable in. Better safe than rubbed raw and bleeding from chafing, right?

One Week Out: Early to bed, early to rise. Chances are you’re going to have to get up early on race day, so make it easy on yourself by sticking to a sleep schedule the week before your big day.

Three Days Out: Fuel up. Focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods, and be careful with the carb-loading. recommends eating complex carbs three days before your race (whole grain breads and pasta), which gives your body time to completely digest and process the carbs. Then, the last two days before your race, go for simple carbs that your body can digest easily (white bread and normal pasta, and nothing with saturated fats, like donuts). Finally, enjoy your last major meal about 12-15 hours before the race; this should also be a meal comprised of simple carbs that you can digest before the race. If you want that big plate of pasta, go for it- but avoid heavy cream sauces.

Two Days Out: Shake it out. If you’re in the mood, go out for a quick “shakeout” jog to loosen up your muscles and mentally prepare for the race. This is a time when I really like to visualize how my race is going to go, from the starting gun to the mid-race struggle to the sight of the finish line. It’s totally cheesy, and it totally works. Also, make sure to get a good night’s sleep- there’s a solid chance that pre-race nerves will mess up your sleep the night before the race, but that’s no big deal as long as you get a good night’s sleep two nights before.

One Day Out: Get your Girl Scout on. I’m talking, of course, about being prepared. Now’s the time to lay out everything you will need for race day so that you aren’t running around like a chicken with your head cut off at 5 in the morning on race day. Things to consider including: race day outfit, underwear, socks, shoes, extra clothes to change into after the race, outerwear, sunscreen, BodyGlide, hat/sunglasses, music or GPS devices and any accompanying armbands, wallet with ID and cash for parking or last minute fees, bandages, water bottle and any hand strap or belt, sports drink, energy bar, race chip and bib, safety pins.Also, take a few minutes to check the race’s location and gear check, and figure out how you’ll get there, whether it’s public transit or driving.

One really handy resources is Bib Brave, a website that’s kind of like Yelp! for races. You can search for the race you’re running, and see what other runners have to say about race day! Then, when the race is done, take a few minutes to pay it forward and write a review so that other runners can benefit from your wisdom (this is something I’ll be doing a lot more in the future as a BibRave Pro- stay tuned for more details!)

Oh, and this should be common sense, but stay off your feet and drink water (about 4-8oz per hour) to help your race day hydration.

The Morning Of: Wake up early enough so that you’ll be fully awake at the starting line- some experts suggest three hours before the race starts. Have a light meal that you’ve tried and tested before on other race days or long runs- typically something light and easily digestible. Drink about 16oz of water two hours before the race starts so you can hit the porta-potties before the race starts. Warm up with light jogging and dynamic stretching- and once the starting gun goes off, go have your best race ever!

My first race is coming up on May 18th– how do y’all prepare for races? Any other tips I should know?

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About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.

2 thoughts on “The Final Countdown: How to Prepare for Your Upcoming Race

  1. Great tips! I think baked sweet potatoes are great for carbo loading. And white rice is an easily digestible simple carb.

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