Races can be exhilarating and fun, but they can also be demoralizing and difficult. The smallest details can make a huge difference. To save you the trouble (and embarrassment) of having to learn from your own race day mistakes, I'll share mine with you.
Dress for the Weather
I ran in a local half marathon race four years ago that was less than five miles from my front door. I hdd no excuses for bringing the wrong gear, but unfortunately I had never run a race in the pouring rain, and I didn't know any better. Here's the takeaway, never wear cotton ankle socks in the pouring rain unless you want your socks to slip into your shoes and cause your achilles to bleed all over your heels. I have pics, but trust me, you don't want to see them.
I took a racecation to San Diego a few years back, to run the Rock'n'Roll race with two of my younger brothers and their significant others. (Only one of my brothers actually stuck to the plan, but that's another story.) On race day morning they figured they'd get there a half hour before the start and be fine.
My wife and I decided to leave an hour early knowing that these races are huge, and that our chances of finding a porta-potty were slim to none if we waited any longer. Chalk one up to experience. My wife and I were all set, but my brother's poor girlfriend had a terrible run with a full bladder for the first five miles of the race.
Take It Easy the Day Before
Speaking on my trip to San Diego, I learned another valuable lesson. Take it easy the day before your race. I walked over fourteen miles from downtown to the San Diego Zoo and back again as a crazy tourist who doesn't like to pay for cab fare.
My calves were tight and sore before the race even began. Not the smartest thing to do the day before a competitive half marathon. Try to avoid making the same mistake by staying off your feet the day before your race.
Pace Yourself in the Early Miles
I ran my first marathon in New York City in 2013. It was a serious learning experience. I went out too fast early, didn't fuel enough during the race, and hit the wall at mile 20. It hurts just thinking about it.
The next year, I ran the New York City Marathon again and it was awesome. I qualified for Boston and it felt easier than it had the previous year! Go slow in the beginning and stick to your pace plan. Speed kills, not distance!
Smile and Raise Your Arms at the Finish
If you are hoping to preserve that race memory, you'll probably want to buy a race photo. Raise your arms and try to smile, or pump your fist, or do something amazing. Don't look down at your watch.
I made this mistake several times before realizing that the watch doesn't matter. You can click it a few seconds later. Besides, you're running in a timed event with professionals handling the timing and results. So, forget the watch and celebrate!