8 Half Marathon Race Day Tips to Feel Your Best From a Running Coach

Ask any experienced runner for their best race day tips and it almost always includes “don’t start too fast” and “don’t try anything new on race day”.

While those two tips are critically important, they skip over a whole host of other mistakes which we’ve all had to learn the hard way and thus maybe block out, not relaying them to you.

8 Half Marathon Race Day Tips

These running tips apply whether you’re running a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon or more!

I love that we often want our half marathon race day tips to be drastically different than our beginner 5K tips.

Probably because we’ve put in so much more work than when we crossed that first 10K finish line, but the truth is a lot of things remain the same!

Unless you prefer to learn things the hard way, here are 8 mistakes to avoid for a great race and almost all of these tips have an additional article that dives in to detail.

Find the one you’re most concerned about and get all the tips to have your best marathon morning.

Mistake 1: Big Pre-race Dinner

Let’s start with what we do the night before the race, which can derail us.

Read all about the 7 carbo-loading mistakes here to fully understand this concept.

In it’s most simplistic terms, stop signing up for the all you can eat pasta dinner. It’s usually too much food, too much fat and not the way you normally eat.

Over eating means all that food can make you feel sluggish in the morning or impair sleep as your body works to digest things it’s unaccustomed too.

“More marathons are won or lost in the porta-toilets than they are at the marathon…” – Bill Rodgers

Touche Bill, touche.

Mistake 2: Complicated Layers

Next up is what to remember on race morning: throw away clothes.

Energy is wasted shivering while you wait at the start line. Always bringing a few layers that you can toss in the donation piles as the countdown to racing begins.

Now that you have clothes you can toss at the start line, think about what you’ll feel like as you warm up during the race.

  • Avoid tying anything around your waist, the extra material will become frustrating as the miles progress and you begin to fatigue.
  • Pick up a cheap pair of gloves and long sleeve shirt from Target or Salvation Army, the couple of dollars is worth the extra comfort {lesson I’ve learned the hard way repeatedly…remember the Las Vegas race where I was actually picking up people’s throw away clothes to put on it was so cold?!}.
  • Garbage bags are also the easiest way to keep warm and repel water if it’s raining!
  • Double check anything with zippers to ensure it won’t rub or bother you on race day.

race day tips

Mistake 3: Underestimating Chafing

On normal days a little anti-chafe skin lubricant on your thighs probably does the trick, but on race day it’s time to nearly bathe in the stuff.

Your gait and stride often change later in the race due to new levels of fatigue.

Clothing may also become more wet than normal from sweat.

These two factors make it critical to lubricate toes, heels, legs, under arms, around the waistband and men get those nipples. Male runners often find it’s necessary to wear band aids for additional protection {an awkward band aid is way better than a bloody shirt}.
Bloody nipples from running

Mistake 4: Skipping Electrolytes

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. We’ve all heard the never ending stories about how performance declines with dehydration, but equally important is keeping electrolytes balanced.

Options include taking something like SaltStick prior to the race {especially great option for hot races or heavy sweaters} or alternating each water stop with sports drink and water.

Read more about how electrolytes help runners.

Mistake 5: Ignoring Pre and Post Race Fuel

Nerves and adrenaline often cause many to feel a little queasy or at the very least absolutely not hungry on race morning. Skipping out on breakfast puts you at a disadvantage before you even cross the starting line.

{Find out your best pre-race breakfast options}

Because training runs are often done at a lower intensity the body relies more on fat stores than readily available carbohydrates, allowing many runners to skip pre-run fuel during training and yet bonk on race day without it.

If you start the race in a carb depleted state the feared “wall” is much more likely to happen.

Bananas are a great option for settling an upset stomach and happen to be a great pre-race source of fuel. Topped with a little nut butter it’s an option that works for many.
pb and banana

Post-race runners once again find themselves easily skipping food as their hunger levels are generally overshadowed by fatigue or heat.

However, the body needs to be replenished to ensure you start the post run recovery process and can of course then fully bask in the joy of what you’ve just done!

Try just getting a few bites of whatever is available, along with an electrolyte drink…maybe not so much the donuts or cookies.

Save the fun for the celebration meal. Find out what’s best to eat to kick start recovery.

Mistake 6: Clock Watching

While we often have a PR (personal record) goal in mind, I’ve found that by focusing on how you feel instead of the watch you often run a better race.

You might PR unexpectedly because you don’t hold yourself back or you might run a slower race, but know that you did your best because it was all the effort you had available.

Tips for pacing your marathon >>
Picking the right goal race pace can help >>

Ready to have your best race? Avoid these 8 common mistakes #runchat Click To Tweet

Mistake 7: Not Asking Family for Support

We often feel like our training alone takes up so much time that we shouldn’t ask for anything more. But consistently I hear (and have experienced) my athletes say that nothing gave them a bigger boost than coming upon a friend, husband or child during the race.

Whether you stop for a hug or just know they are there rooting you on, it puts some extra oomph in your step when you might be ready to slow down.

Send them these great race sign ideas >>

Mistake 8: Not Prepping Mentally

First up is getting settled on your own race plan and not allowing yourself to be swept up in the start line excitement, pushing your pace.

Instead, don’t worry about those passing you at the start by focusing on the long term with ideas like “I will speed up at the halfway point, if I still feel good”.

In longer races (half and full marathon or ultra events), emotions and fatigue play a major role in deciding how you will feel crossing the finish line.

Highs and lows are almost inevitable, but in the low moments switching to concrete things such as your running form can help bring you back to the moment and assess how you’re really doing.

For me it’s also been learning to embrace discomfort…hard, but worthwhile!

“You may think that comfort leads to happiness. It doesn’t.
Happiness comes from growth and feeling like you are making progress.”
– Michael Hyatt

A few other mental race day tips:

  • Practice gratitude during the race – reaching to say thanks will absolutely help pull you up
  • Remember this is supposed to be fun!!!
  • Take a second to connect to a runner around you, sometimes the shift in perspective is all you need
  • Start using mantras – they work!

Looking for more marathon preparation:

What race day mistakes have you learned the hard way?

Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish

Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinishRunning_motivation_thumb

Sign Up to Receive a Weekly Newsletter with Top Running Tips and Laughs

8 Half Marathon Race Day Tips to Feel Your Best From a Running Coach is written by amanda for

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like