You've logged the miles and put in the work—and you have the toenails, calluses, and chafe scars to prove it. Now it's race day. Here's what to do—and what not to do—to ensure you make it to your start and finish lines sweaty and smiling. (That is, of course, assuming you already asked yourself these six questions before signing up.)
1. Lay all your stuff out the night before.
The last thing you want to be doing the morning of your race is scrambling to find a clean pair of socks or your trusty hand-held water bottle. Prep everything the night before, from your headphones and hair elastics to your shoes, shorts, and socks. Make sure all your electronics are fully charged—don't let that GPS watch give out trying to find satellites at the start line—and everything down to your pre-race breakfast is prepped. Make your list. Check it twice. And then check it a third time.
2. Wake up early.
No, earlier than that. Wake up extra early. Give yourself time to get ready in a relaxed state so you're not rushing to make it to the race on time. Allow for ample bathroom time, plan for traffic if you're driving to the race, and then plan for even more bathroom time.
3. Go to the bathroom!
Go as many times as needed, and then try to go once more. It's best to go at home so you can avoid the potentially long porta-potty lines at the race. Remember that those lines don't move very fast, so plan your wakeup and arrival times accordingly. You don't want to have to pull to the side of the course and make an emergency bathroom stop during the race, so try to get it all out beforehand. (Running is sexy!)
4. Blast some pump-up jams while you get ready.
Or, if you thrive in silence, do that. Set the mood that'll get your head in the right place for the race. Get amped, be meditative—whatever works for you. Practice visualization—see yourself crossing the finish line feeling victorious. (Need a race-day goal? Here are five race goals that have nothing to do with speed or time.)
5. Stick to your usual pre-run plan.
You've heard the phrase, "Nothing new on race day," right? Now isn't the time to swing by that new breakfast café on the way to the race, and it's not the time to start drinking coffee if you've never been a caffeine drinker. Don't opt for new breakfast foods and don't experiment with fancy sports drinks. Not today. Stick to what was tried and true throughout your training.
6. Pin your bib to your shirt.
The bib goes on the front of your shirt (or shorts) where it's fully visible. That's how they'll be able to identify you in those post-race photos!
7. Know how to get to the start line.
If you're driving to the race, have multiple routes on hand in case of traffic. Know what the parking options are. If someone is dropping you off, look into where they can drop you off that's closest to the start. Then, if you're checking a bag at the race, make sure you know where bag check is, and how long it'll take to walk from there to the start. You don't want to be late, and you won't want to be rushed. Make everything easier on yourself by being super prepared.
8. Double-knot your shoes.
Not too loose, not too tight, and knotted like a pro.
9. Go to the bathroom again.
10. Line up in the proper corral.
If you're at a large race, your bib number might determine where you'll start. If not, try to gauge the people around you, and don't be afraid to ask someone if you're in the right place. The faster runners start at the front, and slower runners or walkers should start toward the back. It's important for you and your fellow racers that you line up appropriately. If you line up too close to the start, you risk getting trampled. If you're too far back, you'll spend the first mile weaving around people slower than you. (First race? Here are eight things that may surprise you along the way.)
11. Respect the National Anthem.
Most races will play some rendition of the National Anthem before the race starts. Sometimes you'll be treated to an awesome live singer, and other times you'll get a prerecorded, barely audible version. Whatever the variation, be polite. If you've been blasting music through your headphones, put it on pause. If you're wearing a hat, take it off. If you're mid-Snapchat, save the Snap for post-race.
12. Stick to your pace plan.
This is your reason. That person next to you sprinting off the start line? You'll catch him later on. Run your race and stick to your plan. (Need a plan for next time? Consider working with a running coach.)
You got this.
14. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
That's really all this is, right?
15. Finish. Smile. Celebrate.
You did it!