Q: I’m running my first half marathon next month. I’m excited but scared that my race will go horribly wrong! How can I avoid screwing it up? —Colleen
The emotions you are feeling are completely natural. If you lined up 100 first-time half-marathoners and asked who was nervous, you’d see 100 hands in the air. Pushing outside of your comfort zone is part of the journey.
While you have no reason to be scared—racing is fun!—there are a few common errors that first-timers (and old pros!) make that may create a less enjoyable day. Here’s how to avoid them…
MISTAKE #1: Trying something new race week
When it comes to racing, stick with what you know. Eat familiar foods, wear your go-to running apparel and shoes and don’t go crazy at dinner the night before. During the race, use only the gels or chews you’ve eaten in training. It may be tempting to try something new to give you an edge—but resist the urge in order to prevent chafing, stomach issues and pinched feet.
MISTAKE #2:Hurrying through the aid stations
Hydration and energy are two very important ingredients in half-marathon success. It can be tempting to zoom through the aid stations to save time, but when you do, you’re likely to get the fluid on your shirt rather than in your stomach. Run toward the center set of tables. (Avoid the first tables. That’s where everyone stops, so the course bottlenecks.) Next, identify a volunteer by looking her in the eye or pointing, take the fluids, thank the volunteer and be on your way.
MISTAKE #3: Getting in that last long run one week before the race
One of my clients had a nervous habit of running a 12-miler the week before the race to make sure she was ready, but all it did was appease her mind. I persuaded her to take it easy, and she shaved 10 minutes off her personal best! Remember, the most important thing you can do the week before a race is rest. You won’t gain fitness—and trying to cram in training will cause you to toe the line fatigued.