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  • Writer's pictureJames McMurray

Race Day Preparation Tips

Race day can be stressful, and stress can impact your performance. This is why it is essential to be prepared for race day. Reducing the chance of unexpected events during race day by keeping everything familiar and consistent each race is key. Below is a checklist for everything that needs to be considered and accounted for on race day. You can use this each time you have a race.


If your race is in the morning, or if it takes 3+ hours to get there, it may be worth considering booking a hotel. This means you can have a lie in and reduce travel time on the day so you can feel fresh for the race. When choosing a place to stay, consider looking at its location and reviews to make sure it is a quiet place to stay and you wont be kept up during the night. Also consider parking, food nearby, and how close to the start line it is. If it 2 miles or less, you could run from the hotel as a warm up.

It is also important to book dinner the night before, breakfast and bring pre made lunch (or go to a café) for the day of the race.

Food and Water

The days before:

There are endless articles and advice out there on what exact food is best to eat and what is the worst. It doesn’t really matter too much what you eat, its not going to make a significant difference. The most important thing to make sure you do is eat enough to fill your glycogen stores, but not so much that you have stomach issues, and make sure it is something your stomach can handle. For example, if you haven’t had olives before, don’t eat these the day before a race. Don’t risk eating fish in a dodgy restaurant, as there is always that risk that it isn't cooked properly and you can get ill. Hydration is very important, try to make sure you drink throughout the day during the whole week.

The day of the race:

Eating the day of is all about timing. The time of the race very much depends on when you eat. If your race is in the morning, make sure you eat a breakfast meal you know you can run off well, if you have 1 bowl of cereal and can train well off that, then eat the 1 bowl of cereal before the race. Don’t eat too much in the morning or you can risk getting stitch and a bloated feeling. For a morning race, I normally have a small breakfast a few hours before and that is sufficient for me.

If you have an evening race, have a normal breakfast. The timing of the next meal depends on the time of the race. I know for me that I run well when I have a small meal 4 hours before and a snack 1-2 hours before. Therefore if my race is at 7pm, I would have a meal at 3pm and a snack at around 5-6. The meal would most likely be a sandwich and yoghurt and the snack would be half a cereal bar or banana. Again, don’t eat anything too big so you know you can digest it in time, and don’t eat anything that is new or different to what you normally eat.

Make sure you remember to pack your snack for before the race and AFTER the race. As this is important for recovery, especially if you in the middle of an intense training cycle. Make sure you pack plenty of water, I normally take 3-4 bottles as its not uncommon for me to lose my water and then had to deal with having none for the whole day.

Backpack checklist

You have just got in the car and drove 50miles up the road.. all of a sudden that little nagging thought creeps into the back of your head “I feel like I have forgot something…” you decide to ignore it after going through everything you have packed in your head and decide that its just nerves making you feel on edge.. you then arrive at the hotel and relise you didn’t pack your phone charger. This is the classic runner’s nightmare. Here is a checklist (that maybe slight overkill for some people) to help make sure this doesn’t happen to you! It maybe worth making your own:


  • Spikes/race shoes

  • Spike key and spare spikes

  • Vasciline (for the spikes)

  • Warm up shoes

  • Plenty of underwear

  • Race socks

  • Warm up socks

  • Spare socks (for wet and muddy XC)

  • Racing shorts

  • Racing vest

  • Warm up t shirt

  • Warm up jumper

  • Warm up trousers

  • Spare Shorts, t shirt, jumper, trousers for another run or if rainy and muddy

  • Warm coat

  • Warm gloves, hoodie

  • Number

  • Pins

  • Water

  • Snacks

  • Wallet

  • Phone

  • Keys

  • Toilet paper (this is ESSENTIAL for large XC and road races where portaloos are the only option)


  • Phone charger

  • Spare phone charger

  • Laptop

  • Laptop charger

  • Garmin

  • Garmin charger

  • Spare garmin

  • headphones

Casual gear:

  • Casual underwear and socks

  • PJ’s

  • Smart clothes for post race meal


  • Toothbrush

  • Toothpaste

  • Deodorant

  • Body wash + shampoo

  • Hair bands?

  • Specs?

  • Spare specs?

  • Contact lenses?

  • Shaver

  • Shaving cream

  • Moisturiser

Make sure to choose clothes that feel comfortable for you. Don’t bring shoes that can cause blisters, don’t choose clothes that can chafing.

Timing your warm up

Go into the day with a plan on what time you are going to start warming up. I normally jog 1 hour before the race, go to the toilet, then do my warm up drills and strides 40mins before my race, then change into my racing shoes 15-20mins before race time. However, this time is a rough guide and depends on many things such as if there is a call up time before the race, if it is busy, I start earlier to make sure I can get to the front. If it is wet I do a quicker shorter warm up. If it really hot I do slower and shorter warm up.

Choosing where you do your warm up is important, make sure it is close to the start line, but do it somewhere flat that isnt too busy. Try to bring essentials with you that you don’t mind losing (plastic water bottle). It might be worth taking an old hoodie you can keep on you so you stay warm on the start line and can throw it off before the race starts.

It is important to plan the warm up, but always be aware you may need to change this and be flexible, and don’t stress if anything goes wrong, stay calm and just adjust your schedule, changing your warm up wont affect your performance and shouldn’t be used as an excuse for a ‘bad performance’, as this will make it easier for your subconscious to put negative thoughts in your head during the race.. leading to a worse performance. Stay confident!

Hopefully this will help you feel more prepared on race day!

James McMurray

Sport and Exercise Health Science BSc

Physiotherapy BSc



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