The Ultimate Guide to Racing


This guide provides everything you need to know about racing, from the week before to the week after! Discover things like:

  • The Racing Taper
  • Finding Your Pace
  • Proper Hydration
  • Pre Race Eats
  • &
  • More
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Chapter 1:

1-2 Weeks Before Race Day

Chapter 2:

The Day Before Your Race

Chapter 3:

Morning of your Race

Chapter 4:

Right Before The Race

Chapter 5:

During the Race

Chapter 6:

Immediately After a Race

Chapter 7:

The Week After Race Day

Chapter 1:

1-2 Weeks Before Race Day

The few weeks leading up to your race are just as important as race day. Discover the training taper, race pace planning, proper hydration, plus the importance of health and stretching.


The Training Taper

One to two weeks before race day you should be starting your training taper, which means that you’ll be running less miles and pulling back on the intensity. This allows the body to recuperate, the muscles to rebuild, the red blood cell count to increase, glycogen stores to refill, and the mind to relax and prepare.

Race Pace Planning

While many will have been training to hit a specific pace or time, others will have been training purely for distance. Either way, now is the time to either re-check pace or come up with a race pace plan.

For those that have been training to hit a specific running pace or race time, double check pacing plans and figure out your racing strategy.


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Remember that hydration starts before the day of the race; focus on drinking plenty of water and cutting back on any other types of drinks such as coffee or soda.

Have a hydration plan for the race as well; carry water if necessary and ensure you have a supplement with sodium and potassium to help hydrate you even more should the race be hot or long.

Stay Healthy

Get your Vitamin C and plenty of sleep; the last thing you want is to get sick right before your race. Take care of your body so that it can take care of you.

Stretching & Rolling Out

Since you won’t be taking up as much time with your training, use the time to stretch and roll out the muscles properly. Give them all the pampering they need to perform at their best come race day.

Chapter 2:

The Day Before the Race

The day before your race is the time to really focus on  prepping for the race; in this chapter we cover proper pre race activities, stretching, hydration, the pre race dinner, and packing the right bags.


Avoid New or Unusual Activities

The day before you race is probably not the best time to go try out that new trampoline park, or take on an all day hike with friends or family. Keep the activities to a normal or even subdued level on the day before a race. You also don’t want to try any new or unusual activities since you won’t know how much or which muscles they may wear out.

Stretch & Roll Out the Muscles

The day before a big race means you want your muscles to be at peak performance; a good stretch and a mellow roll out can help get them prepped for the work ahead.

Be sure to not roll too intensely on this day as it may cause sore muscles when done too hard; but because you have likely been rolling out all throughout your taper, you shouldn’t have any crazy knots that need some rough treatment anyway.

Hydrate All Day Long

This is a good day to carry a water bottle around with you and just be taking consistent sips all throughout the day. Remember, hydration is a combination of water, sodium, and potassium, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to eat a banana or something for breakfast today either.

The other side of hydration are the diuretics; a diuretic is something that promotes the extraction of water from the body, which means they could cause harm to your hard-working hydration plan.

So avoid some of the common diuretics such as:

  • Coffee
  • Soda
  • Alcohol
  • Energy drinks
  • Tea

Eat a Healthy Dinner

Your pre race dinner should be filled with healthy eats; avoid greasy foods, heavily processed foods, or other items that you know may disturb your stomach.

For your pre race dinner you probably don’t want to try something new or eat something that you’ve never trained on before; but instead, eat a dinner you’ve had several times that you know provides the energy you need to do a good workout the following day.

Pack Your Bags

In our other post we have an ultimate racing checklist that includes everything you want to wear, pack, bring, etc. This list includes possible things you’ll want to pack in two different bags; a car recovery bag, and a drop bag you can take to the start line with you.

The night before a race is a good time to pack these two bags to ensure you don’t forget anything specific you wanted to bring. It helps to have these things packed and ready to go the night before so that all you have to do in the morning is focus on getting dressed and eating.

Chapter 3:

Morning of the Race

The morning of the race can be nerve racking; so leave it to getting dressed and eating a good breakfast.


Get Dressed

Put on your racing gear and make sure that any items you don’t want to wear all morning are in your drop bag.

Some of these items may include:

  • Racing bib & safety pins
  • Headphones
  • Visor or Hat
  • Sunglasses

Eat a Good Breakfast

You want to have the time to eat a decent breakfast and be able to digest it well enough that it won’t bother you during the run; so be sure to wake up early enough to give your body at least 2 hours to digest breakfast. The best breakfast will include complex carbohydrates that can be broken down slowly into usable sugar.

The morning of the race is when the nervous jitters can really set in; so be sure to eat something that is:

  • Easy on the stomach
  • Low in fiber
  • High in complex carbohydrates


Ensure you have directions to where you are supposed to park or be dropped off, and head out with ample time to get there.

Chapter 4:

Right Before The Race

The morning of the race can be nerve racking; so leave it to getting dressed and eating a good breakfast.


Empty Your Bladder

Races will have portable potties at or near the startline; but they will oftentimes have a decently long line. Be sure to get in line with plenty of time so that you can empty your bladder and not have to worry about stopping during your race.

Drop Your Drop Bag

As the start time gets closer, use the items you need from your drop bag and then get that drop bag to the drop area.


Start Your Watch

Most racers wear a GPS watch to keep track of their own pace, distance, and time. If this is the case for you, turn your GPS watch on 5-10 minutes before the race is supposed to start and let it find a GPS signal.

Oftentimes start lines are in remote areas where GPS signals are more difficult for the watch to find; but the great part about this technology is that once it has found a signal once, it is quicker to find it again the next time. So come race time, you should be able to have it quickly connect to a satellite.

Chapter 5:

During the Race

This chapter is all about discovering how to keep your pace throughout the race and reduce negative talk while running.


Keep Your Pace

Remember to run your race; you’ve been training and you know how fast or slow you should be running. Don’t get caught up at the start line with all the people that take off running fast. If you run faster than your pace at the beginning, the end will be very difficult.


No Negative Talk

You’re running a race! Whether it is going perfectly as planned or not, don’t get down on yourself, it only makes it worse.

Stay positive, stay happy, and make it work. If today is not the day your hit your PR, then it was a great training session for the next race!

Chapter 6:

Immediately After a Race

Immediately after the race there important steps for recovering quickly; in this chapter we cover hydration, what to eat, and how to cool down.

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There is a reason race directors have water at the finish line of almost every race; it’s time to re-hydrate! Even if you aren’t feeling like drinking water; grab a cup and just sip it for the next hour or so. Your body will thank you for it later by avoiding the post-run headache and muscle cramps.

Eat Something

You don’t have to eat a lot; but perhaps snacking on half a banana or a couple of orange slices over the next 30 minutes to help replenish your glucose levels. You’ll be amazed at how much this helps you recover in the long run.

All to often athletes avoid eating anything for over and hour after their race due to stomach discomfort; but the reality is that a little something can actually help reverse the upset stomach and make the rest of the day more pleasant.

Don't Sit

We know you are tired! But don’t immediately sit down; walk around, sipping on your water and eating your snack. 

Once your heart rate has dropped to normal levels again do a soft stretch before getting in your car or sitting down again.

Chapter 7:

The Week After Race Day

After the race is over we suggest taking a break; this chapter is about training the week after a race and strategizing for your next race.


Take it Easy or Off

If it was a particularly difficult race you may want to take the week off from running. Other options are light running, swimming, or cycling. It is not suggested that you immediately hit the dirt again pounding hard right after a race; give your body time to recover so that your training can be productive.


Strategize for Next Time

Now is the time to look back at your race and strategize what to do differently and what to do the same. Find things that went well and things that you’d like to perform better on and work with a coach to create a training plan based around these new goals.

Ready to Train for Your Next Race?

Get a coach to help you reach your goals! Whether your goal is to finish, hit a PR, or run a distance you’ve never run before. And don’t worry if you don’t live nearby; at A Better Run we have in person training in Utah, or virtual training for those around the world.

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Post Author

Nicole Hillstead-Jones

RRCA Certified Coach & Nutrition Minor