7 Things You Should Never Test on Race Day
If you’ve competed in at least a handful of races, you know runners can be a little superstitious. Some runners insist a particular pre-race song is essential or that setting their alarm clock for an incredibly specific time is crucial. Even I have to admit that I wore the same sports bra for nearly every single cross country race in high school.
Most of us recognize some of our pre-race rituals are silly, but some degree of consistency is actually pretty important. Tweaking your usual breakfast or donning a new pair of shorts could negatively impact your performance – there’s a reason runners often say, “Never try anything new on race day.”
7 Things You Should Never Test on Race Day
There are obviously limitations, especially if you’re traveling for the big day. Generally speaking, though, these are the tweaks you should never test on race day:
1. A new nutrition strategy
Changing what, or whether, you eat leading up to a race can be problematic for a few reasons. The first one is that you risk upsetting your stomach. This can happen by eating a different food, eating too much, or eating at all if you typically forgo a pre-run meal.
The other problem with switching up your diet is it can result in GI distress. This could lead to multiple mid-race bathroom stops. Some research suggests the majority of runners experience GI symptoms already, so you really don’t want to increase your odds of running into issues by messing with your race-day fuel.
2. Different clothes or shoes
Though it’s tempting to don some new gear for a big race, doing so could lead to chafing or blisters. Give any new clothing items a test run well before race day. If you don’t experience any issues when training, then you know you’re safe for next time.
3. An unfamiliar warm-up routine
There’s a good chance you warm up the same way before every hard workout. That routine should be the same on race day, too. Altering how you get your body prepared for a hard effort may negatively impact your performance.
You might decide to cut your warm-up short when aiming for a new 5k PR, for example. The mistake with this is your body might not be fully ready to go. You’ll have to waste the beginning portion of the race just getting warmed up.
4. Running with a buddy
Some people love running with friends. Others hate it. Figuring out which camp you fall under is tricky if you’ve never run with a pal before, and you don’t want to find out it’s not for you when you’re in the middle of an event.
That’s not to knock having a running buddy. Tons of people love the camaraderie that comes from hitting the pavement with like-minded folks. You’re just better off testing the strategy during training.
And you can still enjoy competing in the same events as your fellow runners. Just be honest about your plans to run your own race. Communicating with each other ahead of time helps minimize the chances of hurting anyone’s feelings.
5. A pace you’ve never attempted before
I’ll admit being guilty of this in the past. I’d get so caught up in wanting to run a speedy time that I’d go out way too fast. The end of one of those races was always brutal.
Once again, training is key. You should be doing quality workouts to prepare for your race. Strides, hill repeats, and intervals are all great hard workout options that can help you get faster.
6. Your shiny new GPS watch
Today’s GPS watches make it easy to track your pace and distance every step of the way. The downside is these devices can make you become fixated on what the numbers are telling you. It can stress you out or even throw off your race strategy, especially if you’re a first-time user. Runner’s World actually suggests using your GPS watch to help develop an internal sense of speed. Think of it as a tool rather than a performance assessment.
7. Popping medication
A lot of people don’t think about this since they’re used to swallowing an over-the-counter pain reliever anytime they get a headache at work. Things are different when you’re racing or even just running. Taking pain medications before a hard effort can lead to troublesome issues like nausea, heart problems, and diminished kidney function. Pain relievers can cause issues even during regular runs, so you should never try them out the day of a race.
There might not be any way to guarantee a great race, but steering clear of the unknown as much as possible can help. Save the experiments for low-stakes workouts.