How to Avoid 5 Common Race Day Mistakes

By Janelle @ Run With No Regrets | running tips

May 01

Have you ever had a race where you made all the wrong mistakes?  It’s a shame when you work so hard training for a race and have it all fall apart because of a few missteps.

I’m joining Marcia, Patty, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run and this week we’re talking about the running and racing mistakes that we’ve made!  Even the most experienced runners can still make a few of these…check out my list of common race day mistakes that you should avoid, and how to prevent them from happening!

Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

Don't make these 5 Race Day Mistakes!  #runchat Share on X

Here are 5 of the biggest mistakes runners make during a race! 5 of the Biggest Race Day Mistakes:

You’ve been training for months for your big race, you’ve put in the work, and when the day finally comes something – or maybe everything – goes wrong!  It doesn’t matter if you’re running your first race of if you’re a veteran – sometimes sh*t happens!

If you’re a new runner, it’s especially important to avoid those potential pitfalls that can really throw you off your game.  That’s why I’d like to share 5 race day mistakes I have made over the years so that you can make sure not to do the same!

#1:  Poor Planning of Race Day Logistics

When it comes to logistics, there are so many factors that must be considered before you even get to the race.  Are you traveling for the race or are you local?  Is there race day packet pickup or do you have to go to an Expo?  Are you driving or taking public transportation?  What roads will be closed?  How much is parking?  Do you have family and friends cheering for you on the course – where will they be? How will you meet up after the race? Do you have reservations for brunch?  I think you get the idea…

For example, if you run the Broad Street Run in Philly, you better know in advance that taking the subway Broad Street Line is going to be a nightmare with tens of thousands of runners and spectators, so you have to get on the train as early as possible!  You also have to know that at the finish line in the Navy Yard, cell phone reception will be nonexistent, so plan accordingly!

What to Do:

  • Keep up with all correspondences from the race organizers because they will provide you with all the information you need to know, especially any changes!
  • Make your transportation plans well in advance to avoid any nasty surprises come race morning.
  • Talk to your friends and family and have a game plan (again, well in advance!).  Know how to identify each other, provide landmarks, and be able to get in contact in case you lose each other.

#2:  Not Knowing the Race Course

1/2 sauer 1/2 kraut half marathon course map

Can I admit this is the first time I’ve actually looked at the course map for my upcoming half marathon??

Sometimes I find it surprising when I hear from so many people that they’ve signed up for a race but have never looked at the course.  For veteran runners, I get it – but if you’re a beginner, even if you’re running for fun, it’s important to know what’s what for your personal safety and well-being!

Now I’ll be honest – I did make this mistake for the Cherry Blossom Run.  While I did glance at the map, I didn’t really look at it thoroughly or do further research.  On race day, I was surprised at how narrow the running route was for much of the course, and I had no idea where the water stations were until I saw the signs.  Maybe I could have saved a couple of minutes if I had taken the time to check that out?  Thankfully, I did know about the big hill near the end of the race!

You may also like:  New Jersey Marathon Training Week 6

What to Do:

  • Review the race map, more than once!  Pay attention to the location of water stops and port-a-potties, changes in elevation, sharp turns, and the narrowing and widening of the course.  Especially be mindful if running a trail race – these can have you running single file!
  • Practice training on the course, if you can.  Several of the flagship races in Philly are along my regular training route and I think it definitely makes a difference.
  • Seek tips from others who have run the course.  Sometimes a map doesn’t tell the whole story.  Find out which part of the course will tend to have more or fewer spectators, or where there’s a tiny, but tough hill!

#3:  Getting Swept Up in the Crowd


You’re at the starting line, your emotions are high, the horn/gun fires and now you’re off!  You feel amazing and you just want to fly….but DON’T DO IT!  Starting out too fast is one of the biggest mistakes a runner can make, and it can completely destroy all of your training.  This has happened to me several times, most often at 5K races.  When I ran the Run for Clean Air for the very first time back in 2012, my friends were all on pace to run 21-22 minute races.  I tried to hang with them as best as I could, but I quickly ran out of gas.  Even this year when I ran the race, I pushed myself farther than I knew I should have gone.  And then the rest of the race had me feeling pretty crappy.

Starting out too fast is one of the biggest mistakes a runner can make #runchat Share on X

What to Do:

  • Pace yourself!  Stay focused and stick to your game plan.  Keep an eye on your running watch or app.   Of course, you can take risks and push yourself a bit, but listen to your body.  If you have to pull back a little, do it.
  • Try to stay to one side of the road/trail.  Playing the passing game will have you bobbing and weaving, and while sometimes necessary in a big race, this can cost you time and energy.  Be patient!
  • Consider starting farther back in the corral.  If you are easily tempted to fly, maybe the back of the pack will encourage you to rein it in a little.

#4:  Overdressing for the Weather

I see it all the time.  It’s chilly on race morning.  So you’re wearing your favorite running gloves and hat. Then while you’re on the course you overheat and want to throw everything off!  Balancing the changes in the weather is always tricky and takes a bit of practice to know exactly what works best on certain weather days.  Hopefully, if you’ve trained well, you can handle any weather!  But wrapping jackets around your waist or sweating through a pair of gloves is not the way to go, as it can be a nuisance while you’re running a race!

What to Do:

  • Remember the “20 degree rule” – dress for a cold weather race as if it’s 20 degrees warmer than it actually is.  And be mindful of the temperature for hot races as well!
  • Bring a throwaway jacket, rain poncho, or even garbage bag to stay warm that you can donate/dispose of before the start of the race.
  • Realize and accept that you may be uncomfortable.   You could have chilly weather all month and have a race day that’s 80 degrees.  It happens!  Just do your best and stay focused on your running goals.  The discomfort is only temporary!

#5:  Trying New Food/Shoes/Socks/Fueling/Anything!

Adidas Boosts running shoes

I love these shoes, but will be saying goodbye soon while I’m approaching 6 weeks til race day!

This is another BIG mistake that runners make!  And again, I’m guilty.  I ran the Philadelphia Half Marathon in relatively new (and untested) shoes.  I didn’t start fueling for any long distance races until last year when I started working with Kristy for the Rock and Roll Half.  I’ve had strange meals on days before a race, and I’ve tasted pretty awful sports drinks that I should have avoided.  Oh yeah, and don’t forget chafing in ill-fitting shorts!

What to Do:

  • Have at least one dress rehearsal for the race.  Make sure you’re comfortable with everything you plan to wear from top to bottom and how you will fuel (if necessary) by practicing at the distance closest to your actual race.  Again, you don’t want surprises on race day!
  • Eat well in the days leading up to the race.  Don’t get lazy.  Yes, you are going to burn a ton of calories for your race, but that doesn’t mean you should start pigging out and binge drinking days in advance!  And if you want to carbo-load, do your research!
  • Resist the temptation to try to buy all the things at the Expo.  While exhibitors and vendors have lots of great merchandise and products, don’t go crazy sampling strange foods, grabbing freebies and buying new things that you haven’t already tried before the race.

While some situations on race day are unavoidable (the weather man isn’t always right!), it’s very important to trust your training and stay focused on your goals.  Spring racing season is still underway and if you’re training now, I wish you the best on your goals.  Just don’t make these 5 race mistakes and you’ll be sure to have a great race day!

Have you ever made any of these race day mistakes or have other words of advice?  Share your stories!

Let’s stay connected! Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Bloglovin‘!

(43) comments

Add Your Reply