As the Philadelphia Marathon draws near, I’ve been thinking a lot about the logistics of the race. I found myself on my runs thinking of the best ways to succeed in large-scale races with thousands of people. The logistics of such races can be overwhelming and they can oftentimes create stress that isn’t even related to the running part of the race.
The only large-scale race I’ve been a part of is Philadelphia’s Broad Street Run – the largest 10 mile race in the country. This was by far my favorite (and best) race of my entire running career due to my huge PR and pure enjoyment of running down Broad St. So based off of that race, I’ve put together a list of “tips” to increase the probability of success in these large-scale races so that other runners can hopefully experience the same enjoyment on race day that I have in the past.
Tip #1: Plan to arrive to the starting area early. This will decrease the stress of potentially getting stuck in traffic, missing a train/subway to the start area, getting lost, and/or having to sprint to the start line before the race even starts. For these large-scale races, I recommend getting there a minimum of 90 minutes ahead of the race’s start time. Less stress before the race will increase the likelihood of you running well!
Tip #2: Use the bathrooms and/or port-a-potties once you arrive at the starting area. The bathrooms/port-a-potties will be much cleaner earlier rather than if you wait around to use the bathroom. And you won’t have to wait in long lines either! This will also eliminate some stress from your morning.
Tip #3: Know what corral you are in beforehand and know where that corral is in relation to the actual starting line. By being aware of your corral number/color and the location of your corral, you won’t have to worry about frantically searching for it when you need to be in your corral. You won’t waste energy running around looking for it if you find it way ahead of time. That way you can easily return to it when it is time to race!
Tip #4: Find someone you know and talk to them before the race or make a new friend! Don’t let yourself think too much alone before the race. You might just start freaking yourself out. Find someone you recognize from previous races, a running club, or an old friend. If you can’t find someone, turn to your left or right and start to talking to the person next to you. Talk about the weather. Talk about the race. Talk about running. You have a lot in common with this stranger already because you both showed up to the race. Stop thinking and start talking! It’s a great way to calm your nerves, I promise!
Tip #5: If you are in the faster portion of your designated corral time, sneak towards the front of your corral. When your corral is sent off you won’t have to worry about weaving through people who are running a much slower pace than you. You’ll also most likely have more space to run if you start towards the front portion of your corral because you won’t be consumed by the hundreds of other runners also running with you. This will take some stress off of you for weaving through people and finding space to run. And you’ll save more energy if you don’t have to weave!
Tip #6 (for races in chillier weather): Wear old clothes as layers that you can easily discard before you start running. A lot of these large-scale races actually collect the discarded clothes after everyone has started and then donate them to people in homeless shelters. Not only is this a great opportunity to help someone in need, but you also won’t be standing around shivering before you start your race – especially when you’re waiting for what seems like an eternity in your corral!
Tip #7: Use the crowd for energy. A lot of these large-scale races are lined with spectators cheering their loved ones on. It doesn’t matter if they’re yelling your name or someone else’s name. Feed off of those words of encouragement to fuel the rest of your race! It works, I promise!
Tip #8: Feeling tired mid-race? If you see someone holding a sign that says “slap here for extra power”, I recommend slapping it. It may seem silly at the moment and unrealistic that hitting a posterboard scribbled on with a Sharpie will actually give you power, but I guarantee you’ll feel rejuvenated by such a small act. You’ll also most likely receive some words of encouragement from the spectator holding the sign which can help you refocus on the goal and forget about how tired you are. Use the crowd to succeed!
Tip #9: Utilize water stations when necessary. There is no written rule that says you should take a cup of water from each water station. There is also no written rule that says you shouldn’t take a cup of water from each water station. Take the water when you need it, but try reminding yourself to take some water before you feel thirsty. Once you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated which is most likely going to hinder your performance.
Tip #10: HAVE FUN! You’ve probably trained for months leading up to this race. You’ve probably sacrificed some things to fit in those miles. As much as you can prepare, you never know what’s going to happen on race day. Embrace everything around you and absorb the experience like a sponge. Use the spectators at the finish line for that extra boost of energy. High five every child you see with an extended hand. Smile when you see that finish line. And when you reach the finish line, throw your hands in the air like you’ve just crossed the finish line in 1st place. Enjoy every painful minute of the race and always, always, always come back for more!