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Here’s how to set yourself up for race-day success.

Whether your race is in-person or virtual, one thing remains the same: Planning for the big day is crucial. From devising a challenging training schedule to choosing the perfect running shoes, every little step counts (literally).

But no matter how much you’ve geared up, it’s possible to overlook some key things in the final hours. Follow our tips to get started on the right foot when running in a marathon — or even a half-marathon, 5k or 1-miler.

Preparing for race day

Preparing before your feet hit the pavement will help make your race more enjoyable — and keep you from scrambling on the day of the event.

Check the weather. Weather can change in the blink of an eye, so checking the forecast the night before and on race day will help you have the right running gear, including a hat, sunglasses, gloves or sunscreen.

Get everything ready the night before. Set out your clothing, prep your breakfast, put your running shoes by the door and take every step you can to make sure you have everything you need when you need it. You don’t want to show up late because you couldn’t find your favorite running socks.

Use anti-chafing balm. This can make the difference between a good and a bad race. Be sure to have your favorite anti-chafing balm on hand and that you’ve tried a few options beforehand to find your best one.

“Chafing during a race can be uncomfortable, no matter how far you’re running,” says Justin Tunis, MD, sports medicine specialist at Geisinger Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Scranton. “To help prevent chafing while running, apply balm anywhere you might chafe, including your armpits, under bra straps and even around your bellybutton.”

Warm up. Before you depart on your run, make sure you have time for a 5- to 10-minute jog and some of your favorite stretches to loosen your muscles and help prevent injury. Do some breathing exercises to get grounded and focused, too.

Consistency is key

If you’re thinking about trying something new, wait until after you’ve completed your run. Changes to the things you do on race day (even small ones) can throw a wrench into your plans. Stick to the tried-and-true things you’ve always done to have the best possible race experience.

Maintain your routine. Stick to foods and drinks you can tolerate and wear an outfit that you know you’ll be comfortable in. “A race is not the right time to try out new running shoes or gear,” Dr. Tunis says. 

Fueling up is necessary. Food is fuel — and you’ll need it to complete your race. “Make sure you properly fuel the night before and wake up early enough to eat several hours before the start of the race,” says. Dr. Tunis.

Next steps:

Find a sports medicine specialist
Meet Justin Tunis, MD
Learn more about sports medicine at Geisinger

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