When you've trained for a race, you may be thinking more about the finish line than the start, but being smart and prepared at the start is an important part of a successful race. Here are some tips to make sure your race gets off to a good start.
1. Get to the start early.Give yourself plenty of time to get to the race start, especially if you need to pick up your race packet there. You'll also need to give yourself time to use the bathroom, check your bag, and find your corral (if the race has them). Road closures for the race may affect your route and travel time to the start, so make sure you check the race's website to find out how they recommend getting to the start. You may also want to talk to other runners who have done the race in previous years (or read reviews on websites) to find out how early they recommend getting to the start.
2. Get on the porta-potty line.If the porta-potty lines are long (and they usually are, at big races), get on line before you need to really go. Most likely, by the time you get to the front of the line, you'll need to go. Don't assume you'll be able to jump on line and go a few minutes before the race. Another tip: Bring your own toilet paper or tissues -- the porta-potties sometimes run low on supplies.
Also see: Tips for Using Porta-Potties at Races
3. Do a warm-up.A pre-race warm-up is especially important when racing in colder weather and for shorter races, like a 5K. (For longer races, your first mile or two essentially serves as your warm-up.) Doing an easy jog or marching in place for a few minutes will dilate your blood vessels, ensuring that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen. A warm-up also raises your muscles' temperature for optimal flexibility and efficiency. It slowly raises your heart rate, minimizing stress on your heart when you start your run.
4. Get in the zone.You'll most likely be nervous at the start, so do what you can to relax. If you have to wait for a long time before the start, find a quiet area away the crowds to avoid feeling anxious. Some runners like to listen to relaxing music to keep them calm, while others have loud, fast-paced songs to get them pumped for the race. You may also find that doing some light stretching, reading, or mediating will help you feel more relaxed.
Also see: Tips for Managing Pre-Race Anxiety