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5 things to do within 36 to 48 hours of your first big race


The first mile of the 2015 Hershey Half Marathon.

Runners in Central Pennsylvania know that Sunday is the 7th annual Hershey Half Marathon, an event that regularly sells out with 5,000 runners. Here at Applied Race Management, we’ve had a number of people who have run the entire race, and some who have done the relay. We like the Hershey Half because it’s a well-executed event, the course is interesting (some might say it’s too interesting, with too many hills) and goes through Hersheypark and the atmosphere.

When one of us got back into running 4 1/2 years ago, training for the Hershey Half was the motivation to keep running. They had trained hard from late July and hit all of their key workouts, stayed healthy and were in the same place as many of you now. With 36 to 48 hours to go, after training for months, what do you do? Anxiety can get the best of you, and you’re likely filled with nervous energy. Here are five things that helped our first-time Hershey Half runner, which might help you:

Get in one last short, easy run

If you’ve trained properly, you’ve cut back your miles this past week and tapered so that you’re ready at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. Today, head out for a short run of 2 miles to 3 miles at an easy pace, which will help dissipate your nervous energy. As long as you’re not running hard, it’s not going to tire you out. Plus, it will help with your blood flow and nervous system, preparing them for the harder effort of the half marathon. Finish with a few strides on the track, walking on the turns.

Eat healthy

The tradition for distance runners is to load up on carbohydrates by eating pasta the night before your race. The truth is that your carb loading is most effective if you start building up a few days prior to the race rather than the night before. Take these next two days to continue eating healthy, while also not adding new foods that could impact digestion. For instance, some experts recommend not eating many vegetables in the days prior to a race because they can cause gas. And some foods can cause problems worse than gas, which is not a pleasant experience on race day.

Head to the expo

One of the highlights of big races such as the Hershey Half Marathon is the expo, where a variety of vendors are selling clothing, shoes and other gear and supplies. It’s there that you’ll pick up your race packet and bib, and there’s always a sense of excitement as other runners are headed in and out with their stuff. One important note: Do not buy shoes at the expo and expect to wear them in the race. A cardinal rule for big races is never to try something new close to or on race day. If they’re not broken in, new shoes could end up giving you blisters.

Set out all your race gear the night before

Before you go to bed the night before the race, set out all of your clothing, from your shirt and shorts to underwear and socks. It helps to pin your bib on your shirt so all you have to do is put your shirt on in the morning. Setting out your shoes and all of your clothes and gear helps take the stress out of finding things in the morning. If you’re using a GPS watch or a phone for tunes or a running app (we like MapMyRun), plug it in and ensure it fully charges overnight.

Get some rest

After you run, get as much rest as possible, especially staying off your feet. You will be on your feet during the race for a long time, and you need to keep them as fresh as possible these next couple of days. Although it might be hard to sleep the night before your first big race, we still recommend getting to bed at a decent hour and sleep as much as you can. Rest is as vital the training process as workout, and it’s especially so the night before the race. If you plan to drive to Hershey the morning of the race, we strongly recommend getting to Hersheypark early to beat the traffic. That means you’ll have to get up early and plan your travel time accordingly. We’ve found that traffic really starts to build if you arrive after 6:30 a.m.