7 Race-Day Fails and How to Avoid Them

Preparation and planning will help you avoid these common race day #fails

Taking preparation and training as a given (as in you aren’t heading to the starting line of a 10K after dancing until dawn and you’ve actually followed some semblance of a training plan for your inaugural marathon), there are, unfortunately, no shortage of things that can go sideways on race day.

Some issues may be averted with advance planning, while others are simply bad luck. Even if you can’t prevent every potential #fail, you can prepare yourself mentally so you don’t get thrown off your game. Whatever happens, keep in mind that you’re racing for fun, relaxation, and good health—enjoy it! Some of these lessons are obvious; others were learned the hard way. Read on to help you avoid these pitfalls and have your best run.

Lack of Organization

Forgetting running shoes, your race number or your lucky socks is easily prevented with checking and double-checking gear before race day. You know those “flat runner” pre-race posts you see on social media? (The ones where a runner proudly lays out their race-day kit on their bed the night before a race.) Well, they are great for going over your gear. Even if you don’t snap a pic of your kit, check to make sure you have everything—including safety pins. Do this a couple days before your race so you have time to pick up forgotten items at the race expo if needed.

READ MORE: 5 Habits of Successful Runners

Missing the race start

Whether you slept through your alarm, were stuck in traffic or got lost, take a deep breath. Most races now use timing chips, so your clock starts when you cross the starting mat. Running fast enough to beat the cutoffs is up to you!

Changing your pre-race dinner or breakfast or trying new food at aid stations

You know better. But nerves, racing in unfamiliar places, and not having full control of your food (especially if you’re traveling) can happen to the best of us. If you have an iron stomach, you might be fine. If not, stay hydrated and take anti-diarrheal medicine as needed. When you travel to race play it safe, and pack some of your favorite groceries, like instant oatmeal, energy bars, gluten-free bread, your race nutrition and almond butter packets.

Wrong gear for the weather

Checking the weather is essential (and easy given all the weather apps) for deciding on your kit and gauging hydration and electrolyte needs. A hat, lightweight gloves (or old socks), sleeves or even a shirt you could toss mid-race are go-to ways to stay warm. If you’re in a bind and are willing to go dirtbag style, cut two holes in the corners of a garbage bag and wear it as a makeshift/disposable rain shell. A cap or sunglasses are essential on bright days and a cap can also keep some water out of your eyes in the rain. On hot days, be prepared to take in enough fluids and electrolytes to keep up, at least somewhat, with your sweat rate.

READ MORE: 10 Things Runners Should Try to Avoid

Wearing new gear or shoes (unless you forgot them)

This falls firmly under the category of “Just, say no!” Even if you purchase the same style of shoes or shorts you’ve worn for years, subtle style changes or updates could cause big issues. Run in all gear prior to race day to ensure it works for you. Also, with apparel, be sure to wash it to get rid of odd smells or chemical residues that may irritate your skin.

Ignoring your training

The crowds, the excitement, the music, it’s enough to rev the engines of even the most level headed runners, but don’t let it change your race plan! If you go out to fast you risk being gassed before the second half of your race. And if you hang back and run someone else’s pace, you may run beneath your capabilities. Plan your race based upon your training, trust your training and then race your plan.

Getting sick or injured

It’s a wicked truth that our immune systems take a temporary hit after long runs. Your pre-race taper should help boost your immunity, but, if you get sick or injured, you’ll have to make a race day decision. As much as it would suck to have to skip your goal event, be smart and focus on your health and running longevity. Depending upon the issue and length of your event, your doctor may give you a pass as long as you promise to rest afterwards.

What’s your worst race day #fail?

Allison Pattillo

Motiv Running senior editor Allison Pattillo writes about running, health, nutrition, gear and travel from her home in Colorado. When it comes to gear, she’s a fan of tall running socks, short running skirts and wearing her hat backwards. Even with a BQ and a few podium finishes (all triathlons should be run, bike, canoe!), Allison finds more inspiration from running in beautiful places and exploring on the run instead of the numbers on a stopwatch. She looks forward to the day when she finds her ultimate running dog, which, at this point, may be more bulldog than border collie.