Many of us are using training plans for this Sunday’s 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K. As you are winding down your training plan, though, you may want to consider these five simple things that you do can in order to ensure that race day is a day to remember! Although these tips are centered around the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, they can be applied to any race.

1) Familiarize Yourself With The Course

I can’t believe that I’ve been running for almost 2 years! As I look back on all of the races in which I’ve run over the years, I’ve performed the best when I’ve been familiar with the course.

In the interests of brevity, I’ll get right to the point: if you’re a Greater Cleveland resident who is running anything on race weekend and May 17th or 18th is the first day on which you run on the course, you’re not going to do as well as you will if you run on the course beforehand.

Aside from the inherent difficulty in running 26.2 miles, the hardest part of the Northern Ohio Marathon was that I wasn’t familiar with large portions of the course—you can read the race recap for the whole story—and I wasn’t able to run confidently as a result. In contrast, I was able to run a strong race during many other races (Towpath Half Marathon, 2014 Towpath 5 Miler, 2014 Bay Village Snoball 5K) because I had run on the courses before and I was very familiar with them. I had identified landmarks that I could use to gauge my distance and to tell myself when it was time to gradually increase my speed.

Time is running out; however, even a short 4 miler on some of the newer parts of the course is better than nothing. Walking the course would also be a great option for your cross-training days. Of course, you can’t run on the Shoreway, but you can run everywhere else. (Driving the Shoreway is a great substitute!) Even if you’re not running with a time goal, knowing the general contour of the course will help you identify some key landmarks that you can use to help you gauge how far you’ve gone and how far you’ve had to go.

If you’re traveling to Cleveland for the race, I would strongly encourage you to drive the course at least once before the race.


The Lorain-Carnegie Bridge is found between Mile 2 and Mile 3 – this is one of the few inclines on the course. Pace yourself accordingly! (Source)

2) Don’t Eat Or Drink Anything New On Race Day!

Experienced runners may offer a wide variety of advice about how to be successful on race day, but one piece of advice that will be offered by every experienced runner is that you shouldn’t try anything new on race day. I hope that all of you have developed or are developing race day routines. Do your best to treat each long training run like race day morning and to simulate how you’ll hydrate, fuel, and prepare so that you can find out what works and what does not work for you.

Through a great deal of trial and error, I’ve developed a solid race day morning routine that works well for me and I’ve followed it without deviation for the past year. When I wake up, I drink 2 cups of coffee, 1 cup of water, and a green smoothie. I eat an English muffin with peanut butter and a banana. On the way to the race, I drink a water bottle filled with Ignite Naturals hydration products. I drink a bottle of coconut water and eat a Chocolate Covered Coconut Luna Bar as I walk to the starting line. Much to my chagrin, my last long training run was postponed until Tuesday evening, and even though I kicked off my last run on the treadmill at 9PM, I still followed my race day morning fueling routine.


I love this stuff! (I really need to write a post about how I am a proud member of Team Ignite too.) (Source)

Preparation extends to what you take in during the race as well. This year, the race will be serving Powerade at aid stations and BOOM! Nutrition at fuel stations. If you’ve never used these products, I urge you to test them out during your remaining training runs. I’m pretty sure that you can purchase BOOM! at Second Sole in Rocky River. It’s much better to find out that your body doesn’t like these products during a training run than on race day!


3) Dress For Success!

Sticking to tried and true strategies on race day also extends to your attire. While we all want to look great in our race photos, race day is not the day on which you should break out that nice running outfit that you haven’t worn before!

You may also want to bring along some items of clothing that you can wear to keep yourself warm at the start and throw away once you’ve gotten warmed up. Cleveland’s a world-class city and a wonderful place to run and live, but its temperatures can be fickle. In 2011, race day was pretty cold. I was far from a runner back then, and I remember wondering why anyone would want to run a marathon—let alone run a marathon in a day like that—as I dodged raindrops on my way to graduation from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. In contrast, the weather in 2012 was brutally hot. We had beautiful weather in 2013 for much of the half marathon, but the temperature spiked towards the end of the marathon.

If it’s raining on race day morning, wear a pair of throwaway socks to the starting line, carry your race socks, and then change into them right before the start of the race. If you have a pair of shoes that you’re looking to discard, you could do the same with your shoes too.

Based on the projected forecast, this year’s weather seems like it’ll be great. We might have some rain, but more importantly, the temperatures will be in the 50s.

4) Before You Can Get To The Finish Line, You Have To Get To The Starting Line

Make sure how you know how you’re getting to the starting line. If you’re planning on parking, be sure to take all of the road closures into account. The great folks down at the Cleveland Marathon have posted a list of road closures on the official race website. Hotels seemed to fill up in Cleveland pretty early, and I would imagine that a lot of out-of-towners may be staying in Independence or other places outside of the city.

One thing I like to do is to park my car or to get dropped off about a mile from the starting line. Last year, Sheila dropped me off on the east bank of the Flats on Robert Lockwood Jr. Drive (which isn’t closed for the Marathon) and I walked up the hill St. Clair. The walk to the starting line is a great way to warm up!

5) Do At Least One Run With No Watch or Music

Before I started running with music, I never thought I could run with music because I thought it would be distracting. Once I started running with music, I have found that doing a run without music is tough!

Before I got a GPS watch, I wondered why anyone would ever need one. After all, mile markers are posted at races, right? Once I got my GPS watch last March, I have grown to find myself very dependent on it. Sure, I know when I’ve reached the last mile, but I don’t know when I only have a half mile left and need to start sprinting!

Although technology can be very beneficial for runners, the downside of technology is that it doesn’t always work. GPS watches don’t find satellites, phone and watch batteries die much earlier than we expect, and the day on which your good ole iPod that you’ve had forever decides to die could just wind up being race day morning.

If you use these items, don’t learn how to run without them on race day morning. If you’ve never run without them, I would highly suggest dedicating your last remaining training runs to learning how to pace yourself without a GPS watch and to staying focused and motivated without your favorite music.

As you make your race day playlist, do your best to gain a sense of how long each song on the playlist is. If your GPS watch fails, you can use your playlist to gain a general sense of your time. I used this trick at the 2014 Bay Village Snoball 5K and it was very helpful.


I hope that you’ve found these tips to be helpful! I can’t wait to see all of you on race day, and I know that we’re going to have a day to remember.

Do you have any race day tips for success that you’d like to share? Please leave them in the comments!