Have you finally signed up for your first big race? You might feel excited and nervous. That’s okay! These feelings are entirely normal. If you’re reading this right now, you’re already on the right track. Preparation before the big day leads to a successful race. 

Let’s examine common race day mistakes. What should you prepare for? What exactly can you expect on race day? 

Common Race Day Mistakes

MISTAKE #1: Not Warming Up

Get to the start line early enough to squeeze in a warm-up. You’ll probably see other runners doing the same. Performing a mix of dynamic stretches, such as leg swings or lunges, along with a few little jogs back and forth, can help your body get prepared for the race to come. Plus, by warming up, you’ll significantly reduce your risk of injuries.

MISTAKE #2: Skipping Hydration Stations

Hit up every single water station, especially if you aren’t carrying your water. Staying hydrated is essential for a happy and successful race. Dehydration can actually become a severe medical emergency. Your body needs water, and if you are losing a ton of it by sweating, you need it even more.

MISTAKE #3: Not Knowing the Race Route

Do your research on the particular race you’re about to run. If it’s a local race, it may even benefit you to run the route or part of it before. Look it up on the race website and then examine the route and terrain through Google maps. If possible, drive through the course beforehand and take some notes.

This can help you determine where any hills or tough spots might be located. It can also guide your training. For instance, if there is a tough hill in the middle of the route, you can train for it beforehand. Thus, nothing will come as a surprise on race day.

MISTAKE #4: Trying Out New Gear on Race Day

Never wear new gear or try new foods on the race day. You should have worn your shoes long in advance, as well as ran in your shorts, pants, or shirt before. Further, test any gel packs or quick pick-me-ups before the race day. The same goes for any type of nutrition. In other words, don’t switch up your regular breakfast on your race day; you don’t want any discomfort mid-race or a reason to have to use the bathroom on the route.

MISTAKE #5: Forgetting to Enjoy the Day

Live in the moment! Take it all in. Race days can be such fun experiences, especially if you’re running with family or friends.

What to Expect During Your First Big Race

Before race day, you want to pick up your running kit. The running kit includes your bib, time chip, and sometimes some extra goodies, like a running shirt or a protein bar. Usually, you will get an email outlining when and where to pick up your kit.

When you sign up for your race, you will have to choose a group. This group signifies the time that you estimate that you will cross the finish line. This helps limit passing runners and fits you near a pace bunny suited to you and your stride

You’ll also want to pin your bib number on your shirt, as well as attach the timing chip to your shoe or bib. Use the bathroom before you find your group or warm-up. 

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When the gun goes, you go, along with the rest of the runners. At the time, it may be best to align yourself with a pace bunny who should be holding a sign for their ideal finish time. It can help you keep a solid pace the entire run.

When you cross that finish line, there are often snacks and cheers waiting for you. In some races, you get a ton of snacks and a medal, while in others, you may only get water or Gatorade. Overall, you should be feeling victorious at the finish line. You made it! There is no more incredible feeling than accomplishing the goal you set out to do.

Tips to Ensure You Stay on Track

Alright, so how can you ensure you stay on track and don’t make any newbie mistakes? Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t stop! If you stop, you may not want to keep going, so keep running. Start slowly and increase your speed gradually. 
  • Ensure you replenish water, electrolytes, and calories. It may mean making sure you grab water at each hydration station or heading out for a big brunch after the race.
  • Stick to your routine. Remember, race day is not the time to start new traditions. Use your trusted shoes and clothes. Begin the day as you would for any other run. 
  • Prepare for blisters and chapping. Bring blister bandaids or cover blisters you already have.
  • Explore the route beforehand. Get to know it, so you are aware of what exactly to expect.


Simply becoming more aware of the beginner mistakes on race day can help you avoid them. These tips will guarantee your success during your first big race. 

Key takeaways:

  • Get there early and warm-up.
  • Stay hydrated before, after, and during the race.
  • Explore the route virtually or in person before you run it.
  • Stick to the same routines and same gear.
  • Have fun!
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Written by

Chris Zibutis

Chris Zibutis is the Head Running Coach and founder of Joggo – that one person on earth who loves interval runs.  He holds a degree from Copenhagen Business School and is an avid runner – having participated in numerous marathons and triathlons, Chris brings substantial fitness and running experience to the Joggo team.