Most races start early in the morning, often when the sun is rising (or before). If you are not used to waking up early and running in the morning, you should include it in your training. Running in the mid-afternoon or evening is vastly different from running in the early morning. Your body can still be "tight" from the night before and your brain may still be on sleep mode at the start.
Tip: Try to get in runs at the same time as the start time. It will get your body used to running at that hour. This may require extra sleep the night before and watching what you eat for dinner and breakfast... both are things you should keep in mind on race day (and practice). It may be a case of trial and error and race day is not when you want to discover what could be an "error."
If you aren't used to running in the morning, fuel can be an issue. Both too much and too little. If you had a heavy dinner, you could wake up full and not want to eat breakfast, leaving you without energy mid-run. Breakfast may have to be eaten earlier, so keep that in mind. For me, I wake up an hour or two before a long run. It allows me to get out of sleep mode, eat a small breakfast (cereal and toast) and stretch.
Tip: On race day, you should eat what you are used to eating before your training runs. Race day is not the day to try new things. Stick to your formula that you know works. It's one less thing you should have to worry about if it is habit.
Something that most runners should be used to during runs. On training runs, you may not be worried about the few minutes you spend "not running." But on race day, those few minutes can be longer and costly if you have a goal time. During the race, expect lines at every port-a-potty. Every one! There are thousands of runners all on the same schedule as you. Boys have it "easier" if they are going number one and don't mind going on a tree, so ladies feel free to pass them and pick up a few seconds as they rudely mark their territory.
Tip: Go early and often. When you get to the start line, leave enough time to make a pit stop at the port-a-potty. The lines will be three times as long as they are on the course, but the time doesn't count against you before the gun. Wake up a bit early at home too, so you don't have to face the lines. During the race, it's your call. If you can hold it and run comfortably at pace, hold it. If you need to stop, stop. Make line and move on. You may loose 3-5 minutes but you'll race more comfortably for the next X miles.
These can be a nightmare on race day. The people in front of you stop all of sudden, people cross in front of you without warning, and the ground is wet and covered in used cups. If you don't plan on stopping to get water, try to stay in the middle of the road and be aware of people around you. If you are getting water, be aware of those behind you and remember that the water stops are normally a few tables long. Water is typically available on the right and left, so merge to the side you are currently on. Most people stop at the first table and a crowd gathers... you can pass them with confidence that a few feet ahead there is more water with no crowd.
Tip: If you can run with a water bottle (and have trained with it) you can bypass most water stations and fill up when needed... volunteers will have pitchers that can fill up your bottle. If you don't run with a bottle and need to stop, be conscious of those around you. Jumping to the side or suddenly stopping can be dangerous. Use common sense if you are getting water or running through. Note: the ground may be slippery from water and leftover cups. If you can hold onto your cup for a few seconds, try to aim for a garbage can. They'll be lined on the sides and volunteers (and fellow runners behind you) will appreciate it. If you don't drink the whole cup, don't dump it out on the road... you could get another runner wet and it poses the risk of potentially causing someone to slip later on. Again, try for a garbage can.
Be sure to check back this week for Part 2: during race fuel, race pace, course photos and finish line fun. If you have race day tips, feel free to share in the comments below or join the fun on my Facebook page.