Friday Five: Tips for Running an Afternoon Race

An afternoon race may leave you screaming “I’m melting! I’m melting!” just like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz.meltingMost of us are used to racing in the mornings and an afternoon race can really seem a bit unnerving.  We bombard ourselves with a million questions!  What do I eat?  When do I eat?  What’s the temperature? Where’s the shade?!  All of these things can weigh heavy on us when we sign up for an afternoon event.  Here are a few tips that I’ve used for several of afternoon races, which will include my race on Sunday, Race the Bar at Lindley Park 8K.

1. Food

When do you eat?  What do you eat?

This is a tricky one.  For those of us who run after work or in the evenings, we seem to be a bit better at handling this one vs someone who runs mostly in the mornings.  I treat afternoon races just the same as days I have to run after school  I eat breakfast at a normal time and eat lunch around 11:30-12:30pm (for a 4pm race).  You may have to adjust that a bit depending upon the time of your race.  I usually like to leave about 2-3 hours between my last meal and the race.  Stick with something neutral too.  I will eat a small snack about an hour before the run.  I actually eat what I eat before my long runs, a protein bar (usually just half for a shorter race).  I know that it won’t upset my tummy during the race.

2. Hydration

How much water should I drink? 

Most afternoon races especially this time of year equal hot temps.  We all know hot temps = more sweating.  I think an afternoon race is actually sometimes better for me.  I actually have time to drink water before a race vs trying to make sure I’m doing a good job the whole day and night before a race.  I just drink water with every meal and maybe another bottle some point before the race.  I don’t want to overdo it but I want to make sure I’ve had just enough.  A sports drink isn’t a bad option either sometime in the day!

3. PRP (Pre-race poo)

Am I going to be able to go?  What happens if I can’t?

This is a tough one.  I’m personally one of those that has to go at least one time before I race or it stresses me out.  Most of us are on a very regular routine in the mornings, but in the afternoon, it’s a total crap shoot. (yup, I went there!).  I find that if I hydrate well throughout the day that helps some.  I’ve resorted to drinking a half of cup of coffee earlier in the afternoon to help move things along.  Pre-race jitters may be enough to help too!  The good thing about an afternoon race is they are usually shorter distances so finding a potty quickly (if needed) is easier.  Bad news!  Smaller distance races don’t have them on the course usually.

4. During the Race

What is the temperature?  Where’s the shade?! Why am I struggling already?

Some tips to help with the sun and temperatures during an afternoon race:

  • Forget the tangents, find the shade!  I usually try to follow the shade vs making sure that my distance is dead on.  I rather stay cool then worry about a few tenths of a mile.
  • Run with a cold, damp towel.  You can use it wipe your face during the race or tuck it around your neck.  Stop at a water stop and use the water to drink and re-wet your towel.
  • If you start to feel heavy legged and you are running in quick sand, use short walk breaks to help.  With the higher temps, our bodies are already trying to cool us down before we even start running, we are going to poop out a lot faster in warmer temps.  There’s no shame in walking for a minute.
  • Wear cool colors and light running clothes.
  • Warm-up slowly.  Try not to get yourself overheated before you even start the race.  Raising your body temp early on means more sweat.  More sweat = losing water…  Keep it really easy, maybe even just do a brisk walk.
  • Reduce your pace or at least now how the temps will affect you.  Ideally, 50 degrees is about near perfect to run in.  Anything over that has a direct affect on your pace.  At 70 degrees, pace can increase by 30 sec per mile and at 80, over a minute.  Run on effort vs pace.

5. Take it for what it is

Do I have to race it?

Simple answer, no.  Just sign up for an afternoon race for the fun of it!  Most afternoon races are usually later in the day because of the awesome post-race party vs the race itself.  Run it at what I call “beer drinking pace”.  Run just to cross the finish line to earn that ice cold brew.  Grab a group of friends, run together, smile for the pics and make it your “happy hour”.  There is nothing that says you have to race it at all!  It’s your race, your pace. 🙂

Any thing that I’m missing?  What would you suggest to do to prepare for an afternoon race?

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Go be awesome! 🙂

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29 thoughts on “Friday Five: Tips for Running an Afternoon Race

  1. I love running in the afternoon, and I even panicked last week during my first afternoon race! The eating part is the scariest thing. I tried to eat good whole foods that were bland just in case my stomach decided to have any issues. I actually did a really great job and think I like afternoon races better!

  2. Great tips! I think I would presently die if I were to run an afternoon race. It’s so hot and humid! 😡 (I know it could definitely be worse, but still! I’m somewhat of a wimp when it comes to running, haha.) :O

  3. The nutrition aspect is usually the most difficult thing for me to figure out for afternoon and evening races. When I did two Ragnar Relays, I was so clueless on what to eat because I was afraid of it messing with my stomach.

  4. I’ve only ever done morning & evening races & the vast majority of them, by far, are morning. I’m very lucky, I don’t work, so basically I run whenever I can squeeze it in – often morning, sometimes midday, sometimes afternoon.

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