#AskCoachAsh Episode 005: Race-day Strategy

ask coach ash_ep 005_race day_1200x630.jpg

by Ashlee Lawson, Co-founder, CEO and RCAA-certified Running Coach and Natalie Robinson, Co-founder and Chief Sponsorships Officer


It’s been an incredible ride so far, and we’re excited to continue to make space for black women’s wellness through running, including offerings like #AskCoachAsh.

This episode is all about your race-day strategy! In the spirit of Fall Race Season, we wanted to talk about your strategy going into race day. Do you have one? Have you thought about it? We received a lot of great questions from the community on this topic. Thanks to everyone that submitted!

Race-Day Strategy

For this episode, we switched things up a bit. Instead of talking at viewers for 20-30 mins, I had a casual chat with Natalie, RUNGRL co-founder and social media boss. You may remember her from the Recovery Episode 003. Natalie and her race-day experiences served as examples of things to think about, things to do and some things NOT to do. 

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that race-day strategy doesn’t actually start on race day. It should start during training. For today’s purposes, we’ll begin in the days right before the race. 

Let’s wind it back and talk fueling and hydrating the days leading up to the race. 

Ashlee running through her cheer squad at the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon.

  • Hydrate during the week. Don’t wait until the day before to up your water intake. You should begin taking in more water the entire week so that you are truly well-hydrated on race day.

  • Carb load the day before the race. Carb loading is important, but remember to keep it simple. Go with a healthy portion of carbs prepared simply and NO trying new foods the day before the race. 

  • Head to the expo! Picking up your bib at the race expo will help you get acclimated. You’ll be able to ask questions, get more info about the route, pick up and any gear or supplements you might need.

  • Check the race info to avoid surprises such as whether there’s a bag check, starting time, corral locations and start times, and what things you can/cannot have on race day, especially for international races. ( ie. water paks, bags)

  • Layout race clothes the night before. Make sure you have everything you need, take a picture of your flat lay and share your bib number so friends can follow you and cheer you on!

Pre-race/The Morning of

  • Morning bathroom break. Don’t skip this! Be sure to get up and give yourself enough time to get things moving. If you can avoid having to stop at the port-o-potties during the race, you can save a bunch of time (and discomfort).

  • Breakfast! Eat something, but don’t overdo it. And again, make sure you eat early enough that you won’t feel heavy when you start running.

  • Rituals. Some folks like to listen to music, others say a prayer. Whatever your thing might be, a pre-race routine can help with getting your mind right and your head in the game.

  • Get your gear ready. Your shoes are broken in, your phone, headphones, watch, etc. are all charged up. You’re prepared. Don’t weigh yourself down too much and stick to gear you’ve used before and are familiar with.

  • Allow travel time! Race days are often early (EARLY!), but allow time to arrive to the starting line (think transportation, parking, walking, etc.) with plenty of time to spare to get in all your pre-race stretches.

  • Jitters/nerves are normal. It’s okay to feel nervous. Remember that you trained for this and you’re ready to crush it!

During the Race

Natalie gets hype during the 2019 Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon

Natalie gets hype during the 2019 Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon

  • Pacing. You know the deal. This is DISTANCE. Don’t start out too fast and don’t weave between other runners. You’ll waste energy early on. Keep it steady for a successful race. Refer to #AskCoachAsh Episode 003 - All About Pacing for more info.

  • Get in stride. Find your groove and stay in it. You’ll have energy bursts, but resist the urge to go to hard for too long. Push for a steady stride until it’s time to take it away.

  • Maintaining your energy. If energy chews or supplements are your thing, you’ll have them on hand for the race. Remember not to take anything you’ve never tried before to avoid adverse reactions. Take advantage of hydration stations as well throughout the course.

  • Set sights on a fellow slightly faster than you as your “pacer”. It will help you maintain a steady pace when you keep a runner ahead of you in your sights. Soon, you’ll find your pace fall in step with theirs and help move you forward.

  • Push it at the end! When you’ve got the end in sight, give it all you’ve got and power through to the end.

  • Don’t forget to smile because, well, race photos are forever. :-) 

End of race

  • Post-race recovery. If possible, bring your recovery tools with you. Think stretching bands, foam roller, etc. Be prepared to pamper and recover.

  • Post-race fuel. You’ll probably be ravenous after the race, but even if not, you’ll wanta snack or something nearby to recharge until you get to that big post-race meal. 

  • Unofficial time check. Get into those results! Hopefully you met your goals, and if not, you still FINISHED. Write down your time as a milestone and something to keep in mind for your next race. 

  • Celebrate! Turn up with fellow runners and other friends afterward. Whether you have a drink, a cupcake or an ice cream, treat yo’self. You deserve it.

What are your best race-day tips? Let us know commenting below or by shooting us a DM on Instagram @rungrlco


About #AskCoachAsh

There’s always something new to learn about running. Whether you’re a beginner with no idea where to start or an old pro looking to make tweaks and improvements, running is something you can never stop learning about. We know the information out there can be overwhelming, so we’re here to help! We want to make it as digestible and relatable to our experience as Black women, but also true and informational. Join us for these recurring Live chats on our RUNGRL Instagram page.

About Coach Ash

Hi! I’m Ashlee. Before we jump in, I think it’s important you all get to know a little about me, the co-founder and CEO of RUNGRL. I’m an RRCA Certified Running Coach (I subscribe to the “do as I say, not as I do” method, lol). I started running about 8 or so years ago. Since then, I’ve run a handful of 10Ks and 10-milers, 15 half marathons, and two World Major marathons. Running and the community it creates is very dear to me and I’m thankful to have the opportunity to share these miles with amazing people. 


Ashlee Lawson

Co-founder and CEO


Natalie Robinson

Co-founder and Chief Sponsorship Officer