It starts with the nipples. You’ve laid out your racing kit the night before. If you are a male runner this includes some surgical tape for your nipples. Even the most hardened endurance runner sometimes find that his nipples start to bleed, because of the friction created by the movement of the running shirt.

Stick to your regular race day diet, but try to eat 3 to 4 hours prior to the starting gun. Also make sure you drink something before the start. This may be water or your own pre-race mix, but it’s not a bad idea to add an hydration agent.

There are studies to support the physical and physiological benefit of caffeine use by athletes. Stay off coffee 3 days prior to a race to heighten your sensitivity. On race day take 3 to 6 mg of caffeine for every kg of bodyweight prior to the start. There are still some differences in opinion about how long before the race. Opinions range from 30 minutes to as long as 6 hours. Make sure you take some water with the caffeine.

One approach I have considered is to start the day with a cup of coffee, because of the amount of caffeine required, and then take some more caffeine in capsule form closer to the start.

On this topic it is also important to note that energy drinks must be avoided, because of the high amount of concentrated caffeine they can contain.

The final word on coffee; it also improves the working of the the small arteries, which includes slowing the occurrence of inflammation.

Check the weather report to see if it is cold. If so, take some old clothing with, something which you can throw away. Just before the gun goes, toss your clothing over the side fences, or run with it for a short distance to help you warm-up. Never throw your clothes on the ground, you might end someone’s race prematurely.

Be early at the start of the big races. Especially if you are a novice, you are more than likely to find unexpected traffic, no parking and a long line at the toilets.

When the gun goes KEEP CALM. Focus on relaxing your neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Where the hands are concerned; imagine gently holding a chip between your thumb and forefinger. If you find yourself tense up, shake out your hands for about 100 meters to help you relax and recover.

Don’t follow the frenzied masses. Start slow, be disciplined and stick to your race plan. This includes NOT weaving in and out of the crowd of runners, wasting energy in the process. If you execute your plan well you will start passing runners in the latter part of the race.

Always keep going forward. Never go backwards, sideways or spend time at a water point. This can cost you the race – especially in an ultra.

Your race feeding normally starts 45 to 60 minutes into the race. NEVER TRY SOMETHING NEW ON RACE DAY. If you have not experimented with this you will begin by calculating a high end and a low end to yield a range for appropriate hourly carbohydrate intake. The range should be adjusted in time based on individual differences and effort level.

The high end is determined by bodyweight x 1.0 = grams of carbohydrates per hour.

The low end is determined by bodyweight x 0.7 = grams of carbohydrates per hour.

Remember to take some water after feeding. An hydration mix with water somewhere in your race can also be beneficial.

Don’t eat or drink during the final 5% of the race – unless you feel you really need it.

If you are on the road for more than 2 hours, make sure you have a recovery drink within minutes after you finish. It should include protein and carbohydrates … and drink some water.

Last but not least, enjoy it. Don’t make yourself miserable in the pursuit of a personal best time, rejoice in your ability to run.

(This information is based on current peer reviewed research. I will update when there are new developments.)

As a runner you should follow a healthy diet, not a fad diet. Also take note that a runner’s nutritional needs are different from those of sedentary individuals. Long-distance running, and especially endurance running, increases the nutritional needs of the body. Ideally you should have regular medical checkups to keep an eye on your nutrient levels.

Here are a few key areas of importance before a race.

Hydration

Make sure you drink water every day. Your urine is a basic indicator. It should be a light yellow.

To help improve nutrition you can add some chia seeds to your water. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, vitamins & antioxidants.

Diet

Stick to your regular, healthy diet. Do not make big changes to your diet the weeks before the race. You should aim for about 5 – 8 grams of carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight per day, and 1 – 1.6 grams of protein.

Do not load your body with large amounts of carbs the night before the race. You might end up feeling bloated the next morning. Anxiety about the race can also impact digestion, adding to your discomfort.

You may want to add Rooibos tea to your diet at some point. It is a natural bronchodilator – helps you breath easier.

Tea made from Mullein flowers and leafs helps clear congestion in the lungs and soothes irritated mucus membranes. It is also an anti-inflammatory.

Nutrients

Ideally your diet should be rich in all the essential nutrients. Have it checked from time to time. Your doctor will prescribe a supplement where necessary.

The key nutrients for runners are iron, vitamin B, magnesium, zinc and vitamin E.

Iron

Iron helps power a runner by providing the muscles with oxygen, without it aerobic capacity is hampered and fatigue sets in prematurely.

The mineral is lost through sweat, and footstrike, which damages red blood cells in the feet. Vitamin C helps to retain the mineral in the body.

When you have your iron levels checked, also ask for a check on your ferritin levels. Ferritin is a protein that stores iron and releases it when needed. Ferritin binds with iron, keeping it from becoming a free radical in the body. Runners must have good ferritin levels.

Vitamin B

Vitamin B keeps your nerve and blood cells healthy, and plays a role in many metabolic processes that are directly related to running performance. A deficiency results in tiredness and weakness.

Magnesium

It is well known to runners that constant cramping of the legs is often an indicator of a lack of magnesium. Among the many biochemical functions it performs in the body, energy production is of special interest to us.

Zinc

Zinc helps us process the carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and is vital for a healthy, high-performing immune system that will prevent you from getting sick. It also helps to kill bacteria and viruses should you become sick.

Vitamin E

The longer distances you run, the more vitamin E you need. Intensified exertion brought on by high mileage produces more oxidative stress. Vitamin E is an antioxidant which helps guard cells from potential damage by combating oxidation.

Preventative supplements

One of a runner’s greatest fears is falling ill before a big race. Try to avoid contact with other people as much as possible the week before your race. Stay away from public places like movies or restaurants, and especially schools and hospitals.

Runners tend to turn to preventative medicine during this time. Because we can not always be sure of the effect of these supplements on our running you should try to stick to a natural nutritional supplement which is known to be easy on the stomach. Examples are Echinaforce and Bio-Strath.

Rest

Sleep as much as possible the week before your race – at least eight hours per night. The night before a race is often stressful, resulting in less sleep.

In the same vein; Netflix and chill is not of the menu the night before. Studies have shown that female athletes tend to perform better after a sexual encounter the night before. There is a slight, insignificant drop in performance for male athletes; there is no need for them to abstain from sex the night before.

Finally, focus on your positive experience. Nerves are normal, but take your positive training experiences to the start.