I have ran a lot of races. Tons of track races in junior high and high school, loads of road races over the past twelve years including seven marathons and thirty half marathons. I am far from being the fastest, and I'm not the slowest, but I have learned a lot over the years. I love being a student, so I've learned a lot through experience and even more through countless books that I've read. I love connecting with new runners and being a resource for them to answer questions that they have. I have compiled a list of common questions and their answers in this post!
Q: What do I wear?
A: A good pair of running shoes. This is truly the only thing you *need*. I spent years running, racing, and training in cotton shirts and I lived to tell about it. I only trained in giant basketball shorts in high school. And the only way I tracked time and data was to check the clock before I left and when I came home, and driving a route to see how far it was. There is so much other stuff that is fun to have. But nothing else that you truly NEED.
Q: How can I expect to get faster if I don't run every run "fast"?
A: Just by running, you get faster. If you run every run *fast* your body will be so fatigued and run down that you'll actually slow down your progress and speed in the long run. My first three half marathons (and countless 5ks) I did the method of running every run as fast as I could and then couldn't understand why my race times sucked so bad. Now I know! I like the hard-easy-hard-easy plan where every run toggles back and forth from easy to hard. Long run=hard, speedier run=hard, sandwiching easy 2-4 mile runs in between those hard runs help you recover while still building up your mileage.
Q: What do I do on race day?
A: Exactly what you do on long run day. I see long runs as dress rehearsal for race day. Finding out what I can wear without chafing. Finding out what I can eat without an upset stomach. Finding out what I can eat the night before that sits well in my stomach. Finding out my morning bathroom routine. Finding out what fuel I can take on the run that will give me energy without giving me the poops. :)
During every training cycle, I try to have one long run that's as close to a race day dress rehearsal as I can. If I'm doing a half marathon race, I'll do it on a day that I have 13 miles on the training program (or maybe the longest long run in a cycle if you're peaking at 10 or 12 miles). I plan to start my run at the time the race starts. I do everything just like I would for race day. Outfit, breakfast, wake up time, fueling strategy. This gives me another chance to tweak anything before race day.