The 21th Dis-Chem Half Marathon, taking place on Sunday, 15 January 2023 traditionally heralds the start of the new running season in Gauteng.

With all the excitement and rush of adrenaline, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget those golden race day rules.

To ensure a successful race and achieve that goal time, follow these tried and trusted race day rules.

1. Nothing new on race day

Every endurance coach will tell their clients: “nothing new on race day.” That means sticking to the nutrition, hydration and fuelling strategies you’ve tested and used during your training, including the breakfast you eat in the morning.

And don’t try any new, untested gear on the day, especially new running shoes. Untested gear can cause chaffing and blisters, which are not only uncomfortable but can also detract from your performance if they become too painful.

Make sure you’ve done a few training runs in your vest and shorts before your race, and that your shoes are adequately worn in and are correct for your biomechanics. The wrong shoes can lead to injury.

2. Fuel smartly

The general mantra for endurance athletes is to eat and drink early and often. Consume controlled amounts at planned intervals. Don’t overdo it as this can lead to stomach and digestive issues while out on the course, and don’t deviate from the plan that you perfected during your training.

Also, make sure you eat a tested and trusted pre-run breakfast before your race despite the early start. You need to replenish your energy stores after the nighttime fast. And you don’t want to start the race in a depleted state.

3. Stick to the plan

You trained according to a set plan to achieve a specific goal time. That means your training conditioned your body and mind to sustain a certain level of effort and intensity over the race distance.

However, runners often get caught up in the excitement of the mass start and go out too fast with the bunch. This is a recipe for disaster because a harder effort in the first half of a race will sap your energy reserves for the remaining kilometres.

So stick to your pacing plan from the first kilometre to have the best chance of achieving your goal time. Only if you’re feeling good in the closing stages of the race should you up the pace.

4. Stay cool

Body heat is one of the most prolific performance-limiting factors for endurance athletes. While it’s an early start on race day, temperatures in Jo’burg can rise rapidly in summer.

Douse your body periodically with cold water, if possible. This will help to regulate your core body temperature and also allow the wind to cool your body more effectively.

5. Avoid the stress

With so many people converging on a central point, there is always traffic congestion. Don’t stress yourself out or miss your start time by arriving late.

So get your gear and race day nutritional needs ready the day before to ensure a hassle-free morning. And leave a little earlier to enjoy a stress-free trip to the start, with time left to warm up and get to the start line with time to spare.