QT: Prepare for the Worst on Race Day, Just in Case…

A couple of weeks ago, I ran my longest race to date: 45 miles.

Well, the course was actually a little short so the race was “only” 43.5 miles or so.

But I missed a turn so ended up with a little bonus trail time and 44.25 miles on the day.

If I’m honest, I had a pretty great day on all fronts.

But going into the race?

I was prepared for 45 miles of misery…

A Pre-Race Warning

Leading up to the race, there were a couple of ominous emails from the race director.

Long story short, the race was taking place in the swamp and we had gotten a bit more rain than usual in November.

Ultimately, the course was changed to try and avoid some serious standing water but the race director said that there was a really good chance that our feet were still going to be getting wet out there.

I’m not afraid of some wet feet during a trail run.

But I was a little worried about the idea of schlepping through a swamp on soggy trails for somewhere between 9 and 12 hours.

Much Ado About Nothing

Turns out, things weren’t nearly as bad as I had feared.

Over the course of the ~9-mile loop that we were running, there were only a handful of spots that were truly soggy and only a couple where it was hard to avoid a little bit of standing water.

But most of the trail? Dry and very runnable.

Not bad at all.

Set the Bar Low

As the day wore on, I realized that my expectation of terrible trail conditions was actually a blessing in disguise.

You see, if the trails were really that bad, I was prepared for a long, wet day at the office.

And anything better than that was going to be a pleasant surprise.

As such, the slightly wet areas were a complete non-factor because I was expecting things to be much worse than they were.

Which brings me to the point of this week’s quick tip.

If you prepare for the worst mentally, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Too often, for myself at least, I go into a race with rose-colored glasses on.

And when things are a bit worse than expected?

It creates a bit of a mental hurdle to navigate that I’d rather not have to deal with mid-race.

Are there other examples where we can prepare for the worst and, hopefully, be pleasantly surprised during a race?

Of course.


Pretty sure all of us do a fair bit of weather checking in the days leading up to the race.

Instead of looking at the weather and seeing what you want to see, you might be better off looking for the worst-case scenario.

How hot could it be? Or how cold?

If there’s a chance for rain, assume it’ll be wet instead of hoping that it’ll stay dry.


A hilly course, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Few races are truly pancake flat.

No matter what the race website says about a “flat and fast” course, just go ahead and plan for a couple of unwelcomed climbs that are anything but flat or fast on race day.


Every race I’ve ever run features some logistical cluster.

Maybe it’s at the expo. Or the post-run festivities.

Maybe the race shuttle is running behind or the hike from the parking lot to the start line is substantial.

Not every aspect of the race is going to be smooth sailing, you’d be foolish to expect otherwise.

Other Runners

Another thing you can’t control is the behavior of other runners.

If you’re in a crowded section of the race, be prepared to dodge other runners doing unexpected things.

Stopping. Starting. Snot rocketing.

Hopefully, everyone around you will be looking out for each other and following proper runner etiquette.

But that’s not likely to be the case.

Race Plan/Strategy

When it comes to your race plan, it’s rare that things will go perfectly to plan from start to finish.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan, of course.

But it means you might want to think of a few contingencies in mind just in case they are needed.

Be Prepared

I’m sure there are other examples, but hopefully, these are enough to get my point across.

Prepare for the worst, and maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

But if not?

Is it a good idea to prepare for the worst on race day? #runchat Share on X

How Much Time do You Spend Thinking About “Worst Case” Race Day Scenarios?

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