8 Common prerace blunders to avoid

It's all too easy to mess up months of training with what you do-or don't do-in the days leading up to a race. Here are 8 common prerace blunders, plus tips on how to avoid them, so you won't sabotage all your hard work come race day.

1. EAT TONS Since you're supposed to load up. "I had a send-off barbecue before my first half-marathon," says Runnersworld.com user Runaway Girl. "Lots of red wine and steak was what I was tasting all through the next day." Ben Gruen of Bridgeport, Connecticut, says pizza and fries the night before the New York City Marathon meant five extended porta-potty stops. "It cost me 25 minutes."

Avoid it: Don't eat more food than you're used to in the days leading up to the race. If you're training for a half-marathon or marathon, you can stock your body's energy supply by keeping the amount of food you eat the same but increasing the percentage of carbohydrates.

2. WAIT TO GO There are so many porta-potties, why go early? "At the Edinburgh Marathon in Scotland, I was in a very long line for the bathroom," says Jonathan Kinghorn. "I missed the start entirely and emerged to see the last runners disappearing over the crest of the hill."

Avoid it: Go to the bathroom before you leave and right after checking in at the race. If bib number pick-up happens before race day, hit the porta-potties as soon as you get to the race site.

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3. GO OUT FAST! "I achieved a five-minute half-marathon personal best, but I still had another 13.1 miles to go," says Scott Kretzmann of Detroit. "I went out at a 5:41 pace when my aim was 6:15s, and ended up walking," says Jeff Barry of Havertown, Pennsylvania.

Avoid it: It's hard to resist the temptation to blast off at light speed. But trust us, this is a painful way to race. Do whatever it takes to stay on your goal pace, whether that means running with a pace group, repeating "pass no one," or wearing a GPS watch with real-time feedback.

4. GET LOST Because where's the challenge in running the actual course? Somehow, Ian Messier of Buckeye, Arizona, got turned around in a race. "I finished from the wrong direction, coming toward everyone's back."

Avoid it: Review the course map well in advance and, if you can, drive or bike the route and take note of landmarks. Follow course marking or officials' directions on race day.

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5. GET HURT "Before my first marathon, I went to my office Christmas party and stayed up late dancing and doing the limbo," Leticia Miles of Rowlett, Texas, says. "My legs were shot and I struggled through the whole race." "I showed off my perfect form for lunges and squats before a triathlon," says Michael Eckert of Fort Gratiot, Michigan. "It's hard to go fast with a sore butt."

Avoid it: In the week leading up to the race, don't do anything you're not used to, including new exercises-or even familiar ones that you haven't done in a while.

6. TRAVEL LIGHT "I left my race packet in the car and had no bib, no chip, and no time to go back," says Melissa Pierre of Pine, Colorado. Glenn Larsen of Hamilton, New Zealand, says he realized about 10 minutes before a duathlon that he had packed two left shoes. "It became my debut barefoot race!" Joann Hatton of Utah says, "I was so worried about the predicted weather for a race that I packed three sets of running clothes. Unfortunately not a running bra, so I ran in a regular bra. It wasn't pretty!"

Avoid it: Start piling up the things you'll need for the race as early as a week beforehand. Make an "invisible person" by laying out your clothing so you can identify any missing pieces.

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7. FORGET THE DETAILS... "I showed up a day early for a local 5-K," says Mark Saxton of Dallas. RW's own Executive Editor Tish Hamilton flew to Lincoln, Nebraska, for a marathon she neglected to register for. Jessica Hanthorn of Braintree, Massachusetts, ran out of gas on her way to a half. A kindly state trooper gave her a ride to the start-at 95 mph.

Avoid it: A week before the race, double-check everything: date, starting time, address, parking details, hotel reservations, and, yes, your race registration.

8. CHANGE IT UP! "I ran a marathon in shoes I got at the expo for a great price," says Runnersworld.com user Mcardlekicks of Niagara Falls, New York. "A two-mile fun run the day before a race will not break in new shoes." Melissa Templeton of Lafayette, Indiana, tried sports beans for the first time. "By mile nine, I was seriously considering ringing someone's doorbell and begging to use their bathroom."

Avoid it: Like in #6, make sure to pack everything you'll need and beware trying new gear or fuel purchased at the race expo. Stick to your normal eating and hydrating routines as much as possible.

What's the worst mistake you've ever made right before or during a race? Were you able to recover from it?

Susan Rinkunas is an associate editor at Runner's World, a magazine (and website) that informs, advises, and motivates runners of all ages and abilities-and we mean it. Her blog on Yahoo! Shine offers tips on running technique, nutrition and weight loss, shoes and apparel, and balancing fitness and life

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