Thanksgiving Day Races – Last Minute Race Tips & Preparation

By: Holly Ortlund, Atlanta Track Club’s Women’s Competitive Team Captain


Are you ready? There’s just over one week to go before Thanksgiving Day races are slated to start. Here in Atlanta, many will partake in the Atlanta Half Marathon, but these tips apply to any race.

At this point in your training you’ve hopefully logged the necessary miles, completed several long runs and maybe even banked a few good hill or interval workouts.  With race day approaching, what should you be doing to ensure you’re primed and ready to go for the big day? We asked several local and highly respected coaches for a few ‘nuggets of wisdom’ to share regarding their strategies for the final week of race preparation. Here’s what they had to say:

Dr. David Martin, renowned physiologist, coach, author and bona fide distance running guru known to almost everyone in the national and international running community:

“Worry early so that you have nothing to worry about race day. Know the course so you are familiar with the opportunities and challenges that will be presented to you (i.e hills, tricky turns, fast sections, last mile, etc). Know the weather and dress optimally for the conditions. Have an ideal pace plan and mentally focus on a successful outcome. Lastly, start the race with rested legs and a hunger/eagerness for the challenge.”

Sonja Friend-Uhl, personal coach and fitness consultant, nationally ranked Masters runner on the ATC Women’s Competitive Team and member of the 2006 USA World Half Marathon Championship Team:

Pre-Race: Drink plenty of water and start eating a slightly higher amount of carbohydrates approximately 4 days before your race. DO NOT make any significant changes to your normal diet. Know and plan for the situation at the Start and study weather reports carefully. Consider bringing an old blanket, in case your wait at the starting area is long and bring clothes you don’t mind losing/shedding along the course if necessary.

Race Day:  Wake up early and slowly. Leave yourself plenty of time to execute your race morning plan. Don’t skip any regularly prescribed medications. Apply salve (olive oil works great too!) to areas that will chafe. Do a short warm-up about 30 minutes prior to the race start by walking/running for about 10:00 at a very relaxed pace, followed by dynamic (active) stretching and a few easy strides. Start the race conservatively and build from there. The half marathon is a long race, so be flexible and know there will be plenty of time to make up any early slow splits.”

Carl Lievers, former assistant coach of Emory University’s Track & Field and Cross Country programs and private/personal coach to numerous Atlanta area runners and training groups:

“Trust the training that got you here and don’t change things up. I always recommend a “dress rehearsal” run sometime in the last 10 days before the race. For that run, try to mimic race morning as best you can — similar dinner the night before, similar wake-up time, similar breakfast, same outfit you’ll be racing in, etc. Then run a couple miles easy, and a couple miles at goal pace. If you have any stomach issues or chaffing problems it gives you a last-minute chance to find out about them before race day!”

Good luck in your final week of preparation leading up to race morning. By following some of these useful tips from the pros you’ll ensure greater success and truly ‘earn your turkey’ next Thursday.


Still looking for a race to burn some calories before the turkey? Check out the Atlanta Half Marathon, slated to start at 7:30 am next Thursday, November 27 at Turner Field.

Register here :

Outside of Atlanta? Find a great Thanksgiving themed race near you!

Holly - ATC


Holly Ortlund has been a lifelong runner and ambassador to the sport. She was a 12-time All-Ivy League, All-New England, and All-ECAC athlete in track & field and soccer at Brown University. She was the event coordinator for the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Women’s Marathon in Columbia, SC, race director for the 2001 USA Women’s 8K National Championship and served as the event coordinator for the Carolina Marathon Association, (the local organizing committee for the Carolina Marathon, Governor’s Cup Half Marathon and other Columbia running events). She has been a member of the Long Distance Running committees for SC and GA associations of USA Track & Field.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *