Taking part in a timed event such as a half-marathon, the basic distance for a road running event, should not cause anxiety... However, a methodical approach to the big day will allow you to avoid the biggest pitfalls.
1. Getting to the Departure Area:
Work out precisely how long it will take to get from your home to the start. Take public transport when possible. If you want to leave a bag at the left-luggage office, check its location and always give yourself an extra 10 minutes or more. You will frequently find that there is a certain hustle and bustle -- or even downright chaos -- near the start areas. Visualise precisely the entrance to your start area before the big day in order to avoid any useless stress. Don't enter it too soon: 15 minutes are more than enough.
2. Inside the Start Area:
Complete the important pre-race gestures unhurriedly: tie your shoelaces tightly with double knots. Make sure not to compress your instep. Make sure to apply a layer of anti-friction cream on your sensitive areas, if you hadn't done that before: armpits, inner thighs. Male runners are advised to stick two pieces of plaster in a cross shape on each of their nipples to protect them (or to use an anti-soreness t-shirt like the kalenji t-shirt). Hydrate yourself if high temperatures are forecast but don't drink too much. It's best to urinate in the last few minutes before the start so as to empty your bladder completely and not be bothered during the race. However, this remains at your own discretion.
3. At the Start:
Stay cool! Wait until the runners in front of you start moving. Don't take part in the scrum that sometimes spoils the start. Most importantly, make sure not to fall (or to make anyone else fall). Run a few hectometres with arms slightly apart in order to create a small safety perimeter around yourself. Try to settle into your pace as soon as possible but don't panic if this is impossible at first. 21.1km, is a long way! You will have time to make up for the few seconds you lost.
4. During the First Half of the Semi-Marathon:
Make sure to follow your race plan. Don't let yourself get swayed by the excitement that reigns during the first few kilometres. Concentrate on your race technique and avoid useless gestures. Refuel often and conscientiously, respecting the habits acquired during training. If you find a runner or a group of runners going at the same pace as you, stay in the stride. You can conserve an enormous amount of energy by following the train docilely.
5. During the Second Half of the Semi-Marathon:
You have less than ten kilometres to go. If you are a novice over this distance, listen to your body and don't hesitate to slow down if the sensations you feel become outright unpleasant. It is normal that you breathe more and more heavily or that muscle soreness -- particularly in your calves and quads -- appears. Don't do anything that may compromise your successful completion. Walk if you must, but don't stop (apart for refuelling stations perhaps). The banner gets closer.