How To Warm Up For A Race | Stay On Track

Written by Lee Grantham

Warm Up Before Your Race

You’ve done the training, it’s race day and you’re ready to go but how do you ensure you are prepared and ready to run your fastest and avoid any injury issues?


If you ask ten runners how they warm up before a race, you could receive ten different answers, of course everyone is different. Some people take longer to get moving properly whilst others prefer to conserve energy or glycogen supplies, which are especially important for longer distances. Some people will even tell you, “I don’t warm up, I just take it easy for the first few miles”. There isn’t a right and wrong answer, warming up is very individual but there is certainly an easy way for you to experiment trying various warm up routines to find out what works for you.

endurance race

Let’s make this as simple as possible, because in actual fact – it is! Irrespective of the distance you’re about to run, the goal of a warm-up is to get blood and oxygen flowing through the muscles and prepare the body ready to run at race pace from the gun. An 800-metre runner will often take longer to warm up because she needs more time to work up to her race speed, where as a marathon/ultra-marathon runner wants to conserve energy and fuel with a short 15-20 minute warm up.


On race day, unless you’re planning to run in fancy dress, carrying a bucket, the chances are it won’t be your first time running, so you’ll have plenty of chances to trial different ways of warming up in training. Why would a race be so much different?

Marathon Running

The simple and most efficient way, irrespective of distance is:


✓ 5 minutes easy jogging – very easy

✓ Dynamic stretching

✓ 10 minutes easy jogging – very easy again but slowly getting slightly faster.

✓ 5 to 8 stride outs gradually building towards race pace.


*Some people like to be working hard by the 5-8th rep, others prefer to stay slower than race pace and purposely make the start easy to stay slow and not go out too quick. This is especially true for longer distances.

during marathon

We asked 2:10 marathoner and Myprotein athlete, Scott Overall and Andrew Butchart, Scottish 5000m record holder and 6th at the Olympic Games.


Scott: “10-15 minutes jogging, then drills and strides. You have 20 miles to warm up! It stops you running the first mile too quickly if you keep the warm up short also.”


Andrew: “20 min easy run, quick stretch, drills, strides then race. Almost identical to training”


As you can see, both athletes are at the top level of their sports and despite specialising in different events that require a very different energy system, the concept and simplicity remains the same: The training has been done. What’s required is to get the body ready to let that training go to work and give it the best possible chance of success.


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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Physiology and a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition. Faye has worked with numerous high-profile oranisations, such as Men's Health, Sky Sports, Huddersfield Giants, Warrington Wolves, British Dressage and GB Rowing, providing her expert sports science support. Find out more about Faye's experience here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/faye-reid-8b619b122/. She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding.

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