You will find your own rituals before a race but here are just a few bits of advice that might make any run/race a little less stressful.
The day before your race eat sensibly, drink plenty of water and set out your race gear so it’s all ready for you in the morning. Set 2 alarms just to make sure you don’t over sleep and eat breakfast even if your stomach is churning, try not to eat anything that you haven’t eaten before, you don’t want it reacting to you half way through the race. In your bag make sure you have warm layers for after the race, paracetamols, tissues, something to eat after the run (some kind of sandwich made on wholemeal bread and a packet of crisps and some water).
Set off in plenty of time so that you don’t get stressed trying to park and if possible try to car share with someone as it makes the whole experiece more fun. Make sure you drink plenty of water or lucazade, again don’t try anything new, but it’s fine to not have anything an hour before the race starts. You will want to go to the toilet a million times this is just mother nature getting rid of the nerves, Imodium is very good for calming the bowels down, but if you haven’t taken it before a run before, don’t start now. Just accept the fact that you will need to poo a lot of times before the start line (And so will the rest of the runners hence antibacterial hand wash after you have been to the loo and a strong stomach for the smell!).
We will do our usual RV warm up so try and find our flag if it is being used or get to the arranged place as soon as you arrive. As soon as you get to the venue, most big runs have organised warm ups but I always like to do ours first. After the warm up make your way to the starting line and keep moving around as much as possible and don’t panic, you are part of one big show and everyone is nervous around you. As the race gets nearer stand with your hands on your hips like you are superwoman/man and mentally prepare yourself for what is ahead and tell yourself you are invincible.
The race itself
Pacing – You will suffer for a long time if you don’t pace wisely, if you start too fast or surge too quickly you’ll exceed your threshold and waste glycogen supplies, going too fast sets you up for failure, the result being you will either a long struggle over the last several miles or you may even drop out. Run at a comfortable pace for you and only you know what this is. So monitor your pace and race the mile you are in, try not to overthink the race and try to visualise it in your mind, set goals to get to certain mile markers or landmarks and then set out to knock them off one at a time. Take walk breaks if necessary, if you are having a bad day then don’t panic, alternate running with walking if your body just can’t keep running non stop. Better to finish than stubbornly run until you can’t take another step or cause serious injury. Ease into the run, see the first 2 miles as a warm up, stay as calm as possible and save your mental energy for the second half of the run. As you ease into the middle section of the run, let your mind wander, but don’t let your pace slip. At halfway see where you are, how do you feel, if you feel good this will give you a mental lift, if you are off a little bit and struggling then readjust your time goal. Break the last miles down, think mentally it’s an RV session and you can do it. Again just live in the mile and be assured that it will end, as you near the finish line, the crowds will give you a great boost and remember your sprint finish. Find your super strength and use it, it may be a sprint finish, it may be that you never give up no matter what, but focus on your achievement. Remember most importantly run tall, pockets to sockets and snap, crackle and pop! Trust your training, your body doesn’t know how far it has to run, it will just find the energy to meet the demands of the run so trust this and don’t give in to negative thoughts. And remember to smile, collect your goodie bag, pick up your bags and come and share your story with us all at the RV meeting point. Good or bad, it’s just part of the running journey.