It’s your first race and you are feeling petrified, am I going to be able to do it? Why and I doing it? What’s happened to me? I’m not drinking on Saturday night and the whole family is being forced to eat pasta!
As you become more experienced you will find your own rituals but in the meantime here are just a few bits of advice that might make the race a little less stressful.
The night before your race eat a sensible meal, 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.
Give yourself plenty of time to fuel up, dress, recheck your bags. I always arrive at least 2 hours early if it is a big race as there is too much at stake if you arrive late, large crowds make simple tasks take longer, it’s just the way I am. If it's a more local race then an hour is fine, I do always give myself plenty of time though. I’ve been stuck in the loo on more than one occasion and missed the start of a race.
If it is warm then stay in the shade as much as possible, if it’s cool, wear a throwaway outfit or plastic bag to keep warm, but don’t overdress as you will warm up as you run.
Don’t waste energy with a running warm up but don’t get stiff by standing for too long either. Every 15 minutes or so move around but don’t stretch before you run if it'a big event, if it's a smaller event just keep moving from one foot to the other as you'll only be on the start line for about 10 mins.
Know where the starting line is and as the race gets close position yourself so not to get caught in a crowd and not be able to make it to your planned starting spot. Don’t panic, it’s part of the show in big races and everyone is nervous around you.
As the race gets nearer stand with your hands on your hips like you are superman 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 raceand 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 3 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.
As soon as possible after finishing, try and have a drink and something to eat, but don’t panic too much there isn’t a “special” window that closes if you done refuel within that time, just listen to your body, it will tell you when to eat and drink.
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 enjoy xx