Tri-City Medical Center Carlsbad Marathon and Half Marathon is just days away and I'm hoping to help with my Getting Rad for Carlsbad blog series. The first blog post in the series discussed general tapering tips. The second post discussed what and how much to run (and eat!) in the final days before the race. Even with all this info, chances are your anxiety level about the race is nearing its pique in these final days. Running is just as much mental as it is physical and, it may be hard to believe, but races have been won and lost based on the mental fitness of its runners. Here are some tips to keeping your head in the race.
Accept that you're going to be nervous. Understanding, and ultimately accepting, that you will be nervous will give you one less thing to be anxious about. You won't have to ask, "Why am I so nervous? Am I the only one?" Everyone is nervous the days before a race, and especially in the last several hours. Let yourself be nervous. Just keep it under control. Have you ever wondered why people hoot and holler at the beginning of a race? They're just blowing off some steam. Give it a try and you'll probably feel a little better. Once that gun goes off, and you've screamed your head off, your butterflies will be history.
Use your head. Fear of the unknown is often the root of most pre-race jitters. That's why repeatedly visualizing the race beforehand will settle you down. Visualize yourself getting up race morning, eating, getting dressed, getting to the race site, toeing the line and then running. Doing this several times before the race will make it seem like you've done it all before. Also, if you're able to, run or bike part or all of the race course. If you can't do this in person, check out the race website, as it has plenty of course information for both the marathon and the half marathon. This is a sure fire way to give yourself an edge over your nerves. If you know what to expect, you're less likely to be stressed about it.
Trust in your training. You put in the time and miles getting ready for this race. You have to trust that work and know you are ready come race day. Sure, everyone (even the elite runners) feels like they could have done more. But on race morning, that doesn't matter anymore. Know you've done all you can and you will get through the race. Be confident in your ability and what you have done up until race day.
Ditch the doubts. We really are our own worst enemies. Even with proper preparation, we still doubt whether or not we can actually do something. But we are the ones that create those doubts, no one else. And runners are especially guilty of doing this. We are so hard on ourselves. We have to ditch the doubts and negative talk and keep an open mind. When you're confident in yourself, anything is possible.
Remember that the training is the hard part. If you think about it, training for a long distance race is often more difficult than the actual race itself. Finding the time to run, working it in around all of your other obligations, getting enough sleep, eating well, etc., is a lot to do. And you are doing it for months before race day. That is the hard part of running a race. The race is the easy part. It is your victory lap around everything you have done to get there.
Enjoy the rewards. Through your training and hard work, you earned every right to be at that race and cross the finish line. Feel proud you're running a race that you may not have thought was ever possible. At the starting line, and throughout the race, look for and enjoy the positive experiences. Listen to the amazing stories of how your fellow runners got there. Read the signs the spectators are carrying (there are often some great ones out there!). When you're done, savor the joy of crossing the finish line. Stick around to cheer on and congratulate several other runners. They will appreciate your support and you'll feel great.
Sign up for your next race. Having another race on the calendar before you toe the line for this one will give you mental and physical momentum. I don't recommend racing every weekend, or even in the following weeks after a tough race, but once or twice a month will keep you energized and challenged. What's more, signing up for another race can head off any post-race blues that may be lurking. Sometimes all the build-up and then racing can leave us feeling a little let down when it's all over. Your race was something big to focus on for months. Give yourself another goal to set your sights on so you don't feel let down when this race is over.