When I signed up for my first Chicago marathon, I was nervous from the moment I signed up in February until the day of the race in October. That was awful, and as most of you know, I had a terrible race experience. I couldn't get my nerves under control. I learned that day that I never want to feel like that again. Clearly, I've done a lot of work, and am in such a better place now. Yes, I still get nervous before races, but instead of being terrified, I am excited. And that nervous excitement gets me to the start line and gets a little adrenaline flowing in my veins. I get excited to put all the training to the test. And I get excited thinking about crossing the finish line and going home with another medal. I actually like this feeling, and I think it's one of the reasons I like to race!
We have to expect to feel nervous before we race. It's normal. For me, the hardest part about running races is waiting at the starting line.
It's really helpful though, if you have thought ahead and taken care of the little details for your race. That way, while you're waiting for the race to start, you can observe the crowd around you, soak up the energy, and mentally prepare yourself to run.
Even the night before a race, I lay out my race day outfit and pin my bib to my shirt. Of course, I have been stalking the weather for about a week, and have already planned multiple outfits, depending on the conditions. I set my alarm and check it compulsively. My gear is laid out on the kitchen counter, ready for me to grab it and go in the morning. My coffee is in the pot, ready to brew. I review the race course and the location of the aid stations one last time, even though I have looked at this multiple times now and could probably run it in my sleep.
By controlling what I can control, I change my nervous anticipation into excited anticipation. I can focus my energies on the event at hand instead of worrying about all the little details that go into running a race.
Of course, there are always things you have no control over, things that happen that you can't plan for. For example, at a recent half marathon, even though I thought I put enough cream in my chafeable areas, one thing I didn't anticipate was the warm temperatures and amount of sweating I would do. While I didn't really feel the pain while I was running, on the drive home, I started to get uncomfortable, and knew that taking a shower would be painful. And it was. Live and learn, right?
Another time, I was out on a long run up in rural Wisconsin. My handheld bottle sprung a leak, and all my fuel leaked out at mile 5 on a 12 miler. It was hot, and I was really nervous about being without water. I ran by a few homes where the garage doors were open and there were cases of water inside. I just couldn't bring myself to run in and take one though. Finally, I ran by a house where a bunch of hungover people were sitting in the yard. They gladly gave me a bottle of water, and saved me. After that experience, I changed the way I carry my fuel.
One thing you really can't control is the weather. All the best planning, and it could still pour on you. Or the temperature could rise much faster than you expect, and you end up being overdressed. I've had both things happen to me. Now I check a bag with extra clothes to change into in case of the unexpected.
The final preparation that you have to do is to think positive thoughts. None of that "I can't do this" or "what if I don't finish?' Remember that mental exercise Becky had me do last summer? Actually, it wasn't an exercise as much as it was a threat.
"For every negative word or "I can't" that comes out of your mouth, you have to do 10 burpees. No matter where you are or what you are doing. " -BeckyAfter she said this to me (multiple times, I might add), I'd get the giggles every time I have some moments of self doubt. At work, doing burpees in the hallway? Yikes! And during the Chicago marathon, at mile 23? On Michigan Avenue? I started laughing, and I think all the runners around me thought I was delirious. That is, the ones that weren't laying on the ground, writhing in pain or vomiting! While I felt badly for them, I drew strength from that fact that I was still going. And that I felt pretty good. Clearly, Becky's method worked for me.
Trust your training. You did all the work to prepare for this moment, and now is the time to put it on the road. Remind yourself of how hard you trained. Focus on those workouts that went really well. Think about the miles where you told yourself, "I think I can do this!" And if you don't do this during your training runs, you need to! This mental prep starts with your training.
The most important thing to remind yourself is why you do this. Running is fun! Even though it's hard, and maybe it doesn't always feel fun in the moment. But remember how good you feel when you cross that finish line. Draw on that experience to take you to your next race. And get excited all over again.
What do you do to prepare yourself for a race? Or any big event? Do you get nervous just thinking about it?
I'm linking up with Deb Runs for Wednesday Word! See what everyone else has to say about anticipation.
And Diatta and Sheila for Workout Wednesday! Another great link up with a variety of awesome posts!
And Annemarie, The FitFoodieMama at Wild Workout Wednesday!