The thought of running a race can be daunting. Heck, the thought of walking a race is enough to get my heart racing a million miles a minute! While I am in fact a perfectly capable runner, the word ‘race’ alone gets me all anxious.
Let’s rewind. It’s the night before my first half marathon – a half marathon in which I had been training for months – and I’m walking frantically through my house, trying to keep all negative thoughts from invading my mind. I call my dad, thinking that maybe he can offer some wise advice, being that he’s run a marathon or two in his day. He tells me, “Kid, it’s just running. You know how to run. Suck it up and stop your worrying.” This doesn’t help.
I get in bed. I close my eyes. I open my eyes. I turn on my left side. I turn on my right side. I repeat this until I fall asleep at 5 am. I wake up at 6am. I force a piece of toast down my throat. I pin a paper number to the front of my Nike shirt. I make it to the starting line. I make it to the finish line 13.1 miles and exactly 2 hours later, with a smile on my face and a wonderful feeling of accomplishment unlike anything I’ve felt before.
Perhaps some of you have been blessed with the calm, cool, and collected gene, or maybe you’re a Nervous Nancy yourself… Either way, I have developed a full-proof list of tips and tricks to help you succeed on race day. Whether you’re running a 5K or a marathon, you’re sure to have some extra pep in your step as you cross that finish line!
1. Make a schedule and stick to it. Have a goal in mind for race day, and make yourself a training schedule based on your goals. If you’re running a longer race, like a marathon or half marathon, it’s important to continue to increase your weekly mileage over the course of your training period. About three months before the day of my half marathon, I made a calendar that specified the distance I was going to run each day and hung it on my fridge where I couldn’t miss it. Don’t forget to include 2-3 rest days each week, stretching, and strength training sessions! All of these things will help tremendously with you training.
2. Designate a running buddy. Find a friend who has the same race day goals as you do. If you’re new to running races, you probably don’t want to train with someone who’s trying to achieve a personal record. Try to do at least half of your training runs with your buddy. Come race day, you will know how to pace each other.
3. Fuel and hydrate. This may seem obvious, but is absolutely vital. Put foods in your body that are clean and healthy. It really is a simple concept that will make a world of difference in your training sessions. Eat small meals every few hours because a large, heavy meal will just weigh you down on your runs. While I was training for my half marathon, I ate a lot of bananas, hard boiled eggs, bowls of oatmeal, and whole grain toast with natural peanut butter. Drink water all day long, and I mean ALL DAY LONG. Always carry a water bottle with you, and constantly take small sips.
4. Don’t try anything new on race day. The worst thing to do come race day, is try running with a new pair of sneakers, or snacking on a protein bar you’ve never had before. The month leading up to my race, I ate the same breakfast at the same time every morning (wheat toast with peanut butter and half of a banana). If you know you have to wake up at 7am on the day of your big race, try waking up at that time every day for a week or two leading up to it. Your body will get in to a routine, and won’t fail you come race day!