It's coming. You can't back out now......well, you could but then you won't get the bragging rights and finishers medal for crossing the line. Sunday morning is closing in fast and if you're like most runners, (new and experienced alike) you're starting to get nervous. A bit of anxiousness is definitely normal but getting yourself too worked up can lead to a bad performance come race day.
The key is staying calm and focused, and as race day approaches there are a few things you can do to manage your stress levels and get the job done.
Here are 5 tips that will help you get prepared to race like a pro.
2 Nights Out Rule
I'm talking about sleep for this one. THE most important night of sleep is going to be on Friday, so make it a good one. The more sleep you can get the better. 8 - 10 hours would be perfect if you can make it happen. Here's why Friday is such a key night for some big time shut-eye.
You will sleep like crap Saturday. Deal with it.
Sorry to be so blunt, but its pretty much a given that Saturday night you won't get a lot of quality sleep. Even if you go to bed super early, your alarm is going off at the crack of dawn and you will struggle to let your mind slow down. You may even worry about the alarm not going off, so just accept the fact that Saturday night is not usually your best sleep.
Simply accepting this will take off some pressure, so you won't lay there and get even more anxious about the fact that you can't sleep. Ever try and force yourself to fall asleep? Never works. The harder you try, the harder it is. By going into Saturday night with this as a possibility may actually provide you with a better sleep than you imagined.
Shake It Out Baby
First thing Saturday morning you have a date with your runners. You want to get out for a 15 - 20 minute super relaxed "Shake out" run, before you spend the rest of the day resting and preparing to race on Sunday.
The purpose of the run is twofold. Firstly it's a great way to promote blood flow to the legs and help to loosen up any tightness you may have. Secondly and more importantly it's a good mental distraction and opportunity to get out and do the one thing that keeps you relaxed.......run!
You've should have been tapering leading into the race with reduced volume and intensity which is beneficial physically, but can be hard mentally. A shake out run gives you a chance to get out and feel good on your feet. The big key here, however, is to run relaxed. You need to save your energy and allow recovery, so resist the urge to push or "feel" your race pace.
Relax, visualize the race, and enjoy a casual run.
Do Some Homework
Hopefully, you've familiarized yourself with the course profile several weeks in advance and have a good sense of the elevation and layout. On the day before the race, while relaxing, it's a great time to review the course again and make some mental notes.
Make note of key landmarks and aid station locations. Where are the turns? Where do you plan to line up at the start line? These simple things may seem small, but it helps you to step up to the line on race day morning with fewer unknowns to deal with.
Personally, I like to watch videos on Youtube (which I can find often) of the course, which gives me a nice mental picture of what I'm going to be facing. Often there will commentary on the videos, pointing out key spots and things to consider on the course. This helps to reduce the number of things I need to think about on race day and gives me a feeling of control which ultimately helps me to relax as it's the unknown that causes the most anxiety.
Race Day Arrival
Get to the race early, but not too early. My typical arrival time is about 75 minutes before gun time, which gives me enough time to get prepared, but not so much time that I'm sitting around waiting and letting the nerves build up.
You will need to give yourself time to get to the race, find parking and get situated, so make sure you know exactly where you're going and how you're getting there. There's nothing worse than having to scramble right before a race to get there on time or get surprised by road closures and detours on the way in. Save your adrenaline for the race.
You want to give yourself enough time for a bathroom stop when you get there, a warm up, bag drop and likely another bathroom stop before you run. Bigger races will call you into the starting corrals in advance of the race, so give yourself a 15 minute buffer for that as well.
Trust The Process
On race day there is a good chance that you will second guess yourself and question if your goal is even realistic. If it's your first marathon or your longest distance yet, you may even doubt your ability to finish. The reality is.....you can and you will.
Sure things can happen that are not planned but you've put in the work, ran the miles, and have a solid training plan behind you. Trust the process and know that you've earned the right to put your toe on the line and race.
Final Thought - It's normal and a good thing for you to be nervous on race day. It's your body's way of preparing for the work in front of you and it shows that you respect the distance. The key is to not let your nerves get the best of you and take away your focus.
Happy Running. Happier Racing!