All runners, from the first time racer to the elite athlete, get anxious before race day. Being nervous is natural, but knowing how to manage your nerves is key to working synergistically with your body and enjoying your day. Here are some tips that can help keep you focused.
- Don’t compare yourself to other runners. If this is your first race, you’ll quickly realize that the running community is supportive like no other! No one is ever out of place at the starting line because we’re all in it together. Relax and know that you are not out of place, and that even the most veteran of runners are happy to see you out there with them.
- Review the 5K route before race day. Even though it’s near impossible to get lost, some runners worry about missing a turn. You could even walk or drive the route to get a sense for the terrain of the course.
- Don’t dress too warmly. This is a common mistake, especially because races start so early in the morning. You will warm up as soon as you begin running, and if you need to stay warm leading up to the start of the race try using a trash bag. Simply cut a hole for your head and put it on upside down (cutting arm holes is up to you, it’s warmer if you don’t). You will be amazed by how warm this will be, particularly if it is windy. You can take the bag off just before the race begins. Bags can be disposed of quickly, whereas clothing has to be stashed carefully in the hopes that it will still be there when you return for it!
- Don’t worry about finishing last. Even though this can be a real fear, especially for new runners, just remind yourself that you’ve done the training. Plus, most 5Ks are community events serving a community need. There are usually a fairly large number of walkers who will simply walk from start to finish. And even if you do finish last, so what? When you cross the finish line you will find a warm, welcoming community of runners cheering you on!
Before Race Day
Take some time to close your eyes and visualize your race day. Think about everything from getting up in the morning, getting your gear ready, what you will eat, getting to the race site, and of course, visualize the race itself. Picture yourself performing exactly to your goals. Visualizing is a powerful meditative tool that helps calm our nerves. It may also help you think about things you will need for the 5K that you had not already thought about.
Get off your feet as much as possible in the days leading up to the 5K, and get everything ready for your race the night before. Check the weather forecast to ensure you’re bringing all the gear you need, and be sure to pack something comfortable and dry to wear after you finish. If you don’t sleep well the night before the race, don’t worry about it. More than likely it will not affect your performance. Good rest in the week leading up to the race is much more important.
What to Eat: Avoid eating anything that could upset your stomach. Avoid high fiber foods and fatty foods, especially the night before your 5K. Some may tell you to load up on carbohydrates, but we simply recommend eating the food your body is already used to. Carbo-loading is more for long races. Stick to what you know works and feels good to you. Eat a light breakfast on the morning of your race — nothing too heavy!
Race day brings excitement and adrenaline. Keep your goals for the race fresh in the front of your mind, and stay positive. One very simple way to stay upbeat is to thank race volunteers before, during, and after the race. They have given up their time to be there to support you, and without them, most races could not take place. All volunteers love to hear that what they are doing matters to someone. Be that someone!
After the Race
Try to find something with a mix of protein and good carbohydrates to help you recover better in the few days following the race. Consume those calories within thirty minutes of your finish time. Electrolyte drinks, water, and fruit, like bananas, are great for recovery. You’ll start cooling down quickly, so get out your dry clothes to stay warm.
Don’t be surprised when you are sore the next day. Though it may seem counterintuitive, the best then you can do to get over the soreness is to do something active. Low impact exercises like swimming, cycling, using an elliptical machine, or even going for a walk will help your muscles recover.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
God wants us to be prepared for our daily battles by remaining faithful to Him, and He wants us to understand that our lives are not 100 meter races, they are marathons. Just like we have to prepare for the 5K race we are running this Saturday, we also need to focus on all the little things it takes to enable us to live for Him.
See you on Saturday!