Everyone gets the race-day-butterflies, that nervous, flip-floppy feeling that keeps us bouncing up our toes and getting back in line for the porta-potty. A small dose of nerves gives us that excited edge that revs up the adrenaline on race day. But what to do when those race-day butterflies wage a full-scale assault?
Here are some tips to ease race-day anxiety.
Sleep It Off:
Race ‘veterans’ will tell you that sleep is hard to come by the night before a race. The more ‘important’ the race, the fewer the Zzzz’s you’ll catch.
One way to combat this is to make sure you are well-rested the week leading up to the race, with special focus on getting a good night’s sleep two nights before the event. If you find yourself tossing and turning the night before the event, try to relax and remind yourself that adrenaline will get you thru the day (and you can take a nap afterwards).
If you have never run in a race before, volunteer at one before your first big day. If you don’t have time to volunteer, then go be a spectator and cheer on some runners! Take note of how things work at the start/finish area.
Be a Scout—Be Prepared:
Pre-register for the race. This will eliminate the added stress of filling out forms and having cash handy. Just check-in, pick up your race bib and head to the start.
Put everything together the night before. Print out directions/maps to the race and make sure you have an extra copy of any race instructions that may have been on a web page or race application. Lay out your clothes the night before. Make sure you have what you need for breakfast. Leave nothing to chance. If you think ‘Oh, I’ll grab that in the morning’—stop and do it then. Plus, that’s one less thing to keep you awake.
If you tend to live more spontaneously when deciding to go to a race, pack a ‘Race Bag’ and keep it in your car. Make sure it has all the essentials that you like to have on race day, such as: gel/nutrition bars, band-aids, Body Glide, deodorant, dry socks, toilet paper/tissues, baby wipes, towel, dry change of clothes, flip flops, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, cash, etc.
Make plans to travel to the race with a friend/family member so you have someone to chatter with and help navigate to the race.
If you are racing alone, take the time to make a race-day friend. A friendly question like “Have you ever run this race/this distance before?” will open up a whole conversation while you are waiting in line for registration, at the porta-potties, or at the start line.
Strategize and Visualize:
Set different goals for the race—your ‘dream’ goal, your ‘challenging-but-realistic’ goal and a ‘happy’ goal. It doesn’t have to be based on your finishing time. For example, your dream goal could be to run a 5K without any walk breaks. You decide! Then, think about that goal and visualize yourself achieving it. Imagine what it will it feel like to cross the finish line.
Last Minute Reality Check:
Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are not there to win the race; your livelihood does not depend on you crossing the finish line first. Relax. Soak up the good vibes, take in the scenery and smile.
Don’t let those butterflies keep you from racing!