Running a stress-free race is a lot easier said than done. Regardless of whether it’s your first, second, or tenth race, your nerves always seem to take over (mine do, at least). Here are a few quick tips that could help reduce your stress for your next race:
- RELAX. It is a lot easier said than done but honestly, the more relaxed you are, the better. I ran my first half marathon 25 minutes faster than expected. Why? Because I was relaxed and I had no strict time-goal in mind. My second half-marathon, I put so much pressure on myself to beat my first time that I blew it and finished 8 minutes slower than the first. Not only that, I didn’t have fun. So try your best to relax and enjoy the experience as a whole.
- EAT something you’re used to. In most cases, you will read “carb load, carb load, carb load!” I am all for carb-loading when I race but mainly that’s because I love my carbs (the healthy ones of course) and I eat them regularly anyway. But I don’t believe that you need to worry about a carb overload. Definitely make sure you are eating some but don’t feel like you have to overdo it.
- Don’t SLEEP the night before. Just kidding of course. Try to get as much sleep as you can the night before a race but don’t fret if the nerves are taking over. Aim to sleep better two nights before that. That’s what really matters. I read that tip somewhere and I know from experience it holds some truth. If you need to, have a glass of wine with dinner the night before (unless you NEVER drink – then don’t do it!). Anything that will help calm your nerves and allow you to get a better night’s sleep (make sure you do this early though so that it gets out of your system on time).
- Try to TAKE IT EASY on your body the day before. Sometimes this just isn’t possible. I went to Chicago for a girls weekend and a half-marathon and instead of sitting inside the hotel all day the day before with our feet up, we went out all day and explored the city. I wasn’t going to restrict myself from a fun adventure with my girlfriends just to ensure a PR in a race so instead I adjusted my time goal to make it more realistic. It’s a good thing I did – my legs certainly felt the exhaustion during the race. I was still able to have fun with it since the pressure was off to run it fast but if I was trying to create a new PR, I would not have spent so much time on my feet the day before.
- PACK YOUR RACE BAG and set everything out the night before. I have dreams all the time where I am arriving super late to the start of a race. They are actually more like nightmares. I don’t like to be late to anything but being late for a race is more terrifying to me than just about anything else. The last thing you want to do in the morning before an early race is worry about gathering all your stuff. Plan ahead and keep it stress-free – you’ll probably even sleep better too!
- Review the course ahead of time and PLAN OUT YOUR RE-FUELING STRATEGY. For a half-marathon, I typically only need one gel to get me through and I aim to take it around mile 5 or 6. If you’re not carrying water with you during the race but you are planning on re-fueling midway through with gels, blocks or chews, it’s important to make sure you know where you’re going to be able to get some water to wash it down with. Check out the race course and see if they have identified where the aid stations will be. I like to look for some kind of street name or mile marker a little ways before the aid station around mile 6 on the course map. That way, during the race I can remember that spot and start re-fueling with my gel, all in time to wash it down with a swig of water.