I write this I'm nervous about a run, or race as the organizers call it, tomorrow morning. It's my first cross country race since school. I've done no hill training and all I can think about is being overweight and under prepared!
However, experience tells me that I often can get anxious pre-race and the mind demons can start the momentum of self-doubt. And I know many other people can feel the same. And normally when I’m in this place i want reassurance and race prep tips to help me feel ready.
Despite my lack of experience on the trails, I have done a fair few road races (although in the crowds not any special times!) so here are my tips to anyone who feels the need to read some to help relax. We are all different however so you may think these are rubbish! Sorry I wasted your time if this is the case!
5 OBJECTIVES - If like me, a competitive soul, you may approach the race with a goal in mind. That's brill. But you also need a few more too. That way if your goal time goes out the window you still have many other possible achievements to smash. For example, in my recent marathon these were; Go sub 4 hours, beat previous marathon PB 4:08, go sub 4.30, Finish, don’t poo myself…. (And I’m not joking that was my last objective) Based on some of my training runs the last could have been a struggle. And it’s good to set the bar quite low!
HYDRATION THE DAYS BEFORE NOT ON THE MORNING - Toilets at races are stupidly busy. I find it stressful either standing waiting for the loo, or considering standing waiting for the loo, or wishing I was standing waiting for the loo. Literally the only place I’m happy is in the loo and for a race portaloo, that’s saying something. So now I drink lots the days before and try not to crazy drink before the race. Especially if it’s not warm. This is also helpful for mums with pelvic floor weakness.
THE NUMBER SCRUNCH - All credits go to my big bro on this. Crumple up your race number and then Smooth it out again. That way it can move in all directions on your shirt, reducing the chance of chaffage.
SWEETS & ENERGY DRINKS - For long races like a marathon, I go to town with sweets the day before. Same goes for energy drinks. I saturate my body with sugar so it has lots of instant energy. Just make sure you don't eat to the point of feeling sick! Haribo originals & Lucozade Sport work well for me!
ALLOWING A LOOOOOOONG TIME FROM WAKING TO RUNNING - In order to run empty (i.e. having pooped lots) I need to wake up hours before I need to leave the house. A price I’m willing to take to prevent portaloo poo's and the runners runs.
CHOOSE YOUR MANTRA – Some words to repeat in your head when you are tired, pushing your body hard and don’t have the oxygen in your brain to thinking about life problems to solve. I can’t even count to 100 at this stage. So, I focus on strong, easy, strong, easy and that calms me down. Your words may be different! Relax is also good to use! Being calm during a race is highly advisable because it prevents wasting energy via increased heart rates from being stressed.
DON’T BE THE BULL IN THE ‘CHINASHOP’* (*Substitute in FIRST MILE’) – A wonderful runner I know was devastated when his need to overtake everyone in his way at the start of a race meant he was weaving up round people took him up on the pavement and resulted in a twisted his ankle 2 miles in to the London Marathon. Instead of a 3.30 time it was more like 5 hours. Ekkk! Don’t stress! There will be time you get space and can make it up. Don’t risk going on uneven surfaces. Weaving from side to side adds extra miles. Some people end up doing 1 or 2 extra miles during a marathon. Try and stay to one side or on the racing line.
STICK TO WHAT YOU KNOW – Foods, clothes. It’s hardly worth telling you this but don’t buy new energy gels and socks at the marathon expo. Be careful with the hotel food. Try and have the same breakfast and drinks that you are used to.
I’m excited about the feeling of accomplishment I will have tomorrow afternoon and all the chocolate I’ll reward myself with! Happy running!