Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. There’s vomit in your mouth already, mom’s spaghetti. Oh um, wait. That’s an Eminem song, not an opening to a blog post. Ha! But it’s fitting when it talking about pre-race jitters. They fill your mind with dread and doubt. Typically thoughts like “what am I doing here?” and “people seriously do this for fun?” and “I need a new hobby” flood my brain when I wake up on race day, eat my breakfast, then wait in the crowd of sweaty fit bodies who are synching their Garmins for the big start.
I’m obviously not immune to these mental hurdles, but I’ve come up with a few ways to step over them and keep them from overwhelming my mind.
Trust your training
No one feels prepared standing at the starting line. I always feel under-trained, that I’m not thin or strong enough, or that I’ve eaten well enough to cross that finish line. I feel physically queasy and mentally weak. All I have to fall back on is my months, weeks, days and hours of training. You should do the same. Trust that your legs will hold up as they have on all of your training runs. Believe that your mind is focused and strong as it has led you to this spot. It’s easier said than done, but know you can do it. I was equally as nervous on my third half marathon as I was on my first. Get out there and make sure your hard work is rewarded.
Know the route to the starting line
Let’s just eliminate any possibility of getting lost en route to the race, shall we? If you’re like me, you have nightmares of missing your own race. I like to plan it out the day before – knowing which walking paths I need, if I’m taking a shuttle or a cab, if I have a ride. My partner has learned over the years that this is a mandatory part of race weekend. If I can eliminate ANY of my jitters this easily, it’s worth it – because let’s be honest, I have 99 other things to worry about- the starting line doesn’t need to be one.
Reach out to your cheerleaders
You know what’s funny? Certainly no pre-race jitters. I typically am anxious and angry for a full 24 hours before the race. I doubt myself completely and wonder why I am even attempting this AS I AM MORE CERTAINLY GOING TO FAIL, RIGHT?? Lucky for me, I have a huge running support system. My partner is a runner – albeit a significantly faster one than me who DOESN’T have an anxiety disorder. He has been at the starting line of each of my races, whether or not he’s also racing. It’s nice to bounce ideas, fears, and panics off someone who at least *sort of* undertands. My friend, AM, and I started running at the same time. Our goal was the same: to cross the finish line of Color Me Rad. It was definitely rad to share that journey with her. AM has slowed down her running, but she has been physically and/or digitally with me at every race. Race mornings without her support don’t exist. I can text her my panic and doubts and she gets it. Reach out to your people for reassurance and support. Know that they love you and support you no matter what your finishing time.
Wear your lucky gear
I have a pair of black lululemon capris that I have owned since I started running. They are stinky and faded and stretched out, but they are my lucky racing pants. I ran all three of my half marathons in the same old stinky Reeboks (not my best choice, I know). I’m superstitious when it comes to my running gear. I consider items “lucky” if I had a good run while wearing them. Whether it’s your lucky running hat, an inspirational bracelet, or – heck – even strapping a rabbits foot to your Camelpak, embrace the ridiculous notion of luck. Even if it has no power over your pace, it may just put a smile on your face in the toughest moment.
Lay your flat runner out the night before
I am all for preparing as much as possible, almost to a fault. However, knowing exactly what I am going to wear and where my cushiest socks are the night before the race is essential. Your “flat runner” should encompass everything you need for the day: including your bib and pins, hair elastics, gels/gummies, socks, underwear, and most importantly your Body Glide! Besides being completely prepped and ready to run out the door, this gives you the opportunity to take that ever important #flatrunner photo
Revamp your playlist
Add some new tunes to your tried and true. Typically by race day, I have listened to the same songs a zillion time. Yes, they have gotten me to the starting line and I am eternally grateful for their support. But it doesn’t hurt to mix it up. I add a few new faves to the list (making sure I have enough tunes to cover my estimated race time, cause nothing is worse than running out of music and hauling ass to the finish line in silence). My safe bets are current pop hits – with my go to’s being (obviously) Justin Bieber, Charlie XCX, Iggy Azelea, and whatever a former One Direction member has recently released. [And, boom, it’s like Justin Bieber knows I’m running at 10k on Sunday and drops a new song like “hey girl, this is just for you”]
Trust the tried and true
Yes, your running buddy might be raving about the newest flavour of gel and you might be tempted to trade your trusty capris in for shorts, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I don’t change up ANYTHING from my typical running routine on race day. To me, this includes wearing the race shirt I picked up at the expo the day before. Unexpected chafing, an unsettled stomach, or a loose running belt can reek havoc on your run. Crossing that finish line is often tough enough on its own, why add in additional speed bumps?
Visualize the finish line
This is easier if you’ve run the course before, but can work if you’re a newbie. I close my eyes and picture myself running speedy towards the finish line. I imagine myself giving it all I’ve got, passing stragglers through the last kilometer. I imagine strong, speedy legs and a heart filled with joy. Seems silly, but it can help calm my twisty stomach. Positivity can work wonders. Plus, we all know we are running the last few steps with our hearts as our heads and body have given up. Give your heart a little boost by believing in yourself.
Well, there you have it – my anxious minds list of ways to get yourself to your time corral with a little more sanity. Have any of your own jitter busters? Send them my way!