Hello there! My name is Johnny Crain, I am a professional distance runner for ZAP-Fitness/Reebok. My goal today is to help give you guys some tips and advice on preparing for a race! I wanted to talk a little bit about the mental side of preparing for a race. The physical side of running I feel like is the side most talked about when I get asked questions. But, I think the mental side is just as important, if not more important than the physical side. No doubt, getting ready for any race takes a lot of training. But, as anyone who has ran a race before there are always doubts and fears that can creep into your head the days leading up to the race and race day. This is totally normal, everyone normal feels this anxiety and stress before a race, it doesn’t matter if you’re an elite athlete competing for the win, or if you’re someone who is trying to complete their first 5K. So, don’t let the fact that this doubt exists bother you! So here are some tips that I use on myself when I start getting nervous before a race.
Break the race into chunks
No matter what the distance I like to break the race into smaller chunks. When I think of running a half marathon at my goal pace, it can sound very daunting. But, by breaking the race into smaller chunks it can help it seem more reasonable. If I’m running a 5K, I’ll break the race into mile segments. The first mile to set my pace, the 2nd to tough it out, by the time you get to the third, you basically just have one last hard mile to run. By breaking the race into segments, it makes it easier to wrap your mind around. By keeping your mind on the current smaller task, instead of the big picture, helps keep you calm and focused on what you’re doing.
Accept the pain or ignore it
Let’s be honest here. Racing sucks. The pain is from your body telling you to slow down. That pain in the last part of the race exists for every runner. I can tell you from experience no race gets any easier, even if some of the pros can make it look easy. I have caught myself before worrying about how hard a race was going to be. When this happens I typically choose one of two options. When the race starts hurting, in mind I start talking to myself. I continually remind myself of how good I feel for this far in the race. I repeat over and over “You are looking good and you’re already almost halfway!” I call this the ignoring of the pain, I will keep telling myself I look good, even if I’m in quite a bit of discomfort! The other side of it is to accept the pain. I have used this one a lot before too. Instead of telling myself that I feel great. I’ll accept all the pain I’m going through at 2 miles in a 5K. I’ll tell myself that even though it hurts, I’m going to step up and run this last mile hard no matter what. The pain in temporary, but that feeling of running a good race lasts so much longer!
Remember all the work you’ve put in
It’s so easy to think about a race and get nervous because you are worried you won’t be able to accomplish the goal you have set for yourself. It’s too easy to get caught up on a few of the workouts that didn’t go the way you wanted, or maybe some of the runs you missed due to other obligations. But, if you are able to take a look at all the workouts you did get in- even if they didn’t go as well as you wanted. You still got in the work! I’ve had some awful workouts building up to some of my best races. Always try to think positive about the things you have done well! Don’t ever let your mind stray to think about the things that haven’t gone well.
This is the FUN part!!
Racing is the best part of running! I personally don’t train as hard as I do, just because I enjoy training. While I enjoy training, the best part is showing up and seeing how far I have progressed! Running isn’t something to be worried about. The best part about running is the objectiveness of it. Only one person can win a race. But EVERYONE can experience the rush of running a PR or doing something you’ve never done before. It’s a chance to cash in on all the hard work you have put in! You get to test your limits and see how you compare to your former self.