Race Day It’s All Between Your Ears
It’s race weekend and you’re a bit anxious. You’re looking for some wisdom to calm your nerves. I’d like to reference a quotation from the famous pro golfer Bobby Jones. [In 1930 he won the “Grand Slam of Golf.” Eighty plus years later, no one has replicated his feat of winning the four major tournaments.] He is credited with saying: “Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course…the space between your ears.” Also attributed to Bobby Jones was the observation: “Some people think they are concentrating when they’re merely worrying.”
You’ve been preparing for this weekend for 4-6 months or more. That’s a lot of prep time. Think about it. You have had good runs. Poor runs. Runs that taught you something new. And runs that proved just how fit and ready you are for your big race.
I mention the thoughts of Bobby Jones to emphasize that the only thing standing in the way of a personally successful run this weekend is the grey blob of gelatinous matter between your ears. While Jones was referring to golf, his words are easily applied to the half marathon and marathon. If this is your first ever half marathon or marathon (or even second, third, or thirteenth) be prepared for the tricks your mind can play on you between now and the finish line.
If you are in your final week, by now you have endured phantom aches and pains in probably thirty-seven different places in your body. If the left 1/4 inch of the third toe of your right foot all of a sudden begins to hurt, face it, all your preparation has been wasted. You might as well just stay home on race morning and eat a couple dozen jelly donuts and watch reruns of I Love Lucy. How can you possibly do well?
Over the course of the last few days, raise your hand if you have had the sniffles, a headache, a sore throat, bad breath, overly sensitive hair follicles, or new wrinkles appear where they have never before existed. Have you lost count of how many times your pulse rate has gone up and down and up and down and up and down? Let me offer the following diagnosis: You have the most fatal of all runner’s diseases – the dreaded PRE-RACE JITTERS. The only known cure available is a starting line and a starter’s pistol, whistle, or air horn.
You may very well suffer from this feared malady until you hear the bweeeeeep of your timing chip. I’m sorry. It’s part of what you got yourself into when you decided to commit to a half marathon or marathon goal. Keep the words of Bobby Jones in mind. Keep that “five-and-a-half-inch course” between your ears clear of the obstacles and don’t worry. YOU ARE READY!!
A Checklist to calm those pre-race jitters:
- Hydration: Thirsty now? Get some water. Don’t wait until two days before. Try some electrolyte replacement too. Water alone does not replace electrolytes lost from sweating
- Toenails: Clip them a day or two before the event
- FAQ and Race Day Info: Check your event site for info. Nearly all half-marathons and marathons have this available.
- Weather: Check conditions the night before and in the morning
- Clothing: Lay out all options from sleeveless to long-sleeve, shorts, capris, vest, jacket, socks, shoes, bra, technical underwear, cap, etc.
- Accessories/Food/Hydration: Sunglasses, key pocket, camera, gu’s, gel’s, shots, beans, electrolyte replacement, water carrier, have it all ready to go the night or two before
- Water and Electrolyte Replacement: Water will be on the course, as well as Gatorade or other electrolyte replacement. Be sure you know who the drink sponsor is and if you’ve never used their product, you may wish to take your own that you are familiar with.
- Plan Ahead: Check supplies before closing on Friday and go to Gallagher Fitness Resources ahead of time to stock up on essentials!
- Extras: Pack a towel and set of dry clothes, extra water and pretzels or favorite snack to have in your car or bag when you finish. Food is available at the finish but plan a backup just in case what is available does not sound good. Replenishing lost nutrients as soon as your stomach can handle it helps you recover quicker.
- Dinner night before: Do what has worked the night before your long training sessions; don’t do anything you’ve never done before!
- Arrival: Arrive early enough to stand in line for the port-a-potties
- Stay warm: Disposable garbage bag with hole cut in top may help keep you warm while waiting around for the gun to go off
- Have fun! Be confident you have done your best to prepare. Stop worrying, it won’t help. The hay’s in the barn.
- Good Luck! Smile for the camera and get those arms up in celebration!