Runners World Articles: Archives
Perhaps youíve used the "Iím not fast" or the "I donít have a competitive
chromosome in my body" excuse. Or maybe the thought of pinning a
race number to your shirt and lining up with hundreds or thousands
of other runners makes your neck hair stand on end.
Donít let such excuses keep you from racing. You can-and should-race.
Whether you have a time goal in mind or just want to get to the
finish line, racing lets you gather with energetic, supportive people.
Racing will motivate you to train better. It will inspire you to
run more races.
Yes, you can enjoy racing. And you can chase away and lingering
doubts by following my seven tips to worryfree racing.
Accept nervousness. Youíre going to get nervous.
Everyone does in the days before a race, and especially in the last
several hours. Let yourself. Just keep in under control. For instance,
reduce any negative, self-defeating thoughts by reminding yourself
that youíre that youíre not necessarily here to win a trophy. Youíre
here to run with friendly people and enjoy yourself. Itís okay to
run slowly-and walk-when necessary. Once you get moving, the butterflies
will flutter away.
Run a "mind" race. Most prerace jitters are simple
fear of the unknown. Thatís why repeatedly visualizing the race
beforehand will settle you down. Mentally anticipate your steps-walking
up, riding to the site, running the race, crossing the finish line
and returning home. Your anxieties will calm down as you realize
that you have nothing to worry about.
Sign up for your next race. Having another race
on the calendar before you toe the line for this one will give you
mental and physical momentum. I donít recommend racing every weekend,
but once or twice a month will keep you energized and challenged.
Crack a joke. Sharing a laugh with someone or
with yourself will help you forget those nerve-racking, self-deprecating
thoughts and instead help you focus on racingís fun side. For instance,
just before a race, I might look at my shoes and notice how banged
up and dirty they look. Or Iíll check out my clashing shorts and
singlet. I canít help but chuckle-and my nervousness disappears.
Line up in the correct place. To avoid getting
trampled, line up with the folks at your level. Most races have
pace signs to guide you, but when in doubt, line up farther back
in the pack.
Pace yourself. Start out slowly and hold yourself
back during the first mile. Youíll make up the time-and then some-as
you build speed toward the end.
On hilly coursed, try to maintain the same breathing pattern throughout
the race. In other words, when running uphill or into the wind,
you can run a bit slower than on flat land. Also, you can pick up
speed on the downhills or when youíre running with the wind.
Enjoy the rewards. Look for and enjoy the positive
experiences. Feel proud that youíre running a race that you never
thought you were brave enough to try. Savor the joy of crossing
the finish line. Congratulate several people. Listen to and remember
their inspiring statements and funny stories.
In addition to following my seven tips for worryfree-racing, you
can avoid some common race-day mistake by observing these four "doníts."
Donít worry about sleep. As long as youíve had
one average nightís sleep in the three nights before a race, youíll
do fine. Iíve run some of my best races when Iíve had no sleep the
Donít try anything new. Use the eating and warmup
ritual that has worked for you in training runs and other races.
Even if you hear about a miracle performance product, donít try
it the day of the race. Also, if you buy new shoes at the prerace
expo, donít wear them on race day-youíll be asking for blisters.
Donít berate yourself. Just finishing a race is
a significant achievement. Enjoy the postrace glow and start working
on your next goal the following day.
Donít get a big head. Itís wonderful to enjoy
a good performance. You earned it. But donít get too fixated on
improving your time in every race. Racing offers many rewards in
addition to personal records and trophies.-J.G.
World, June 1998, p. 42
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