10 Tips For A Stress-Free Race Day
While some nerves are to be expected, these 10 tips will ensure your Race Day is as stress-free as possible...
1. Set a realistic goal
If you want to improve as a runner, a certain amount of ambition is required. It's important, however, that your ambition is grounded in reality; if you set yourself a 10k target that's five minutes quicker than your PB, you're going to have to do something very special on Race Day.
Rather than having a specific time in mind - which sets you up for either success or failure - aim instead to run a strong, evenly paced race. That's especially true if it's your first ever 10k, in which case the goal should be completion over competition.
2. Plan your transport in advance
Perhaps an obvious point, but one worth reiterating: plan ahead! Even if you live a 10-minute bus ride from the start, check timings the day before and give yourself plenty of room for travel-related mishaps.
Equally, if you're getting a train on the morning of the race, book tickets in advance. And if you plan on driving, check parking arrangements and account for the inevitable Race Day traffic.
3. Lay your kit out the night before
If anything can be done ahead of time to save time and thinking space on the morning of the race, do it. That includes taking your running kit (tried and tested in training, of course) out of drawers and setting it on the side, pinning your race number onto your top and positioning your watch in an impossible-to-miss place.
4. Set several alarms
Months of training can go to waste if you don't actually make it to the start line on time. That means getting plenty of sleep, for a start, but also setting an unnecessary amount of alarms: five, six, seven - go wild! Waking up is priority number one on Race Day.
5. Eat a familiar breakfast
While a small, high-carb meal is generally recommended, there is no such thing as the perfect Race Day breakfast, because every runner is different. However, after months of training you should have an idea of what foods work for your pre-run. If porridge is your thing, stick with that; if you're more of a toast and jam kind of runner, now's not the time to try anything else.
Just as important as what you eat, is when you eat. To give your body plenty of time to digest the food before it's tasked with racing 10k, aim to eat at least an hour and a half before the start.
6. Arrive early
The biggest cause of pre-race stress is, unquestionably, rushing to get there. The simple solution is to arrive with time to spare - 45 minutes or more. It's far better to be waiting around than to be caught in a blind panic as you hurry to make the start. That said, make sure you wear some warm overclothes so you're not too cold on the sidelines.
7. Warm up
Going from zero to race pace without first giving your legs and lungs the chance to acclimatise is going to make the first mile or so feel a lot less comfortable than it should. Dynamic stretches - squats, lunges, leg swings - will loosen up your muscles, but it's just as important to get used to the act of running. Go for a five-minute jog, incorporating 10 seconds at your target race pace, to loosen up your legs and elevate your heart rate.
8. Stay away from the front
The front of the pack is reserved for speedy runners (and less speedy runners who are about to have a very tough time). To avoid haring off at an unsustainable pace, start towards the middle or back of the field. Your chip time will not start until you cross the line, and you will find it much easier to pace yourself if you're surrounded by runners who aren't sprinting off at breakneck speed.
9. Run your own race
It can be tempting to latch onto someone you think is a similar ability to you, but the chances are they are either running quicker or slower than the pace you've trained for. Either way, follow them for too long and your race is going to end in disappointment. Instead, run your own race and avoid the thought that has come back to bite many runners: "I should beat them"
10. Maintain perspective
When all is said and run, if your performance wasn't quite what you had hoped, take a step back and realise that it's not the end of the world. It's also far easier to learn from a bad race than it is from a good one. Was there a specific point when the wheels started to fall off? If so, you might need to pace things differently, or look to take an earlier energy gel.
Equally, many things can happen on Race Day that are beyond your control. You might not feel 100%, or the course might be slightly crowded for the opening mile - in any case, try to learn from the experience and come back stronger next year!