You just finished your last long run on your training schedule. As the last drop of sweat hits the pavement, the first ounce of trepidation begins to creep in. The butterflies begin fluttering in your stomach.Your mind is attacked with a barrage of questions, such as “did I train enough” and “what if I’m not ready.” You start to second guess yourself, wondering why you signed up for the race in the first place. It feels as though all of your preparation and confidence is coming crashing down around you.
I am here to tell you that it is okay. Everything you are feeling, all those doubts and worries, they are all completely normal. Frankly, I would be worried if you did not have those feelings. A wise man once told me that “if you aren’t nervous, you aren’t ready.” I have relied on that saying time and time again as I have approached countless race days with fear and doubt. What has also gotten me through that last week before a race has been a focus on preparation. Follow these tips below, and while they may not ease your fear, they will be sure to have you in the best possible state of readiness you can be in on race day.
One Week Out
One week out from race day, create a checklist of things you will need on the day of the race. By doing this a week in advance, you will have time to add things if you think of them during the week. It will also help you to calmly prepare for the race the night before. Here is a sample list, taken from Jeff Galloway’s Marathon Day Checklist:
- Race number, pins and chip
- Race instructions, map, etc.
- Shoes, socks, shirt, shorts
- Other clothes if it’s cold: tights, polypro top, long-sleeved T, gloves, hat, ear covering, etc.
- Water (about 32-64 ounces)
- Bandages, Vaseline, etc.
- $20-30 for reserve funds (cab or rapid transit tokens, etc.)
- Energy bars or your chosen carbohydrate source (enough for start, second half, and after)
- Fanny pack or plastic bags, pins
- Some extra “throwaway” shirts and/or pants as extra layers in case the staging area is cold
- Garbage bags as an inexpensive waterproof top and ground cover
All Week Long
Make sure to get your last scheduled runs in, as these are critical to staying loose and maintaining the fitness you have built over the last X number of weeks of training. Most training plans will call for shorter runs this week. While you might be anxious about this taper week, don’t be. Your body is as ready as it is going to be, and doing more can actually cause more harm than good.
Just as important is to get quality sleep leading up to the race. Just as you will carb load later in the week, your body needs to store up energy and do any last-minute repairs. This is best done during quality sleep. Try to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Three Days Out
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Take the opportunity over these last few days to flush your body of toxins, and prepare it for what it will endure on race day. Make it a priority to get the recommended eight glasses of water per day. Not only will it refresh your body, it will leave you feeling more energetic and ready to conquer the race.
Two Days Out
Get your forks out, it is time to carb load! Pastas and breads and bagels galore! Now, you do not want to over-do it, but definitely increase your intake of carbs during this time. This is especially important the night before the race, as it will be your last big meal prior to your run. Be sure to keep it to foods you are familiar with though, as the last thing you want on race day are stomach issues. For more info on carb loading, check out this article from Runner’s World.
Important note about this day: the sleep you get this night is more important than the sleep the night before the race. Make it a priority to get a solid night’s sleep on this night, because odds are nerves will not let you sleep well right before the race.
The Day and Night Before
Relax. Relax, relax, relax. Try not to do anything that could cause you to get injured, such as cliff diving or bungee jumping. Read that book for which you have been trying to find time. Go see a movie. Take a gentle stroll in the park. Whatever it is, just make sure to relax and enjoy it. Tomorrow is a big day, so you need your energy, both mental and physical to be prepared.
On race day eve, after you have had your delicious carb-filled meal, it is time to take out the checklist you created at the beginning of the week and start checking things off. Be sure to place everything you are going to need in a location that you won’t forget. If something needs to be placed in a bag, go ahead and put it in. If you are going to decorate your race shirt, now is the time. Once you’ve completed the list, do a second check just in case.
When it is all packed, all decorated, and all ready to go, sit down, breathe, and tell yourself “I am a champion, I can do this!” Because guess what. You are a champion, and you can do this!
Race Day Morning
It has all lead up to this. You are ready, you are prepared. You will slip your clothes and shoes on, grab your bag and watch, and (after one last bathroom trip) head out the door knowing that you are prepared and ready to face the challenge ahead of you.
In a few hours you will toe the starting line. You will be surrounded by tens, hundreds, or thousands of people, just as nervous and excited as you are. You will bounce around nervously, frequently checking your watch and wondering if you need to take one more trip to the bathroom. You may chat with others, you may listen to music, or you may just look around silently and take it all in.
Then, with a gunshot or the blow of a horn, you will start your watch, cross the starting line, and head off on adventure you have been training for all of your life (or maybe just the past few months). Enjoy my friend, you have earned it.