After sacrificing so much time, energy, and sweat to train for your race, the stress in the days before the event can feel overwhelming. It is easy to get caught up in worrying about what you can’t control—factors like the weather, or how well your training went. But that’s not a good use of your emotional energy.
Focus instead on the many other factors within your control that can make or break your race.
Take the steps below to stress less on race week and arrive at the starting line feeling fit, fresh, and ready to run your best.
Dehydration can sap your performance, and make any pace feel harder. Prevent dehydration by consuming plenty of fluids in the days before the race. Aim to consume half your body weight in ounces each day. So if you weigh 160 pounds, try to drink 80 ounces of water or other calorie-free drinks each day. If you weigh 120 pounds, aim for 60 ounces. Sip fluids in small doses throughout the day. Pounding drinks right before a workout, or the race, could cause GI distress.
Stick with the foods that have worked well during training and given you a boost without upsetting your stomach. Avoid any new foods or meals with spicy foods in the day before the race—you don’t to risk GI distress. There’s no need to carb-load for a 5-K or a 10-K. But to ensure that you have plenty of fuel when the starting gun fires, in the days before the race make sure that there are plenty of wholesome carb-rich foods in your meals.
Review the course.
Review the race course online, or better yet drive or run on stretches of the course in the days before the race. Take mental notes on where you’ll have to push and where you can cruise. Visualize yourself crossing the finish line feeling composed, strong, and exhilarated.
Get your gear out.
It’s tempting to try something new to honor the special occasion of the big day. But it’s not a good idea. A gear or wardrobe malfunction before or during the race can throw off your focus and end up derailing the day you’ve been preparing so hard for. Plan to race in the shoes, apparel, gear, and gadgets that have been reliable in training.
Review your logistics.
What are your plans for picking up your race packet? How will you get to the race in the morning and get home afterwards? Where will you park? Make a plan, write it down, and stick to it. Spending time to nail down these logistics will help relieve stress on race morning.
Get some rest.
Avoid the temptation to cram extra miles or intense workouts in the final days before the race. Your fitness on race day is the result of the cumulative effect of all the workouts you’ve done over weeks and months. It’s unlikely that any workout you do in the week of the event will propel you to a PR. And by pushing the pace or the mileage right before the race, you risk getting injured, and sidelined from a goal you’ve worked so hard and long to achieve. Use the days before the race to rest, run easy, and get plenty of shuteye. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep per night.
Review your training log.
Add up all the miles you logged to train for this big event. Take note of all the times you pushed yourself out the door for a tough workout when you would have rather stayed in. Draw confidence from all that you accomplished on the way to the starting line. Anyone can show up on race day. But it takes months of dedication, sacrifice, and hard work to train for it and get your body and mind into shape to give that race your all. Take some time to reflect on some of the major milestones and highlights of your running life so far—say the first time you completed a mile, ran five miles, broke a new personal best, or hit a pace that once felt impossible. Savor that success. Use those memories, and that pride to fuel your confidence heading into race day.
Review your goals.
Have a few time goals in mind that are realistic based on how your training went. Consider the miles you logged, how healthy you feel, and any aches or pains you may have accumulated along the way. If you set a goal at the outset of training, but work, life, illness or injury got in the way, save that goal for another day. It is far better to go in with a conservative goal and surprise yourself than to go into a race with vaunted unrealistic expectations that ultimately lead to disappointment. In addition to setting time goals, be sure to set consider objectives that aren’t so tied to the numbers on the finish-line clock. You might aim to run up the hills you previously walked, try to perfectly execute your fueling plan, or run each mile within 10 to 20 seconds of the previous mile. Or you might try to do a negative split—that is, finish the second half the race faster than the first half.