November 05, 2010

Pre-race anxiety - how to make the most of it

It's dark when I wake up today. Immediately my thoughts turn to tomorrow's 100-kilometre race, my first attempt to run this distance. For the past two weeks I have been looking forward to it, impatient for the calendar to turn to November 6.

Excitement and joyful anticipation have been at the forefront of my mind.

Now, less than 24 hours before the start at 4am tomorrow morning, I feel a surge of panic and fear, a familiar feeling that I have had, in different measures, before most (if not all) of the 13 marathons, five Ironmans, three ultras and more than 100 other triathlons and running races I've done since running my first race, the 20km of Brussels in May 1997.

It's natural to feel nervous and anxious before a race, especially the day before. The event is almost there but not quite yet. One more day, one more sleep. So you are left to worry whether you have prepared everything: yourself, your clothes, race food, race number, how to get to the race, where to start, will there be enough portapottys, and so on.

I am sure there will be plenty of nerves building among the tens of thousands of runners getting ready to race the ING New York Marathon this weekend. Like I did this morning, many others may wonder too: can I do it? Can I finish this race? Can I do it in the time I want?

As I feel the familiar surge of apprehension race through my body now, I instantly decide to replace it with positive thoughts. My mind must return to the excitement and joyful anticipation I have been feeling. There is no need, no use and no time for anxiety.

Nerves, sure, that's OK, even good energy. But brick-in-my-stomach-fear? No, I don't have energy to waste on that today nor tomorrow morning. And neither should you.

Remind yourself of all the training you have done, and you know that you are ready to put in your best effort. Focus on what's possible. Think positive.

Make sure your gear is ready, clothing, socks, shoes, race number, gels, bars, a throwaway sweater to keep you warm as you wait for the start. And if the weather calls for rain, bring a garbage bag to keep you dry until the start.

Go over your race plans. Remember to begin easy, even as the adrenaline of the start may cause many to begin too fast. Slow down. Ease into your pace. You will be grateful for it by the time 30km comes around.

Think positive. Breathe. Enjoy the spectators. Live the experience. It's fantastic.

You will have a drink of water at each aid station. You will take your gels, or bars, as planned during the race.

You're ready for the challenge, and committed to enjoying it. It takes courage. Each race is a challenge - "A test of one's abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking."

Celebrate the fact that you are racing, that you made it to that startline. Especially if this is your first marathon, celebrate and enjoy the new experience! Think positive and enabling thoughts. Your mind controls your body.

During the race, remind yourself every 15 minutes or so to relax as you run. Relax everything, from  your face, to your shoulders, arms, legs. Be patient. Patience in the first 30km will pay off in the final 12.195km.

If you need a walk break, take it but limit it to only a minute or two. Then resume a jog. Breathe and focus on what's possible. The next step is possible. And another. Keep moving forward. Remember your determination. You can do it.

Even when you feel really bad, you can think positive about that too. In fact there are two positives: one, you're unlikely to feel worse than you are right now, and, two, you will soon feel better. Have a drink, a gel, a deep breath. This is what it's all about. This is why you are here, because it is a challenge.

Encourage others, even when you will feel bad, because it will help them and you feel better. Chat with someone, even if it's only a few words. Smile. Spectators will tell you that you look awesome, especially when you smile past 30km.

Enjoy the journey, relish the challenge, and keep moving. Whatever you do, keep moving until you reach the finishline. Have an awesome race! I know you will.

I sure am looking forward to mine, the Haney to Harrison 100km.

No comments: