For whatever reason, you decided that taking up running would be a good idea. Now, you find yourself standing in the middle of a street with a bunch of other people. Time has been spent by you training for this day. A nervousness and excitement has overtaken you as you experience the feeling of race day.
You have put in hours of training. You have done countless google searches and read countless articles about running form. You have studied about proper nutrition. You have researched and compared different brands and models of shoes. You most likely have a section of your closet now dedicated to your running gear. You find yourself wearing your running gear more often because it is comfortable. You have probably spent more money than you would have ever anticipated for a so-called inexpensive sport.
What started as a casual way to get in shape has now overtaken other areas of your life, and you are more than ok with this. You have noticed changes in yourself over the last few months leading up to this day. Your body has become stronger. You find yourself with more energy. What once looked liked an unattainable distance for you to run is now an accomplished goal.
You have been preparing months for this day. So, why are you nervous? Why are the people standing around you laughing right now? Why do they do not look like they are nervous? Was there anything that you may have forgot? You go through your mental checklist that you put together from your compiled research. There is not anything that you can think of that was missed. You even laid out your race day clothes with your race bib attached to your shirt last night and posted a picture of it on Facebook.
Feeling nervous on this day is normal. I ran my first 5k in high school cross country and can still remember how nervous I felt. I had chewed a hole in the collar of my singlet between the time that I started warming up and the moment the starting horn sounded. This was a normal nervousness for me, and by the end of my high school career, I had managed to chew a good portion of my collar off. The nervousness has changed and subdued over the last 26 years but has not gone away on race day.
There have been races when I knew I did everything correctly. I woke up with more energy than should be allowed and felt that a new PR would be attainable. But, when the horn sounded to start the race, I did not feel ready and second guessed everything that I had done that morning. These were not fun races for me and I did not perform well. On the other hand, all of my PR’s have been set when I embraced my nerves, did not second guess myself, and most importantly had fun.
The biggest thing that I have learned about race days, and running in general, is that it is supposed to be fun. Race day is a day that a bunch of other people can get together from different walks of life that share the same craziness as yourself. Your non-running friends will never understand this.
This is your first race, but it is just another run. You have done this many times in the last few months. The nerves are normal, so do not become fixated on them. Do not be consumed with what you may have forgotten before the start of the race (unless you have not gone to the restroom….you should always do that before the start). This is a day for you to enjoy all of your hard work with a group of people who understand the dedication that you have given to your training. The energy felt on race day will reignite within you the reason that you started running and pull you into the lifestyle that is running even more.
Race days are so energizing that I have often used races as training runs leading up to the actual race for which I was training. Even though I stated that this is just another run, this is a run with a fun finish. During your training runs, you will not experience the excitement of people you do not know cheering for you as you approach and cross the finish line.
Do not overthink this day. You are doing something that most people have not done. You set out on the goal of training for and completing a 5k. Enjoy your first race day. Wear that race shirt proudly. Most importantly, have fun!