It’s the Toronto Marathon this weekend and I have many clients and friends who are gearing up for the big race. There is always a great atmosphere in the city as the runners stream past, from beginners to professionals; it’s great to see so many people achieve their goal! (For a great article on our Canadian hopeful, check out the Toronto Star’s article today.)
While race day should be a celebration of all the hard work you’ve put into your training, the culmination of many months logging mile after mile, for some people it can cause anxiety and stress. The initial motivation of achieving your goal becomes a fear or stress of not achieving your target time.
So, what can you do on race day to settle your nerves and get your mind and body ready to perform? Here are some great tips.
1) Early Breakfast
With start times typically early in the morning, it’s worthwhile setting your alarm a little bit earlier so you can get a decent breakfast in before the race. A nice balance of proteins, carbs, and fats is all you need. Don’t try and “carbload” at the last minute, it’s not going to help, and it will actually make you feel worse if you aren’t used to bigger breakfasts.
If you are a low carb eater, then I would add a few more carbs to your normal breakfast to provide some added fuel for you race and to help slow down the loss of muscle glycogen, your precious energy reserves.
2) Deep Breaths
The last hour before the race starts you can have a lot of nerves, adrenaline, and excitement (or fear). The sea of people and all the energy in the crowd will no doubt ramp up your adrenaline and put you into ‘fight or flight’ mode prematurely. The best practice here, regardless if you are excited or slightly nervous, is to take some deep breaths. Deep inhales through your nose, and long exhales through your mouth helps to activate the vagus nerve in the brain, which relaxes your nervous system and allows you to relax. The more you focus on your breath, the less you’ll focus on your nervousness or overexcitement. Stick to the deep breaths until a few minutes before the gun goes off and you’ll
3) Stick with Your Pace
When the gun goes off… it’s pandemonium! Everyone darts off in a wave of frenetic energy and it’s easy to get lost in the frenzy. If you start out running too quickly or ahead of your designated pace, you’ll pay for it at the end of the race.
Therefore, stick to your game plan. You will probably feel like you have to try and run more slowly and hold yourself back at the start. That’s ok… it’s a good sign. Stick with your targeted time splits for each mile/kilometer and you’ll pace yourself nicely during the race.
These simple tips are great reminders the morning of race day to help fuel you for the race, control your emotions/excitement/fear before the race, and pace yourself so you can push through to the finish line.
All great athletes and Olympians will tell you to focus on the process, the “moment”, and not the end result. You’ve already done all the hard work in training. Stay in the present, enjoy the day, and you’ll have a great race!
Best of luck!
Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CSCS