How to Make Running Races More Fun

Preparing for a race can be both nerve-wracking and exhilarating. There’s a lot to worry about: The pain or fatigue of distance events; the expectations placed on the outcome by you, your coach, or your team; or even something simple like forgetting your jersey, which though not detrimental, can put quite a hitch in your plans.

But there is way more to be excited for: Racing your time to shine! You’ve trained hard for the big day, so shake off those nerves and get out there and compete. 

If you are still having a tough time with pre-race jitters, here are five easy ways to make race day more fun:

1. Be Punctual and Prepared

A little organization goes a long way on race day. Use the race program or schedule to sketch out your itinerary, from the wake-up call to the cool-down, so that you arrive at check-in or at the start line on time and ready to roll.

Keep the following factors in mind as you plan ahead:

  • Traffic/Street Closures: If it is a large race in a big city, traffic will probably be a nightmare. Use public transportation whenever possible.
  • Delays: Track meets almost always run behind schedule. Be flexible if the timing of your warm-up gets out-of-whack.
  • Weather: When it comes to packing for race-day, more is more. Weather can be unpredictable and it is better to have too much gear than to be cold or sunburned when the gun goes off.
  • Snacks: Bring some snacks to eat before and after the event.

2. Bring a Fan Club

Ask your friends and family to come watch your race. Having people you know cheering will give you familiar faces to look for at the start and a boost of energy when you need it at the end.

You may feel like it would be an inconvenience, but in reality, people almost always jump at the opportunity to watch those they care about on the big day. Races are exciting to watch for diehard fans and newbie spectators alike.

3. Make Friends

Races are, of course, competitions; an opportunity to beat fellow runners in a fight to the finish. But, it is also a great opportunity to make new friends and establish new relationships within the running community.

There is really no better time to meet people than while sitting around a track meet or rehashing the race in the finish-line tent—adrenaline goes a long way towards removing the barriers that usually make meeting new friends difficult. There is also a good chance you will see your fellow racers again at the next event, which can be fun and something to look forward to once those pre-race jitters return.

While it can be tough to balance competition with camaraderie, remember that everyone in the race is trying to do the same thing: their best.

4. Lighten Up

It is hard to overstate the importance of a good laugh. If you find yourself overwhelmed with anxiety, force yourself to do something goofy, find a friend that always brings a smile, or just look around: Runners are crazy people, someone is bound to be doing something a little wacky.

If you are at the race with a team or friends, huddle-up before the start and do a loud cheer. If cheering is not an option, just smile as you line up before the gun. You’ll have plenty of time to be serious during the race itself, so you might as well relax as much as possible beforehand—it may even help your performance, since nothing saps energy more quickly than anxiety and stress.

5. Get Perspective

While you should not diminish the importance of your running and racing endeavors, it is also helpful to remember that it is, in the end, simply one race. If it doesn’t go well, you can reboot and try again at a later date.

If it is an especially big event—one that doesn’t come around often—just repeat to yourself, “All I can do is the best I can do.” This will help take the pressure off, because if there is anything you can control, it’s the effort you put out during the race.

The Happiness Equation

The happier the runner, the faster he or she will be. Acknowledge and accept your nerves, but then force yourself out of a state of high anxiety by following the tips above. As long as you are on time, with shoes on your feet and a jersey on your back, there is no reason you can’t share a good laugh with friends on your way to the start-line.

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