My race this past weekend (ok two weekends ago) was such a fun experience. No, I didn’t PR or win any prize money like I had envisioned back when I started training this summer… but it was still a great race that enjoyed from start to finish. The weather was perfect, I had great company for the first 20 miles, and my post-race margarita was one of the best I’ve ever had.
I know there are lots of people who have found themselves in a similar situation. Maybe you missed training due to work, travel, family, weather, or something else. Maybe you considered bagging it but didn’t want to lose your entry fee. Maybe you lost motivation at some point and your training has suffered. There are a lot of things that happen between when you sign up for a race and when you line up on the starting line.
So, there are a few thoughts on how to make the best of your race experience.
1. Try something new. I know, gasp! How dare we defy the old running adage. Well, you can find ways to mix it up without committing a major running crime like racing in brand new shoes. Get some funky laces, wear some bright shades, or even try out a new outfit (just make sure you wear it once in practice before the race).
2. Start off with a slower pace group than you originally planned. Sometimes running at a slower pace in the beginning will help you feel good longer and allow you to push the pace toward the end. It’s a great way to run a fast time, and even if you don’t get your PR you may still surprise yourself and run faster than you expected.
3. Take in the crowd. If you’re usually in your own head during a race, take this opportunity to soak in the support from spectators. I dare you to not get a little pumped up when you high five the local high school mascot. He probably got up at 5 am just to don that ridiculous suit and cheer for you.
4. Race your way into shape. A race can be a great training run and an opportunity to practice your pre-race routine and race strategies in an optimum environment. Choose another goal race in a few weeks and use this race to practice fueling, hydrating, and running part of the race at your goal pace.
5. Plan your post-race celebration. You earned it.