Jitters come with any race, whether you're going shorter, longer, faster, or just heading to the starting line for the first time. But they shouldn't stop you from running your best. This expert advice will help you manage your anxieties for any new endeavor. Who knows, you may even enjoy yourself.
More: 5 Ways to Beat Anxiety on Race Day
Your First Race
This strange new world—people with beeping devices on their wrists and Band-Aids on their nipples—is a bit intimidating.
Go ahead and splurge on a technical top or pair of sleek sunglasses. Looking the part can make you feel like less of an outsider. Just get in a few test runs in new gear (especially shoes).
Give yourself at least an hour so you can find parking and make a trip to the porta-potty. Showing up late increases anxiety, says Lucinda Seares-Monica, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist.
Tell someone—a volunteer, the person next to you at the start—that this is your first race. "The running community is encouraging," says Frank Webbe, Ph.D., a sports psychologist. "Opening up can also be cathartic."
Don't have a time goal, says Bill Cole of the International Mental Game Coaching Association. You're already guaranteed a personal record.
Dropping to a 5K
The gun goes off and the race is on, which can be daunting to those used to finding a rhythm and settling into a pace.
For a local 5K, do a trial run. Being familiar with the course will give you confidence—you'll know where the hills are and when to fire your finishing kick.
Pick a Pacer
Ideally an experienced 5K'er who's a bit faster. Following someone means you don't have to stress over pacing yourself, Webbe says.
"Jitters are actually good for a short race," Seares-Monica says. "Adrenaline will rev up your engine. Think of it as fuel."
More: 5 Tips to Overcome Race-Day Jitters
Adding Some Distance
Stepping up to a longer race—be it a 10K or an ultra—can be overwhelming.
Divide the race into manageable sections and focus on them one at a time, rather than thinking about the finish line, which seems far, far away.
Put your name on your shirt and soak up the fanfare. "It's amazing to have people call you out and cheer you on," Seares-Monica says.
Plant friends and relatives strategically along the course—at the top of a tough hill, at mile 20, or where support is light on the course.
"Carry small items of food you can digest easily and have one at each mile marker," says Seares-Monica, who suggests pretzels or peanut M&M's. You'll stay nourished as you track your progress
—watch the snacks disappear as you knock off the miles.
Racing for a PR
It's time to cash in on all that hard training. But doubts set in.
If you hear someone groaning about how hard the course is, tune it out. That person probably didn't train as much as you did.
Expect Some Pain
Your legs and lungs will burn. Have a "bring it on" attitude, says Cole. Remind yourself that you wanted this: The challenge
of pushing yourself to achieve something new.
Have a Back Up
You wake up with a migraine or to a heat wave. Move on to Plan B—another goal that's more realistic, but something you'll be proud of.
More: 10 Race-Day Tips to Remember
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