How to Have a Blast at Your Next Race

The big day has finally arrived. After weeks of training, race day is here. You've remembered to hydrate and you've remembered your gels. But there's one thing you might be forgetting: to have a good time.

After all the hard work and preparation, it's easy to over think a race and miss what should be a great experience. Here are five tips to make sure you don't just run your next race, but have a blast while doing so.

1. Listen to Your Body

You've trained with the Garmin and you've recorded your splits. Now it's time to let go and trust your body. You should know what your pace feels like and what sort of effort is sustainable.

Part of the joy of running is being in tune with the way your body moves, so use your race as a chance to listen. Take a break from glancing down every quarter-mile to check your pace. Instead, pay attention to your breathing and judge your pace based on how you feel.

2. Ditch the Headphones

Music provides a great soundtrack on lonely runs. It can give you the energy boost you need to get out the door on a cold morning, or provide the driving beats you need to finish a long run. Headphones help us isolate from our surroundings, ignore our thoughts and just run. This is great for training, but during a race you want to be present.

A race is a communal event and one of the few times in our solitary sport that we have the opportunity to line up alongside our fellow athletes. Try to let the excitement and energy around you be your soundtrack.

3. Say Thanks

No matter how small your race is, there will be spectators clapping and cheering you on. Those cheers put an extra kick in your legs and those spectators are invaluable. Be sure to thank them. You don't need to slow down to do so, and it is a great gesture.

4. High-five the Kids

At every race there are always small children with their arms outstretched, hoping to slap hands with a runner. And at every race, many runners pass them by. You might only be puffing your way through a 5K, but the smile you put on the face of a child can make you feel like Ryan Hall.

5. Smile

You're running a road race, not the Bataan Death March. You're out there because you want to be. Some runners might approach racing with seriousness, but running also celebrates being alive and healthy.

Try to make eye contact with other runners, give a smile or a small nod of recognition. Smiling brightens the run for the people around you. A smile makes your feet lighter, your cadence faster, and your pace quicker.

Whether you are there to push yourself to a PR or just to finish your first 5K, you're there to enjoy the day. You can't always set a PR, but you can always have a blast.

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Chris Van Dyke is a runner based in New York. You can follow his blog at whenitalkaboutrunning.wordpress.com.

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