6 Steps to Prepare Mentally For Your First 5K

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Months of training runs have prepared you for the date circled in red on the calendar that says, "5K!!" Your muscles are poised, and you're excited to test your stamina. Anticipation follows each time you lace up your sneakers and head out the door. The all-important morning is quickly approaching.  

Nervousness is setting in. What started as a leap of faith has morphed into an unabashed anxiety attack. Signing up for your first race took, "20 seconds of insane courage," to quote Benjamin Mee. You accepted the challenge, now it's time to follow through. Let's tap into and build upon that foundation of gutsiness. You can do this.

More: How to Make Running a Healthy Habit

All runners have stood exactly where you are now—a bit unglued at the thought of the impending starting line. Here is the secret that will make all the difference: to do best and also enjoy racing, you will need to harness the power of your mind.

You've heard the saying that races are won or lost on mental strength alone. With focused effort, you can improve your inner resolve to ensure a smooth race experience, from start to finish. Here's how:

Get the Worst-Case Scenario Out of the Way

Obviously you want to finish, and finish well. The fear of coming in dead last is shared by all first-time runners. In my book, finishing sure beats failing to get off the couch any day. Every person that crosses that finish line, regardless of time, is an athlete to be admired. Chances are, out of the hundreds if not thousands of runners you will be competing against, you will finish somewhere in the middle. And if I'm wrong, there will still be people applauding and in awe of you at the end, athlete.

More: Your Guide to Finish Strong on Race Day

Practice Reacting to Challenges Outside of Running

Imagine you wake up and stub your toe, the dog vomited on the carpet AND you get stuck in traffic on the way to work. Do you utter a few choice four-letter words, or eye the nearest surface to punch? Develop a positive mental attitude by keeping a healthy perspective. Cultivate gratitude for all that is going well in your life. Make up your mind that you will not let setbacks lead to derailment. By not allowing challenges to influence your mindset, you will maintain focus and mental control—two crucial racing skills.

More: On Running and Life: How Running Shapes Who We Are